Charlie: Dmitri, we approached you to be an Camden 50 artist with the mammoth task of responding to our archives and the Magna Carta and you’ve come on a long journey to now looking at Radical Theatre, can you give us an insight into this journey?
Dmitri: I think as an artist it is important to work with something that really interests you. To follow your nose through your research. In my case, I am interested in things on the periphery of mainstream culture that might seem obscure. What we now call Camden has such a rich cultural and political history and my job was to navigate through this and find something that resonated for me. The story of alternative theatre inspired me because of its contemporary legacy. The issues at stake to the makers of this theatre are still at play today.
Charlie: You’ve mentioned the abolition of censorship in script writing and the new freedom for performance; did you feel the same liberation when you finally found your research topic? How have you developed this research theme?
Dmitri: The Theatres Act of 1968 was reflective of the wider social and political upheaval of the time. Artists were empowered and within this was the potential for revolutionary change. The work that followed promoted action and protest. Companies rejected the institution and brought their work into the public space away from a cultural ‘elite’. The makers of this theatre were asking the big questions, "who should Art be for, where should it be experienced and what should it look like?” These are things that I try to think about in terms of my own artistic practice.
I am also interested in how we access history and in what context this occurs. The work that I am making for this project is concerned with the extent to which we are informed by our cultural histories (which raises the question ‘whose’ histories those might that be). The work considers the conflicting authenticities embedded within the re-staging of history. And the ways in which this can be disseminated as cultural export. We will be using photography to generate souvenir-type portraits as a way in which to navigate through some of these issues.
Charlie: In terms of your practice you are incredibly socially engaged and look at folk culture in the UK, how does this project link with the rest of your work?
Dmitri: I work very collaboratively. Projects are made through the culmination of different people’s expertise and experience. For this show, I am working with a set designer, a photographer, a theatre director, and a whole range of different actors and performers many of whom were involved in the making of this theatre. I am working with the archives of a charity called Unfinished Histories, who are doing an amazing job in archiving alternative theatre using oral histories. In this way, the show is like a piece of theatre in that it draws together a huge variety of very talented people with a shared interest.
Charlie: Finally, why is this project important to Camden and you specifically? What does Radical Theatre represent for its past 50 years and the next 50?
Dmitri: Radical Theatre based in and around Camden from the late 60s onwards was testament to the social and political turbulence of the time. Practisioners used theatre to propose alternative systems and address inequality. For the first time, this gave proper passage to feminist theatre, black and asian companies, disability theatre and plays that dealt specifically with gay and lesbian issues. To re-examine this theatre in a contemporary context is to consider how attitudes have shifted over the last fifty years and to what extent are these inequalities still at play. To imagine the future of Camden is to learn from the stories of the past.
17th June 18.30 - 19.30 A Poetry Reading by Bernard Kops
25th June 18.30 - 19.30 Whose Stage is it Anyway? Part 1 by RADA TheatreVision Collective
26th June 18.30 - 19.30 Whose Stage is it Anyway? Part 2 by RADA TheatreVision Collective
29th June 18.30 - 19.30 Whose Stage is it Anyway? Part 3 by RADA TheatreVision Collective
8th July 18.30 - 19.30 On the Fringe by Cindy Oswin
21st July 18.30 - 19.30 Saffron Avenue by Daniel Kelly
This project is supported by Unfinished Histories: Recording the History of the Alternative Theatre Movement.