Are We On The Same Page? Approaches to Text and Performance


The relationship between text and performance has been and remains a source of friction within British theatre. Frequently, it has been used as a way of superficially dividing different practices and establishing antagonist binaries between theatre-makers. In recent years, the rise of what Hans-Thies Lehmann famously defined as postdramatic theatre has mapped old divisions onto a new vocabulary: we can now speak of the dichotomy between dramatic and postdramatic theatre.

However, as theatre-makers continue to experiment with theatrical form, this dichotomy offers a limited picture. In an article for the Guardian Theatre Blog in 2009, Andy Field subverted existing binaries by suggesting that ‘all theatre is devised and all theatre is text-based’. But despite such challenges to the ways in which we understand the status of text in relation to performance, the schism between supposedly ‘text-based’ and ‘non-text-based’ practices persists in the ways theatre in this country is supported, staged, and studied.
In an attempt to look beyond this schism, we invite academics, practitioners and commentators to join us in questioning the relationship between text and performance and its significance for contemporary British theatre practice.

Questions that we hope to address on the day include, but are not limited to:

  • What do we mean by an ‘open’ text?
  • Can a text ever be completed?
  • Is there anything a text makes impossible?
  • Is it ever possible to be faithful or unfaithful to a text?
  • To what extent can we think of the text as authoritative?
  • How do different theatrical performances transform a text?


10.00am Registration
10.30am Introduction from Catherine Love and Caitlin Gowans
11.00am Tim Crouch in conversation with Catherine Love
12.30pm Lunch
1.30pm  Panel 1: Beyond the ‘text-based’/‘non-text-based’ divide (Chris Goode, Duska Radosavljevic, Andy Field, Jacqueline Bolton, Andrew Haydon, chaired by Catherine Love)
3.00pm Coffee
3.30pm Panel 2: Possibilities of text, narrative and performance (Vicky Angelaki, Rory Mullarkey, Deborah Pearson, Cathy Turner, chaired by Caitlin Gowans)
5.00pm Symposium ends