De politiske gruppeteatrene i Norge : Estetisk-politiske virkemidler og kollektive praksiser: Svartkatten, Pendlerne, Hålogaland Teater, Perleporten og Tramteatret
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The dissertation: «De politiske gruppeteatrene i Norge – Estetisk-politiske virkemidler og kollektive praksiser: Svartkatten, Pendlerne, Hålogaland Teater, Perleporten og Tramteatret» has as its main research focus the collectively run political theatre groups in Norway during the 1970s. The four groups analysed are Nationaltheatrets oppsøkende teater, Hålogaland Teater, Perleporten Teatergruppe and Tramteatret. The study is timely due to the lack of research within Norwegian theatre historiography on political group theatre and these particular four groups. It contributes to research in the field by adopting a new perspective on the political group theatres in Norway and by focusing on theatrical strategies within their performances, as well as seeing these strategies as a form of political aesthetics. The political theatre of the 1970s is contextualised through a theatre historiographical lens where the political aesthetics are viewed as recurring in waves. Through my research I have identified three waves of political theatre, the first starting in Soviet Union during the post-1917 revolution, a theatre movement that spread worldwide, and reached Norway in the 1930s. The second wave is connected to the May 1968 student uprising, which unfolded on Norwegian stages in the 1970s. The latest wave, which is currently being staged in Norway, is generally understood to have emerged in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. However, this last movement truly peeked in Norway in the mid to late 2010s, with the performances Nordting (2014) and Ways of Seeing (2018). I give examples of Norwegian theatre companies and theatre productions in all the three waves of political theatre, both in the article “Dokumentarteater, Hyperteater og hverdags-eksperter: i norsk politisk teater” (2017), and in the last chapter of the kappa. The study is developed around four articles. These four articles are case studies on the performances and the cultural contexts in which the four mentioned theatre groups operated when creating political theatre. The first article, «Norwegian Political Theatre in the 1970s: Breaking Away from the ‘Ibsen Tradition’» (2016), compares the aesthetics of the two independent group theatres Perleporten Teatergruppe and Tramteatret in relation to the dominant aesthetic tradition of Ibsen realism within institutional theatre in Norway. The article demonstrates how Perleporten and Tramteatret broke away from the Ibsen tradition by making theatre which was influenced by the workers’ theatre tradition and the “red revues”, and by using cabaret dramaturgy, montage and bricolage in their performances. The second article, entitled «‘A Good Night Out’: When Political Theatre Aims at Being Popular, or How Norwegian Political Theatre in the 1970s Utilized Populist Ideals and Popular Culture in Their Performances» (2017) addresses political theatre in Norway during the 1970s in connection to theories of popular culture, and against the background of the Norwegian socialist-populist movement that was formed as a leadup to the ECC (EU) referendum in 1972. This movement had a concrete impact and influence on Hålogaland Teater (HT). While Tramteatret, only catching the tail wave of this movement, decided to use strategies of popular culture in the sense of pop culture, HTs methods differed because they used a strategy that can be seen more in the line of a didactic and folk cultural theatre. In this article I draw upon various theories on popular culture, with a focus on the theories of Theodor Adorno, Bertolt Brecht and Antonio Gramsci. In the third article, «Dokumentarteater, Hyperteater og hverdags-eksperter – i norsk politisk teater» (2017) (Documentary Theatre, Hyper Theatre and Everyday Experts – in Norwegian Political Theatre), I have widened the historical scope, comparing political theatre in Norway from three distinct periods: the 1930s, 1970s and 2010s. By comparing the performances of Gunvor Sartz and det Sociale Theater – §245 (1930), Nationaltheatrets Oppsøkende Teater – Svartkatten (1971), Pendlerne (1972) and Morten Traavik – Århundrets rettssak (2017), I identify similarities and differences in the adopted methodologies of political documentary theatre in Norway. In this article I draw upon the theories of Derek Paget and Claire Bishop in defining how the political theatre in Norway is a part of a “broken tradition”. This concerns theatre that emerges in connection with specific political crises and revolutionary moments, for example during the Russian Revolution, in connection with the student rebellions in 1968, and in the aftermath of the 2008 economic crisis. In this article I draw upon theories on documentary theatre and relational aesthetics by Derek Paget, Carol Martin, Nicolas Bourriaud and Claire Bishop. The fourth article, «Perleporten – Et post-brechtiansk teater? » (2020) (Perleporten – a post-Brechtian Theatre?), focuses solely on Perleporten’s theatre in relation to their anarchist political approach. The theatrical strategies of combining a fragmented form with a desire for the audience to think for themselves made Perleporten’s political theatre at odds with the majority of the Norwegian political theatre groups at the time. Perleporten’s performative use of fragmented narratives, montage and bricolage, in which the group aimed at connecting the format of their plays with their political ideals, can be seen as a manifestation of Marshall McLuhan’s dictum “the medium is the message”. Due to the seemingly singularity of Perleporten Teatergruppe in the Norwegian context, I have chosen to compare the theatre group with theatre groups and auteurs with similar political ideologies and aesthetic approaches in other nations. In particular I compare Perleporten’s aesthetics with The Living Theatre´s direct acting approach and with Heiner Müller’s post-Brechtian theatre aesthetics. The four articles are contextualized by a summary (kappa), which foregrounds the specific political aesthetic strategies of the four theatre companies. Firstly, I locate the companies in relation to other political group theatres in Scandinavia, Europe and the USA, by comparing their democratic working methods and strategies with the approaches of the Norwegian groups. Secondly, I investigate the companies’ choice of utilizing either cabaret dramaturgy or social realism in their performances, which can be contextualized through the reception of the Brecht-Lukács debate on modernism within the arts in Norway. I show how the debate was differently picked up, utilized and understood by various political theatre groups in Norway during the 1930s and the 1970s. I contextualize Nationaltheatrets oppsøkende teater, Hålogaland Teater, Perleporten Teatergruppe and Tramteatret by looking at the impact of the cultural policies in Norway during the 1970s and 1980s on their work. This approach highlights how the groups’ demise was influenced especially by the cultural policies of the time; how the turn towards visual dramaturgy and “project theatre”, in connection with postmodernism, changed the theatre landscape and how the independent theatre groups were evaluated by the funding bodies in Norway, during the late 1980s and 1990s. Lastly, I connect the two previous movements of political theatre in Norway with the current movement, by making an in-depth analysis of the political aesthetic strategies of two contemporary theatre performances: Nordting (2014) by Amund Sjølie Sveen and Ways of Seeing (2018) by Pia Maria Roll. The study’s main contribution to the field of Norwegian theatre historiography lies in the connection between the political aesthetics of the theatre companies in question, and their aimed impact on society, in what way their aesthetics was influenced by the agitational theatre of the 1930s, in addition to their impact on the current wave of political theatre in Norway.
Has partsPaper 1: Watson, A. (2016). “Norwegian Political Theatre in the 1970s: Breaking Away from the ‘Ibsen Tradition’”. Nordic Theatre Studies, 28(1), 50-63. The article is available at: https://hdl.handle.net/1956/15827
Paper 2: Watson, A. (2017). “’A Good Night Out’: When Political Theatre Aims at Being Popular, Or How Norwegian Political Theatre in the 1970s Utilized Populist Ideals and Popular Culture in Their Performances». Nordic Theatre Studies, 29(2), 87-119. The article is available at: https://hdl.handle.net/1956/19289
Paper 3: Watson, A. (2018). “Dokumentarteater, Hyperteater og hverdags-eksperter: i norsk politisk teater - 1930-2017». Peripeti: tidsskrift for dramaturgiske studier, 27/28, 142-155. The article is available in the main thesis. The published version is also available at: https://tidsskrift.dk/peripeti/article/view/110435
Paper 4: Watson, A. (2020). «Perleporten - et post-brechtiansk teater?». Teatervitenskaplige studier, 4, 25-51. The article is available at: https://hdl.handle.net/11250/2727482