Workers' playtime: an enquiry into the relationship between Paris May '68 and the development of British political theatre 1968-1978

Smith, Steve (2004) Workers' playtime: an enquiry into the relationship between Paris May '68 and the development of British political theatre 1968-1978. Doctoral thesis, London Metropolitan University.


This thesis examines how and why the revolutionary political and aesthetic theories articulated throughout Paris May’68, influenced the formal development and political struggles of British Political Theatre between 1968-1978. In particular, the thesis traces how the radical philosophy of the Situationniste Internationale (SI), put forward in their journal the Internationale Situationniste and two key texts which informed the événements: Raoul Vaneigem’s The Revolution of Everyday Life (1967) and Guy Debord’s The Society of the Spectacle (1967), structured the idiomatic formal articulations of often diverse and antagonistic post-’68 political performances. The thesis does not argue that political playwrights were always aware of these texts at source. However, it does suggest, that - as the British underground distributed Situationist-style ideas into the consciousness of the nation’s counter-culture - it is appropriate to speak of the appearance of a Situationist Logic within post-’68 political theatre. At other junctures the thesis includes theories which reflect or complement Situationist writings indirectly, philosophy I call ‘thinking-in-common’.
The introductory Chapter outlines the dominant themes and events of Paris May ’68 and illustrates how the British counter culture assimilated or interpreted the événements. The Introduction also sets out the criteria for the theses’ selection of plays, dramatists, and critical terms of reference. It also explains the genealogy and theoretical relevance of the concept of homology; a mode of analysis that underpins the rhetorical strategies of the whole thesis.
Chapter 1 ‘Anti-Oedipus’ makes a comparative analysis between Vaneigem’s ideas about madness and those of the British anti-psychiatrists, using the work of the latter to establish its particular Situationist logic.
Chapter 2 directly asserts how the syndicalist politics of the SI were assimilated by the May’68 Occupation Movement and then taken up by political theatre workers.
Chapter 3 ‘Sexuality’ primarily refers to the work of Reich, but is implicitly about the influence of the SI, for they were influenced by Reichian texts, too.
Chapter 4, ‘Culture’, recognizes the SI as an organisation belonging to a ‘utopian tradition’ to make its connection between the comparative assault upon culture evident in post-’68 politicised drama. ‘The Society of the Spectacle’,
Chapter 5, critiques the anti-spectacle gestures of political theatre exclusively through the work of Debord. Where the political or aesthetic gestures of political theatre owe nothing - or very little - to May ’68, the work utilises the writings of the SI to demonstrate the importance and utility of Situationist theory per se as a valid analytic tool. In this way the thesis seeks to write back to political theatre with an explanation of its own codes and unconsciously assimilated Situationism. The thesis also brings to bear a Situationist critique against the recuperated gestures of political theatre. The research project arguing that political theatre, despite its best intentions, may also be critiqued as ‘revolution as commodity’, a ‘political spectacle’ consumed and produced by theatre workers and audience alike. Finally, because post-May‘68 the form of a political expression came to be thought more political than content, the thesis concentrates upon how a Situationist logic is present in the radical forms and images the plays I have selected evidence, rather than their overt revolutionary utterances.

840151.pdf - Published Version

Download (12MB) | Preview


Downloads per month over past year

Downloads each year

View Item View Item