Future Proof (With Courage & Curiosity): Training for a theatre that does not yet exist | Gough | Polish Theatre Journal

ISSN 2451-2966


Leonard Elmhirst, at right, with his wife, Dorothy, at Dartington Hall, Devon, UK. Source: The Dartington Hall Trust archive. Wikimedia Commons.
Richard Gough

Future Proof (With Courage & Curiosity): Training for a theatre that does not yet exist


 This presentation explores the strategies, conditions and precedents of a theatre-training programme aimed to nurture practitioners not for the profession as it currently exists, but rather for how it might be – in the future, as yet, unforeseen and unimagined. Through examining specific historical evidence, the presentation asks how the rigorous integration of theory and practice would seem to generate the circumstances for radical and unorthodox ways of thinking and making theatre: courageous practices of innovation and reinvention, fuelled by insatiable curiosity. From a UK perspective it considers the impact and legacy of Dartington College of Arts (Totnes, Devon) especially in how it functioned in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s and spawned many alternative and experimental theatre companies and practices (perhaps the UKs equivalent to Giessen).

It also accounts for the sustained pedagogical programmes pursued by the Centre for Performance Research (Wales) throughout the last 40 years and other like-minded institutions that have forged innovative practice (pedagogy and training) outside the academy and through independent endeavour. But the paper will also (critically) survey the attempts made within UK university theatre departments to extend theatre and performance studies into theory inflected practice, generating articulate practitioners and practice informed theorists – practice as research and research-led practice. From a European perspective the presentation will incorporate insights gained from the five-year research enquiry – The European Laboratory Network 2011–2015 (funded by the Leverhulme Trust), organised by Richard Gough and the Centre for Performance Research that traced the (trans)formative influence and legacy of theatre Studios and Laboratories throughout the 20th century. The presentation will argue for an empirical-based, laboratory-style approach to theatre training, incorporating theory and practice, (innovation and tradition) within university theatre studies – one foot in the past, one foot in the future – as a way for enabling socially relevant, uncompromising, ferocious, and enthralling theatre … that does not yet exist.


art academy; Robert Wilson; the Watermill Center; theatre-training programme; Giessen

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Richard Gough

is Artistic Director of the Centre for Performance Research (CPR) and Professor of Music & Performance Research, Faculty of Creative Industries, University of South Wales (Cardiff), UK. He has dedicated the last forty years to developing and exploring interdisciplinary, experimental performance work. As Artistic Director of CPR and its predecessor Cardiff Laboratory Theatre, he has curated and organized numerous international theatre projects including conferences, summer schools and workshop festivals, and he has produced nationwide tours of experimental theatre and traditional dance/theatre ensembles from around the world. He has directed over seventy productions, many of which have toured Europe, and he has lectured and led workshops throughout Europe and in China, Japan, USA, Colombia and Brazil. He was founding President (1997-2001) of Performance Studies international (PSi). He is the General Editor and co-founder of Performance Research (The Journal of Performance Arts published bi-monthly by Routledge, Taylor & Francis), and is publisher and series editor of Black Mountain Press and Performance Research Books. He has written several chapters in recent publications and co-edited A Performance Cosmology – the 30th year anniversary book of CPR published by Routledge (2006).