Howard Barker's first three volumes of poetry, Don't Exaggerate, The Breath of the Crowd and Gary the Thief/Gary Upright, featured extended poems, monologues intended for theatrical performance by Ian McDiarmid, Maggie Steed and Gary Oldman. Barker's fourth volume of poetry, Lullabies for the Impatient, was published in 1988. Barker's fifth volume of poetry, The Ascent of Monte Grappa, develops some of the themes explored in Lullabies for the Impatient: notably the ironies of time, the decay of ideals, the dialectic of emotion and calculation. Barker's sixth collection of poetry, The Tortmann Diaries, demonstrates fierce developments: both in the principal theme, as described by the cover. Sheer Detachment yields the seeds and residues of several Barker plays. Barker reflects resonantly, on the eruptive cultural pressures which inform both the characters' exclamations in the landscapes of his plays, and the expressive fissures of his poems.
This chapter presents the conversation between Howard Barker, the legendary playwright and artistic director of the Wrestling School, and Professor David Ian Rabey (University of Aberystwyth) at the Martin E Segal Theater Center at CUNY Graduate Center, New York. Discussion revolves around history, abandoning social realism, creating new definitions of political theatre, the importance of audience's silence, tragedy, working with actors, the importance of style and the ethics of directing. The text contains selectively edited and condensed audience's questions and formulations in the service of succinctness to permit their dissemination to a wider audience. This dialogue was the closing event in Howard Barker at the Segal Center, a daylong symposium on Barker's work held on 10 May 2010, co-presented by theatre minima and the CUNY Graduate Center's Martin E. Segal Theater Center.
Howard Barker has written over a hundred dramatic works, six published volumes of poetry, two books of philosophical and aesthetic theory and a third-person autobiography/reflection on practice. This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in this book. The book reviews a range of voices, including those of theatre practitioners, scholars and civilian enthusiasts from a range of nations, ages and backgrounds, to analyse Barker's astonishing range of imaginative ambitions and practical achievements. Barker's writing and direction combine to create theatre events which will often create a sense of plethora for the audience. Barker's play The Fence in its Thousandth Year is a preeminent dramatisation of the realisation that eros 'is an issue of boundaries', it exists because of certain boundaries. The book provides a series of complementary essays on different facets of Barker's remarkable body of artistic work, in and across different media.
Since 1969, Howard Barker has written over a hundred dramatic works, six published volumes of poetry, two books of philosophical and aesthetic theory and a third-person autobiography/reflection on practice. This book provides international perspectives on the full range of Barker's achievements, theatrical and otherwise, and argues for their unique importance and urgency at the forefront of several genres of provocative modern art. Barker distinguishes his objectives from those of the conventional theatre by terming what he pursues the Art of Theatre: a felicitous term for an artist holistically engaged with so many facets of theatre artistry. The book identifies the technical challenges and performative pleasures and tactics of both the Barker character and the Barker actor, and provides an account of report and repetition in Barker's company, The Wrestling School. Barker's work between 1977 and 1986 offers remarkable presages: both of the play of national and global power, and of Barker's distinctive artistry. The book focuses specifically on Barker's theatrical orchestration of nakedness, and examines the underlying ideologies of systems of surveillance and punishment which would literally claim, frame, and thus contain the transgressive individual (body). It provides a series of readings of specific Barker plays such as I Saw Myself, Scenes from an Execution, Gertrude - The Cry, and The Bite of the Night. The book opens up a full examination of Barker's 'triple excavation', his mutually informative work in paintings, poems and plays.