In one of the February issues of the prominent Time Magazine whose cover story was multiculutralism itself, the German politician Angela Merkel felt free to proclaim this trendy phenomenon an experiment which has not succeeded anywhere: in her view, it will never happen.
How does the theatre fit into this trendy phenomenon and does it fit in at all?
Older and therefore “more experienced” than the other performing media (film, television, the Internet) the theatre has relatively easily joined the multicultural mainstream that was additionally “accelerated” by the ever more intensified and varied processes of globalization. It was facilitated by its respectable “accumulated years of service” which, in the form of theoretical and practical experience in theatre interculturalism and theatre anthropology, the great theatre explorers such as Artaud, Brecht, Grotowski, Brook, Barba and Schechner have put into this “great story”. Thanks to their serious theatre explications of these two phenomena, theatre interculturalism and theatre anthropology, we all learned how to approach the third phenomenon in this specific chain, the trendy phenomenon we have described above, designated with the syntagm multicultural theatre.
What is, in brief, multicultural theatre?
It is a theatre which successfully exists precisely on the basis of the magic formula put forward by Trudot, the formula for the “harmonious coexistence” of the differences that determine a certain cultural or creative context. Due to the fact that these differences are numerous, “final and eternal”, they guarantee that they will constantly produce a sufficient quantity of interesting (read: tense) material which will serve for the invention of lively and picturesque stories. The performing potential of such stories, in Barba’s words, the potential for permanent editing and re-editing of their basic elements, is practically inexhaustible. Juliet can be a native Indian woman (or Albanian), and Romeo, a cowboy (or Macedonian), and this will do for the production of a commercial multicultural theatre performance. It will be/become commercial due to the fact that it theatralizes the differences (the most literal ones, the most banal, the most stereotypical ones) in order to be able to market a “didactic” political story about the meaning of order and the meaninglessness of chaos, that is, about the necessity of “harmonious coexistence”. There’s trendy for you!
I would like you to recall that intercultural poetics worked in a completely opposite direction – it explored the samenesses in different cultures and strove to theatralize precisely these elements, believing that the theatre should “dig deep” into the archetypes (into psychoanalysis, philosophy, anthropology), and not send out political and ideological messages. As befits all serious experiments, all intercultural performances were hermetic, with no traces of any commercialization. Their authors even proclaimed that they dealt with the theatre for the sake of technique/procedure and not the result which such a procedure would yield. In the later years of his career, Grotowski completely abandoned making and presenting his plays and decided to close down his Theatre Laboratory. And continued to search for the samenesses –ad infinitum.
Multicultural theatre is something completely opposite. In addition to simplifying to the extreme the problems which were once addressed by the passionate explorers of theatre interculturalism, this type of theatre practice is heavily burdened by the need to constantly “talk about” and/or “propagate” certain “important” ideas or concepts whose impact definitely has no aesthetic value.
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