A new book written by an Edge Hill academic examines whether there is a public role for drama to play in times of austerity.
Austerity and the Public Role of Drama: Performing Lives-in-Common by Victor Merriman, Professor in Critical Performance Studies, asks what our social order might look like if, instead of enforcing the political economy of austerity, political parties committed to human flourishing as the goal of public policy.
Professor Merriman uses critical performance examples from England, Ireland, Italy and the USA to demonstrate that drama and the academy pursue shared humane concerns – one, a critical art form, the other an enabler of critical social thought and progressive ideas. Victor analyses topics explored by the One Hour Theatre Company which he co-founded, with Edge Hill colleague, Professor David Peimer, and Visiting Professor Tim Prentki (University of Winchester) in 2016.
The book also considers how responses to neoliberalisation in the Global South may inform efforts to counter Project Austerity and its enabling Deficit Culture, in the Global North.
The book culminates in a manifesto which tackles questions raised throughout the discussion. It is set out as a series of problems, each one addressed by a principle which generates a proposed action. In turn, each action is discussed in relation to its potential for democracy-building and its implications for the artform, drama.
Victor said: “I decided to write a manifesto because I didn’t want simply to describe a problem, and reference diverse ways in which acts of performance had addressed it; I wanted to take up the challenge of doing something about it.
“Specifically, I didn’t want to add to a large body of literature on an undeniably awful situation, but to go beyond critical analysis to proposals for action.”
Victor intends that the manifesto will be a living document and a starting point for practitioners and scholars to respond to and extend.
He added: “The manifesto might be revised and renewed by other contributors beyond myself, my collaborators in One Hour Theatre Company, and – hopefully – by scholars, organisations, community groups and theatre professionals beyond the university itself.”
Victor will draw on elements from the book during his keynote lecture at the International Conference on Ethical Literary Criticism at the University of Santo Tomas in the Philippines in April. While in Manila, he will deliver a prestigious Kritika Kultura lecture at the University of Ateneo de Manila, after which Austerity and the Public Role of Drama will be launched.
Austerity and the Public Role of Drama is available now, published by Palgrave Macmillan.