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Immersive theatre in austerity Britain: Les Enfants Terribles' riot in the Saatchi Gallery and the liquidation of differencEngine.

Alston, Adam (2019) Immersive theatre in austerity Britain: Les Enfants Terribles' riot in the Saatchi Gallery and the liquidation of differencEngine. Contemporary Theatre Review, 29 (3). pp. 238-255.

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This article looks at the relationship of immersive theatre to the material conditions that support its production in austerity Britain. It explores a dark underside to a rapidly expanded market for immersive theatre in London that can leave theatre makers open to profound vulnerabilities. This is particularly the case among companies who have only recently embarked on professional careers in a ‘second-wave’ of experimentation in immersive practices post-2010, which has been characterised by an emergent distrust of the public sector and an active embrace of private finance and commercial enterprise. It takes two examples as cases in point. The first looks at politically-engaged work by a company with a much older heritage, but which has only recently started to engage with immersive theatre: Les Enfants Terribles’ Inside Pussy Riot (2017), which was presented in London’s Saatchi Gallery and was indirectly funded by Russian tycoons. This performance found security in private philanthropy, but elicits cognitive dissonance once the work’s progressive political commitments are read alongside highly compromised revenue streams emerging from a market governed by conflicting interests. The second, differencEngine’s commercial work The Hollow Hotel (2018), found no such security, leading the company to enter voluntary liquidation after racking up debts that ran into the hundreds of thousands. Focusing on these performances’ institutional, financial, and legal contexts, this article explores how a new generation of immersive theatre makers are especially prone to competing interests and incentives in the private sector, whatever their political or commercial orientation, inviting reflection on the responsibilities of key stakeholders in challenging a misleading rhetoric of economic resilience that has accompanied stringent cuts in the public sector.

Item Type: Article
Divisions : Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences > Guildford School of Acting
Authors :
Date : 18 November 2019
DOI : 10.1080/10486801.2019.1615904
Copyright Disclaimer : This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Contemporary Theatre Review on 18 November 2019, available online:
Uncontrolled Keywords : Immersive theatre; Funding; Risk; Resilience; Austerity
Related URLs :
Depositing User : Clive Harris
Date Deposited : 01 Feb 2019 16:11
Last Modified : 12 Dec 2019 15:26

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