Postcapitalist theatre?

  • We’ve got to depict her ways of communicating. Unless we know what’s on her What’s App, Twitter feed, Facebook messaging, Snapchat, Tinder etc, it’s pointless putting Eleni either on a stage or into a movie scene: without these things she is just what a Commedia Dell’Arte character seemed to Shakespeare’s contemporaries — a poor way of depicting the new thing happening in human society.
  • We’ve got to engage her as a real member of the audience. Her reality is immersive to an extent no previous generation has experienced. You wonder why she — given the chance — will whip her cellphone out and read it in the middle of a play? [An image comes to mind: an entire theatre full of young Elizabethan women thumbing the screens of their iPhones as Burbage yells at them the most sublime poetry ever written. EDIT: In fact I now realise the “wits” used to sit at the front at The Globe jotting down ephithets from the script. If their notepads had been electrict their faces would have glowed.] The screen provides augmented reality; the multitasking, distracted imagination is a different mind at work.
  • We’ve got to accept that narrative patterns are very overt to her. They discuss “second act reversals” in sitcoms where second act reversals are actually happening. Everything is framed and bracketed by the fact that narrative devices have become hackneyed, commonplace. “Experimental” — from theatre to fiction — now revolves around cutting up or defying narrative devices. Satisfying, as David Shields suggests, our “reality hunger”.
  • The narrative has got to play out in a space she can access. The space creates the magic, the malleability. But it may not have to be a physical space.
  • the emergence of nonhierarchical work
  • the de-linking of work from wages.
  1. “iPhone I have”. A staged re-enactment of Joyce’s Ulysses in which the action is played out on various screens: a GPS locator for where he is in Dublin; all his messaging apps and those of his friends; a POV feminist porn movie for Molly’s chapter — or maybe a Literotica story. Or Maybe she is sexting Blazes Bolyan. In any case, a virtual model of Leopold’s brain is illuminated at all times, throughout the 24 hour period, in an attempt to give visual expression to his thought processes. The audience takes part by reacting to this action on their own social media. They may or may not be sitting in a theatre. They are invited to download a kit that allows them to create their own Bloomsday out of 24 hours worth of their own data.
  2. Brief Encounter. Part-game, part hacking attack. A programme is constructed that can “read” the Facebook flirtations of certain willing people and then work out who is going to fall in love with whom, or out of love. The programme then bombards them, their timeline, with prompts, messages, invitations etc that actually force them into a brief encounter that is almost entirely random, polysexual, fuck-knows-what… At this point they are informed by text message that they are actually performers; that their moves are being filmed; that everything they are about to do is alright because it is a constructed reality show. After action, like in some porn videos, they have to sit and explain what was real and what was play acting, and what they felt about it.
  3. Occupying a theatre. Actually occupying it with or without the consent of the management. And then coming up with — as we did in a theatre workshop I once attended — with the same kinds of rules that occupations come up with. Only the rules are theatrical constraints, like: “Every character must experience violence,” etc. Then, over the period of the occupation, certain groups of people get to stage what they create; others create things in response; it becomes a dialogue — interspersed with lectures, cleaning up sessions, general assemblies; forays into the outside world to do “actions” designed to expose or undermine capitalism, and to promote postcapitalism. At least 150 people need to be involved.
  4. Other stuff like this but more imaginative.

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Journalist, writer and film-maker. Former economics editor at BBC Newsnight/Channel 4 News. Author of How To Stop Fascism.

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Paul Mason

Paul Mason

Journalist, writer and film-maker. Former economics editor at BBC Newsnight/Channel 4 News. Author of How To Stop Fascism.