Europe and Africa in Britain: a multi-cultural approach to playmaking in a culturally diverse society

Lead Research Organisation: Goldsmiths University of London


Given the changing demography of our major towns and cities, the formation of new and substantial European and African diasporas and the challenges to British multi-culturalism posed by domestic and international unrest, playwrights are in pole position to explore the potential of theatre to reflect on how we live here now and, through creative practice, to engage with processes of innovation and change. Practice-led research into European and African performance can contribute to the development of well-founded, cross-cultural approaches to new work and the growth of culturally diverse performance practice in Britain. I propose a programme of work to include writing, dramaturgy, networking, cross-cultural collaborations and critical reflection to focus my practice and research on the processes involved in producing work that addresses the mobility and cultural diversity of contemporary society.Using three writing projects, I will seek to reflect directly on the complexity of the new diasporic encounters in contemporary British society. I will be exploring a range of dramaturgical processes towards the production of a play, 'Oga's Ark', that deals with responses to the collapse of the post-war and post-colonial settlements in Europe and Africa. Through writing and targeted readings to culturally diverse audiences, I will develop a new play, 'Fridge/Mother', that tests and challenges responses to issues of ethnicity and the ownership of culture in the Balkans and West Africa. A playwriting collaboration with three writers from Byelorussia, Uganda and Germany, 'Untitled', will be focused on generating, recording and evaluating critical exchanges and engagement with the structures and cultures of performance implicit in our writing strategies.Through practice as a dramaturg for Hydroponic, developing the work of culturally diverse writers in Reading and the South East, and for Voices, a project for West African drama writers in radio and television, I will be exploring models and strategies for representing diversity in relation to diverse audiences, and for identifying and responding to processes of innovation and change. Participating in and evaluating the transfer of knowledge and creative practice through The Fence network of European playwrights and new writing facilitators, and co-ordinating dialogue and exchange between culturally diverse British and French playmakers in the Acts of Translation project, will stimulate critical reflection and writing on processes of cross-cultural exchange and practice. Formal mentoring and critical support through academic researchers at Goldsmiths will be complemented by my participation in practice-led performance research in the Dis-play and postgraduate research forums.Developing greater insight into the potential for cross-fertilisation and interaction in performance, the proposed research should impact on a wide constituency of practitioners and potential collaborators, researchers and, ultimately, audiences. Of greatest benefit would be the opportunity to rethink the commercial focus of British playwriting and performance practice. The research grows out of our failure in Britain to deploy theatre as a forum for debate and critical reflection on a growing crisis of multi-culturalism without widening participation in the key institutions of collective social engagement, representation and response. Based at the Pinter Centre within the Drama Department at Goldsmiths College, which aims to record and promote best practice in new writing and performance, the outcomes of the research will be of immediate relevance to the local, culturally diverse communities and audiences of south London as well as being made available through publication and production to funders, policy makers and programmers.


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