STR Chairman Ian Herbert is joint editor, with Kalina Stefanova, of a new book, launched at the celebrations of the Europe Theatre Prize in Wroclaw, Poland in April, exactly a year after the event it records, the XXIV Congress of the International Association of Theatre Critics. At the Congress Ian completed his seven year term as the Association's President, and was rewarded with the title of Honorary President.
What makes violence on stage today so sexy? Until quite recently, violence for its own sake was the prerogative of B-feature films and junk mystery novels. What made theatre follow suit? What is the impact of the theatre of violence on the audience? Doesn't it actually make us conformists?
Is there still a place for humanism among all the post-modern 'isms', including post-human or meta-human theatre? What is the relationship between violence and the aesthetics of ugliness? How does theatre stand against the right of might (and the ensuing violence) which has become a norm today on the stage of the world? And how can theatre and critics help preserve humanistic values on and off stage? Should they even try?
This book is the first attempt in such a format to answer these hot questions - an overdue endeavour at a time when human life is becoming more and more devalued and human beings more and more disposable. It is based on the 24th World Congress of the International Association of Theatre Critics, which took place in Sofia, Bulgaria, in April 2008, at the generous invitation of the Ministry of Culture of Bulgaria. The event gathered over a hundred critics from all over the globe, as well as many theatre-makers.
However, this volume is not a mere collection of 'conference papers'. Rather than that, it is an invitation to the reader to become witness to a lively discussion on, and at times even a fight over, the destiny of humanism and the role of violence in modern theatre. Opinions ranging from today's conventional wisdom on the subject matter to the controversial, the deliberately provocative and the politically incorrect are voiced by critics from India to Argentina, South Africa to Finland, USA to Korea, and by respected theatre-makers such as the Latvian director Alvis Hermanis and the British playwright David Edgar.
In addition, the book offers a section on the Thalia Prize - the IATC award for the brightest minds who, with their written works, have influenced the world's critical fraternity - with the acceptance speech of its second winner, the French critic, director and playwright Jean-Pierre Sarrazac, who can be said to have first identified post-dramatic theatre. As a bonus there is also a provocative postscript - a text delivered to IATC immediately before its Congress by Richard Schechner, the distinguished American director and theatre scholar.
Ian Herbert presented the STR's 2009 Annual Address, Look Back in Languor, at the Art Workers' Guild in London.
St Kliment Ohridski Press, Sofia, 288pp, ¤60, but sold here at £30 ($60) 44% discount, inc p&p.
Related STR Pages
Look Back in Langour
17th October 2014