Mr Timothy Cowbury

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My practice-based PhD is concerned with the politics of “alternative” theatre-making in the contemporary subsidized British context. It explores affective pressures that surround the making and presenting of work deemed to fall outside of the “mainstream”. And it asks whether the most potent political significance of such work might emanate from these pressures, over and above the more overt political messages or provocative acts typically ascribed to alternative theatre.

To do this, I am looking at how the contemporary politics of alternative work is a legacy of the theatrical and theoretical landscape of the late 1960s: when the UK’s Fringe theatre scene first flowered under the influence of Marxian energies typified by the work of Guy Debord. I am tracing these roots through certain subsequent developments – the UK’s conception of itself as a “Creative Economy”, Jacques Ranciere’s suggestion that politics lies in the autonomous aesthetic regime of art  – into my own practice and that of peers. Needing to escape assumptions about what our work should entail, look like and do, yet constantly being returned to those assumptions by the context we work in, might contemporary theatre-makers be finding ways to draw on this tension as a means make politically potent work?  

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