Dr. Andrew Westerside is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Lincoln’s School of Fine and Performing Arts and Co-Artistic Director of Proto-type Theatre. Andrew is a performer, writer, director and academic, has performed and toured nationally and internationally and has directed performance works including: The Calmer Future (2005), An Interview with Dorian Gray (2006), The Good, the God and the Guillotine (2013), A Machine they’re Secretly Building (2016) and Fallen (2016). He co-wrote and directed the BBC’s Leaving Home project (2014), which is the subject of a forthcoming BBC film.
Theatres of Agitation: Reclaiming Agit-Prop in Contemporary Practice
This paper takes as its premise that a field of radically motivated political practice is emerging on British stages. Moreover, that we might begin to theorise this emergent field as new agit-prop. In his book The Politics of Performance (1992) Baz Kershaw identifies politically efficacious theatre practices as those ‘which have tried to change not just the future action of their audiences, but also the structure of the audience’s community and the nature of the audiences’ culture’ (1992: 2). Almost twenty-five years on, and in a period of history which has seen the emergence and ubiquity of the internet and rolling news, this paper asks how theatre makers with an explicit, didactic, sometimes radical politics can engage and rally contemporary audiences to action.
The primary case study for this paper is Proto-type Theater’s A Machine they’re Secretly Building (2016) (AMTSB), a critique/call to arms in response to the global surveillance disclosures leaked in 2013 by NSA contractor-turned-whistle-blower Edward Snowden. In this analysis, AMTSB serves as example of contemporary, confrontational politics on a contemporary British stage.