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Conscience and Consciousness: British Theatre and Human Rights.

Lax, Annecy (2022) Conscience and Consciousness: British Theatre and Human Rights. PhD thesis, University of Essex.


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This research project investigates a paradigm of human rights theatre. Through the lens of performance and theatre-making, this thesis explores how we came to represent, speak about, discuss, and own human rights in Britain. My framework of ‘human rights theatre’ proposes three distinctive features: firstly, such works dramatise real-world issues and highlights the role of the state in endangering its citizens; secondly, ethical ruptures are encountered within and without the drama, and finally, these performances characteristically aspire to produce an activist effect on the collective behaviours of the audience. This thesis interrogates the strategies theatre-makers use to articulate human rights concerns or to animate human rights intent. The selected case-studies for this investigation are ice&fire’s testimonial project, Actors for Human Rights; Badac Theatre; Jonathan Holmes’ work as director of Jericho House; Cardboard Citizens’ youth participation programme, ACT NOW; and Tony Cealy’s Black Men’s Consortium. Deliberately selecting companies and performance events that have received limited critical attention, my methodology constellates case-studies through original interviews, durational observation of creative working methods and proximate descriptions of practice. The thesis is interested in the experience of coming to ‘consciousness’ through human rights theatre, an awakening to the impacts of rights infringements and rights claiming. I explore consciousness as a processual, procedural, and durational happening in these performance events. I explore the ‘æffect’ of activist art and examine the ways in which makers of human rights theatre aim to amplify both affective and effective qualities in their work. My thesis also considers the articulation of activist purpose and the campaigning intent of the selected theatre-makers and explores how their activism is animated in their productions. Through the rich seam of discussion generated by the identification and exploration of the traits of a distinctive human rights theatre, I affirm the generative value of this typological enquiry.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Subjects: N Fine Arts > NX Arts in general
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities > Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies, Department of
Depositing User: Annecy Lax
Date Deposited: 29 Apr 2022 08:57
Last Modified: 29 Apr 2022 08:57

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