Devised Performance in Irish Theatre: Histories and Contemporary Practices

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Siobhan O'Gorman and Charlotte McIvor

This essay collection situates the histories and contemporary practice of devised performance in Irish theatre. The use of devised performance techniques within Irish theatre harnesses the artistic potential of diverse sites, participants, sources and techniques as one of its major aims. The named theatrical genres frequently employed vis-à-vis a devised working process include but are not limited to physical, immersive, site-specific, improvised, collaborative, community, adapted, documentary and verbatim theatre.

"Devised Performance in Irish Theatre" responds to a decisive shift in the working approach of several prominent emerging Irish companies including Anu Productions, Brokentalkers, THEATREclub, THISISPOPBABY and The Company. This contemporary surge of work builds on a physical and dance theatre movement in Irish theatre that began to coalesce in the 1990s through the work of companies such as Barabbas, Macnas, Blue Raincoat, Corn Exchange, Pan Pan, and Corcadorca which was in turn influenced by earlier genealogies of community arts practice on the island of Ireland beginning in the late 1970s. This collection will address work throughout both the Republic and Northern Ireland in recognition of the dialectical development of community arts by way of shared resources and collaboration between artists working cross-border from the 1970s to the present.

We welcome proposals for contributions (up to 5000 words), from both academics and practitioners, which might focus on the work of individual companies or a series of productions and/or explore some of the following issues and questions:
• What kinds of cultural commentaries do various devised practices offer and what ethical concerns do they unearth?
• In the face of the inequality, changing demographics, social exclusion and exploitation linked to the globalisation and economic vicissitudes of Ireland since the 1990s, could devised theatre play a role in fostering empathy, inclusion, community and aspirations towards social justice?
• In Northern Ireland, following the peace process, how can devised practices negotiate needs to communicate the past with desires to imagine a more harmonious future?
• How does the flexible structure of devised performance, which is not always mounted on a strictly professional basis, relate to the meanings of the "professional" and "professionalism" within Irish theatre at large in terms of sustainability and ethics, i.e. what it means to make a living wage or have "ownership of a work"?
• How does the climate of increasingly reduced arts funding within Ireland, where even the most critically acclaimed companies might not receive enough funding to adequately compensate all 'professional' collaborators, relate to the prevalence and potential of devised performance?
• How have international interlocutors inspired Irish devised performance practice, and what can specifically Irish practices of devised performance contribute to an understanding of techniques, practices and reception within this genre globally?

Proposals (400-500 words) for essays (max 5000 words) should be submitted to Siobhán O'Gorman ( and Charlotte McIvor ( by 1 April 2013, with final essays to be submitted by 31 August 2013.