Howard Barker’s Art of Theatre

Essays on his plays, poetry and production work

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.

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