UoM administered thesis: Phd

  • Authors:
  • Vanessa Silva Pereira


This thesis seeks to examine the nature of political theatre within the postmodern context. I distinguish between the historical alternative theatre and the paradoxical alternative theatre in my work. The historical alternative coincides with the alternative theatre movement developed in Britain between the late 1960s and late 1970s, while in Portugal this movement was mainly designated as independent theatre between 1974 and the 1980s. I start by analysing the narratives of birth and death of the historical alternative theatre movement in the British and Portuguese contexts from the establishment of the movement in the late 1960s to the present. I go on to propose that beyond the historical alternative and within a post-ideology framework, contemporary theatre may still engage with politics by exercising a localised and temporary paradoxical alternative. For my research I selected four long-running and state-funded theatre companies, o bando, Kneehigh, Foursight and Escola de Mulheres, chosen according to two of the categories prominent during the historical alternative movement, community theatre and women's theatre. Through detailed analysis of productions of the four theatre companies, I assess the characteristics of a postmodern political oppositional theatre. My methodological approach covers the longitudinal context of the companies and productions by looking at past productions, funding statements, reviews, practitioners' interviews, theatre programmes and the rehearsal, performance and reception stages of the theatrical process. I start by analysing each company's history and their own mythologies of the alternative, before focusing on two of the central traits of the theatre developed during the historical alternative theatre movement, non-traditional spaces and non-traditional audiences. Each of the four companies has, out of necessity or choice, positioned itself outside of traditional theatre and entertainment circuits for some of its productions, negotiating symbolical and ideological independence side by side with large productions in repertory and/or commercial theatres. Each of the companies fosters, in addition, in their non-traditional places mechanisms that subvert circumstantially the hierarchical values imbued by neoliberal thought. The oppressed take centre-stage. Exposed to the vagaries of the weather, to exiguous or improvised audience spaces, expected to, forced by circumstances or incentivised to interact with fellow spectators and actors, audiences rediscover in the moment of the performance their shared humanity and form fleeting and secular communities of faith.


Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Award date1 Aug 2012