A breakthrough moment in international theatre-making?
21 for 21 set out to mark the twenty-first birthday of Howard Barker's collaboration with The Wrestling School in the form of a one-day international festival of his work. In aspiration, it was designed to re-energise the perception of Barker and The Wrestling School both nationally and internationally. There is an interesting debate to be had about why The Wrestling School project should fall in the first round of Arts Council England (ACE) cuts, which are continuing in 2013. ACE, in all its iterations, had been The Wrestling School's principal funder and by his association as auteur, a key supporter of significant elements of Barker's practices. The Wrestling School contribution to the event included a staged reading by the company of Hurts Given and Received. This was within Barker's artistic control.
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.