Over the last few months, I’ve been helping to set up and administrate an initiative called New British Music Theatre (or NBMT), which will see eleven UK-based artists and companies presenting their work at the 2016 Music Theatre Now meeting and Operadagen Festival in Rotterdam. As a result, I’ve spent a lot of time researching the British scene, as well as thinking generally about the concept of music theatre (along with its various sub-genres). I’m aiming to publish some of these thoughts on the blog in the next few weeks, including an extensive survey of recent British work and (hopefully) a review of the festival.
Reproduced below is a short ‘catalogue essay’ I wrote for the NBMT booklet (in a slightly extended form). It attempts to locate the eleven NBMT artists within a broader discussion of what ‘music theatre’ means in a UK context. For more information on NBMT and on the artists, please visit our lovely website: www.newbritishmusictheatre.org.
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Staking a Claim: Music Theatre as Provocation
The eleven artists and companies, chosen to represent new British music theatre as part of the NBMT initiative, come from a broad range of disciplinary backgrounds: from dance and experimental theatre, to rock music, sound design, video and performance art. However, the artistic moment that they represent is one that extends even more widely across the disciplinary spectrum.
New British music theatre could be envisaged as a boundary line drawn on a map, encircling a set of disciplinary promontories, marking a territory that cuts across institutional and aesthetic borders. Despite their gradual convergence, each creeping peninsula retains its singular identity: its set of foundational laws, its disciplinary ‘constitution’. The drawing of this circular boundary (as with all boundary lines) is therefore a provocation. It says: this, too, is music theatre. It is an implicit provocation, and a gentle one (in keeping with the tenderness of so much contemporary British theatre: open, generous, often utopian, rarely nihilistic or confrontational). But it is a provocation nonetheless. In particular, it stakes a claim for three particularly ‘pure’ modes of music theatre, which nevertheless differ fundamentally from the opera, the musical and the ‘classical’ performance. These are dance, the gig, and the song. Continue reading