Street theatre and the production of postindustrial space explores how street theatre transforms industrial space into postindustrial space. Deindustrializing communities have increasingly turned to cultural projects to commemorate industrial heritage while simultaneously generating surplus value and jobs in a changing economy. Through analysis of French street theatre companies working out of converted industrial sites, this book reveals how theatre and performance more generally participate in and make historical sense of ongoing urban and economic change. The book argues, firstly, that deindustrialization and redevelopment rely on the spatial and temporal logics of theatre and performance. Redevelopment requires theatrical events and performative acts that revise, resituate, and re-embody particular pasts. The book proposes working memory as a central metaphor for these processes. The book argues, secondly, that in contemporary France street theatre has emerged as working memory's privileged artistic form. If the transition from industrial to postindustrial space relies on theatrical logics, those logics will manifest differently depending on geographic context. The book links the proliferation of street theatre in France since the 1970s to the crisis in Fordist-Taylorist modernity. How have street theatre companies converted spaces of manufacturing into spaces of theatrical production? How do these companies (with municipal governments and developers) connect their work to the work that occurred in these spaces in the past? How do those connections manifest in theatrical events, and how do such events give shape and meaning to redevelopment? Street theatre’s function is both economic and historiographic. It makes the past intelligible as past and useful to the present.
Sauver l’usine, c’est sauver la mémoire ouvrière de ce quartier, se rappeler
que ce quartier est un quartier ouvrier, que ce n’est pas rien, que les ouvriers existent, sont encore là, même si on voudrait parfois nous faire croire
qu’ils ont disparu. […] Quoi faire de cette histoire pour ceux qui sont là,
aujourd’hui, que cela leur serve, qu’ils puissent s’appuyer dessus?
To save the factory is to save the working-class memory of this neighbourhood, to recall that this neighbourhood is a working-class neighbourhood,
that it isn
-sized, pustular buds glow orange and cast eerie shadows as dusk
darkens. If evening temperatures drop, visitors might gather around the
fire blossoms (les fleurs de feu), mammoth metal flowers, reminiscent
of pterodactyls’ wings, emerging from a fire pit. An array of pipes (les
tuyaux) gives the impression that the area’s subterranean infrastructure
has sprouted above the soil, extending, rhizomatically, of its own accord.
Sounds emanating from the pipes, together with occasional puffs of
steam, suggest that the activity continues, unseen, somewhere
Transverse, a street theatre production centre and arts venue, as part of an ongoing effort to refashion
Corbigny as a rural cultural hub. La Transverse offers residencies to visiting theatre companies and performing artists throughout the year and
serves as the permanent base of operations for Metalovoice. Founded in
1995 after splitting from drumming group Tambours du Bronx (Drums
of the Bronx), Metalovoice creates multimedia performances inspired
by labour history, punk music, agitprop, working-class literature and
cultural practices, and troupe
gather such a crowd in Nantes?’2
On 30 June 2007, tens of thousands of people gather for another
launch in the park that used to be the shipyards. A 12-metre-tall
mechanical elephant emerges from a hangar. Though enormous tyres
support the puppet’s weight, it appears to walk on treading feet. It
raises its flexile, reticulated trunk above its formidable wooden tusks.
It trumpets. It sprays mist from its trunk at squealing children. Its eyes
Figure 4.1 The Great Elephant carries riders along the banks of the Loire,
Les Machines de l’île, Nantes
collective designation as fabriques, recall their previous occupations while underscoring their continued status as sites of production:
street theatre is made here, not simply disseminated.
In the introduction to this book I proposed that, in contemporary
France, street theatre is workingmemory’s privileged artistic form.
In this chapter I explain why. It is not merely because, as outlined
above, street theatre developed and professionalized amidst economic
crisis, the new urban policy of the 1970s, and deindustrialization.
This historical coincidence is necessary but
observe how a theatre company engages with a working-class, industrial neighbourhood immediately before and during redevelopment.
PlayRec and SPP restage the excavation of the industrial past.
Archaeologists recognize excavation as both destructive and creative.
Anxiety about the destructive nature of archaeological work pervaded
the field’s scholarly discourse throughout the twentieth century.
Archaeologist Gavin Lucas identifies ‘a critical paradox of intrusive
fieldwork, that in order to understand something, we have to destroy