|Conference Home: National Theatre, Iganmu, Lagos|
Politics, theatre, and theatre criticism have long been interwoven and interdependent. In the highest peaks of its history, theatre and other performing arts have been a collective self-representation of society, its basic values, and beliefs, including mainstream political narratives.
When contesting these narratives, theatre has been more ironic, subversive and blasphemous than openly confrontational — although direct theatrical conflicts with society are also well known.
When theatre criticism appeared as a genre in Western media in the 18th century, it fought the same battle as the (bourgeois) theatre itself. Theatre and criticism were important social platforms in the battle against conservative, aristocratic, and clerical states – even as they advocated a new and progressive bourgeois society.
In the last two and a half centuries, the relationship between these three "players"—politics, theatre, and theatre criticism—has been fluid. There were periods in which all were going in the same direction—for good or ill.
In some historical periods, (dissident) theatre was courageous, provocative, and challenging. Criticism, however, strongly controlled by mainstream political power (as with much of the media), could not support it. In some constructs, media demanded that theatre be more politically daring.
The International Theatre Critics Conference (ITCC), therefore, will interrogate how global theatre and theatre criticism respond to current political events.
Does theatre, internationally, address these challenging topics? Is there a new political theatre? Is there a growing trend toward the political or do individual cases arise on their own? How do critics react? Are we free (enough) to openly support theatre that dissents from accepted political and cultural norms? Is the social impact of this type of work more relevant than its artistry? How do we recognize a politically brave theatre in societies different from our own? If we recognize it, how do we communicate it to our readers?
These queries and proposed answers were also addressed by an international group of critics led by IATC President Margareta Sörenson. What role do you think critics should play in analyzing and interpreting the political impact of theatre? Does it matter? Is it a factor in your response to theatre?