Contemporary British Queer Performance (2012) is a theatre history that theorises queer performance in the UK.
Tracing a genealogy of politics and practice from early lesbian and gay theatre in the 1970s, it explores how not-quite-historical debates concerning visibility, authenticity and representation have been transformed by the advent of queer theory and queer activism. More than anything else, it is a book that is interested in the politics and practicalities of theatrical collaboration, consciously orienting itself away from the queer soloist to explore how the notion of queerness is negotiated when people choose to work together in groups.1
What’s in the book?
Part I offers a theoretical and historical grounding for the understanding of contemporary practice: first describing key aspects of early queer theory and its implications for the study and production of performance, before turning to examine the foundational priorities and practices of Gay Sweatshop, the UK’s first gay theatre company.
Part II presents a series of contemporary case studies around specific areas of performance practice, asking where earlier claims to representation, visibility and difference have been taken up, re-ordered or abandoned through chapters exploring community and nation plays, theatre-in-education projects, developments in queer protest, and the rise of queer arts festivals.
Written in 2010-11 while living in rural Wales, it is a fairly optimistic book, one that imagines queerness as a space of ultimately generative or reparative dispute: an attempt to look for (and find) queerness in places where one might not necessarily expect to find it. To borrow from Lauren Berlant, it is a book that attempts to extend the range of ‘lives which are liveable’, particularly those taking place outside of the assumed places and spaces of LGBT community.
- Contemporary Theatre Review: ‘Stephen Greer’s Contemporary British Queer Performance is a welcome addition to critical work on performance practices that engage with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBTQ) subjectivities, communities and politics in the United Kingdom..’
- THEATERFORSCHUNG: ‘Stephen Greer’s study Contemporary British Queer Performance contributes not only to queer theories and performance studies but also to history and sociology, literary and theatre studies. It is exemplary in its interdisciplinary approach and delivers rich and valuable findings in a wide spectrum of performances.’
- Journal of Contemporary Drama in English
- An early title for the book was Queer Company [↩]