As mentioned in my previous post, I’ve spent the last few months helping to set up and administrate an initiative called New British Music Theatre (NBMT), which brought a number of British artists and companies to Music Theatre Now 2016 in Rotterdam. During the course of this work, I did a huge amount of research into the current state of music theatre in the UK. This article is the result of that research: a thematised survey of my findings, loosely focusing on the past 15 years.
One of my main reasons for writing all this up and putting it online is that my job would have been much easier if such an article had already existed. I hope that it might prove useful as a departure point for further research, limited as it is to the information that was available online.
My main conclusion about the state of music theatre in the UK is that there is a lot of it, if you know where to look.
Intro: Some inevitable definitions…
To give a survey of new music theatre in the UK is to identify the same question being asked simultaneously in many different places. Often these places—institutions, venues, platforms, disciplines—can be quite distant, with minimal communication between them. Music theatre can thus be understood as a field of enquiry into which disparate disciplines extend. In each case, the question itself is the same, and it’s a big one: “what is music?”
This question, in turn, can only be posed via a particular definition of theatre (the other element in the ‘music theatre’ formula). Theatre is presentation-as-world; it invites us to apprehend what is presented with all of our senses and make inferences from what we perceive on the same basis that we would in the ‘real world’. This ‘basis’ is that of an inner coherence or logic that holds the elements together, so that judgement (of meaning, value, beauty, etc) becomes possible. Over the last century, this concept of presentation in theatre has expanded far beyond naturalist representation, to include all sorts of post-representational performance circumstances. However, this has only strengthened the underlying concept of presentation-as-world, to which the audience must commit all the more wholeheartedly in order to perceive any meaning or value in a performance. Continue reading