Academic journal article TheatreForum

The Kindness of Radicals: Dissidence and Generosity in the Theatre of Chris Goode and Company

Academic journal article TheatreForum

The Kindness of Radicals: Dissidence and Generosity in the Theatre of Chris Goode and Company

Article excerpt

Hello. How are you? Take all the time you need to answer. And don't worry about being polite: be truthful and unafraid. Because here, in the company of British theatre-maker Chris Goode, "How are you?" isn't an innocuous throwaway. It's an invitation made with genuine interest, a desire to hear and make heard. As Chris wrote on his blog in March 2014, "It's a Smalltalk question given its proper bigtalk weight" ("In My Room"). It's politicized.

Every rehearsal since Chris Goode and Company (CG&Co) formed in spring 2011 has begun and ended with everyone present checking in with each other in this way, sitting in a circle and asking: How are you? In the morning the conversation might revolve around the previous night's sleep, the remnants of dreams; events at home perhaps impacting on work; rehearsal-room questions percolated overnight; hopes for the day ahead. At close of play, the focus shifts to the difficulties and excitements of the day just passed, snagging points, new discoveries, energy levels, evening plans, expectations for rest. Life beyond the rehearsal room isn't considered baggage to be left at the door: it is worked with, not against. This is a matter of humanity.

The check-in is intrinsic to CG&Co, characteristic of its wish to talk to people about their lives, the more effectively to-quoting the company's manifesto-"think out loud about who we all are in the hope we can catch a glimpse of how we might live better together" ("About Us"). Live better in the ways intimated by writer John Holloway in his socialist polemic Crack Capitalism:

We are presented with a pre-existing capitalism that dictates that we must act in certain ways, and to this we reply "no, there is no pre-existing capitalism, there is only the capitalism that we make today, or do not make." . . . Our struggle is to open every moment and fill it with an activity that does not contribute to the reproduction of capital. Stop making capitalism and do something else, something sensible, something beautiful and enjoyable. Stop creating the system that is destroying us. [254]

Chris published this quote on his blog in August 2010, preceded by the words, "As good a theatre manifesto as I've read in a while" ("Stop Making Capitalism").

A consistent argument for radical social change is the framework for what is otherwise a strikingly disparate practice. A CG&Co show might be written by Chris, edited from verbatim interviews, or adapted and to an extent devised from prose texts; it might tear apart an existing play, or invite non-habitual performers on stage to tell their own stories in innovative, fragmented or abstract ways; it might present the voices of children or dissidents, perspectives that self-describe as "ordinary" or "other:" queer, marginal, transgender. (Arguably, the portrait of Chris presented in this essay is partial; a queer note is missing.) Theatre critic Andrew Haydon makes the point repeatedly in his discussion of Chris's work in the decade prior to founding the company: it "cannot be easily summarized," "there is little generalizing that can be done," as a writer, director and performer Chris is "impossible to pin down" (84-86).

Fluidity is implicit in the company's structure. CG&Co is essentially two people: Chris himself and producer Ric Watts. I travel alongside the pair as critic-in-residence, a link between the company, their audiences, and a wider public. I think of myself as their fallible memory, not quite a critic nor a dramaturg nor an audience-engagement specialist, yet leaning into all of these roles as I tell stories about the company and its work. There are associate artists, too: a director (Wendy Hubbard), a choreographer (Pauline Mayers), a designer (James Lewis), a transgender actor/ playwright (Jo Clifford), an improviser/writer/performer (Angela Clerkin), an improviser/director/clown (Jamie Wood)-yet no one is involved with every show. I have whispered conversations with people who have collaborated with Chris in the past, who wonder why the company doesn't function as a genuine, or recognisable, ensemble. …

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