Moving targets: Political theatre in a post-political age
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
This thesis gauges the contemporary landscape of political theatre at a time in which everything, and consequently nothing, is political. That is, almost all theatres today proclaim a politics, and yet there is widespread resignation regarding the inevitability of capitalism. This thesis proposes a theory of political action via the theatre: radical theatre today must employ a strategy of "moving targets". Theatrical actions must be adaptable and mobile to seek out the moving targets of capital and track down target audiences as they move through public space. In addition, political theatre must become a moving target to avoid amalgamation into the capitalist system of exchange. I approached this topic through four case studies. Two of the case studies, Reverend Billy's Church of Stop Shopping and the Critical Art Ensemble, are based in the United States. I studied their work via materials - books, essays, videos, websites, interviews, and more - but not in person. The other two case studies are lifted from my own experience with the Christchurch Free Theatre: an original production of Christmas Shopping and a devised production of Karl Kraus' play The Last Days of Mankind. These latter two case studies served as laboratory experiments through which I was able to test ideas and problematics of political theatre that arose through my research. These case studies led to the determination that creating aesthetic experiences and actions - as opposed to having explicitly political content - can be a strategy or foundation for a radical political theatre that resists, undermines, and at times transcends the seeming inevitability of consumer capitalism. In an age in which any political intervention is seen as senseless disruption, a form of pointless violence, this theatre has adopted the strategies of terrorist actions to have a disruptive effect without positing a specific alternative social structure.