'I am not what I was' Adaptation and Transformation in the Theatre of Howard Barker and the Wrestling School
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This book chapter explores the work of the English playwright Howard Barker and his theatre company The Wrestling School. In particular the chapter examines the political and cultural reception of Barker’s plays and the creation of The Wrestling School as a necessary adjunct to that reception. The chapter argues for a way of reading Barker’s drama that places it in a unique position in contemporary European theatre, offering a combination of poetic text with a visually precise mise-en-scene that creates what Barker has described as 'a theatre of catastrophe'. This style of theatre is defined principally by the ensemble vision of The Wrestling School, a collection of actors, designers and directors who come together to produce Barker’s plays. As the artistic director, Barker was able to put into place the conditions that created the type of production values now associated with The Wrestling School: chiaroscuro lighting and a mystification of sound and action. The chapter goes on to explore these effects through Barker’s play Gertrude – The Cry (2000), an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet that transforms the original characters through the representation of eroticism on stage. The chapter is part of a wider volume that explores the work of Howard Barker from a range of different perspectives. It is the first major edited volume on Howard Barker, with contributions from British, European and American theatre and drama academics. The chapter is derived from my doctoral thesis on Howard Barker (2005), and aspects from this chapter will be presented at a conference on contemporary British theatre at the University of Portsmouth in September 2007. Plans are also underway to develop a book length study of The Wrestling School, with contributions from Howard Barker and other members of the company.
Theatre of Catastrophe: New Essays on Howard Barker, pp.38-55
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