As Southbank Centre announces its 2018/19 programme for performance, dance and comedy, senior programmer Rupert Thomson discusses why we need collaboration between art genres.
Artists bring things together and split things apart to show us new things. They always have.
Choreographer Pina Bausch was inspired by the wild intensity of Antonin Artaud's ‘theatre of cruelty'. Playwrights Samuel Beckett and Bertolt Brecht were inspired by the rigorous visual language of Japanese Noh theatre. Internationally acclaimed Icelandic performance artist Ragnar Kjartansson mixes visual art, music, dance, and film to layer meaning through his work. And as far back as the late Renaissance, Claudio Monteverdi was one of the first to combine different art forms in what we now know as 'opera'.
We have major figures claiming that international approaches are infecting traditional British theatre.
And this barely scratches the surface. The examples of artists crossing traditions and sharing ideas that people didn't previously think might go together are beyond number, and surely as old as human creativity.
And yet still, somehow, talking about artists who mix up art forms and genres can be a risky business. We are told this work is niche and for a knowing crowd – not essential and not for everyone. And we still have major figures claiming that international approaches to staging are infecting traditional British theatre.
Working across artforms is in Southbank Centre's very architecture. We are very lucky to have beautiful modernist halls that were originally designed for concerts but which have long histories of presenting dance, theatre, literary gatherings and festivals. And on top of that, we have the external architecture of the site: so much public, flexible urban space and opportunities to bring works to new audiences in new ways. The whole environment invites play: for both artists and audiences.
We love a diverse mix and value the perspective and dialogue it inspires
We are emphasising this crossover in our current programmes too. For our 2018 programme, we present a major focus on cross art form collaboration. We have commissioned choreographer Holly Blakey and composer Mica Levy to make an exciting new work Cowpuncher, with punk and Western-inspired costumes. We present major international artists who have been making work in this way for years. These include Hotel Pro Forma, whose epic NeoArctic features a choir, electronic music, spectacular projections and Sjón's crisp poetry. Needcompany's The Blind Poet involves straight-up comedy, Arabic dance and history, fighting sculptures, and all to a brilliant live soundtrack. And choreographer Wim Vandekeybus continues his engagement with narrative and theatre in the unique Mockumentary of a Contemporary Saviour, which has a startling moment of stage magic alongside his trademark contemporary choreography and intense performances.
We're are thrilled to announce two new associate companies, Forced Entertainment and Shobana Jeyasingh Dance, both creators of innovative work. All this alongside stellar names such as the brilliant Isabelle Huppert reading the Marquis de Sade's provocative literary texts, and the singular Isabella Rossellini performing with her dog to help us understand animal intelligence.
We love this diverse mix and value the perspective and dialogue it inspires. In a wider, societal sense, these artists who work across forms, bringing traditions and ideas together, also help us to imagine a world where boundaries of class, race, opportunity or sexuality, are open and fluid. Art is for all and we embrace that fully.
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