The politics of theatre and the theatre of politics
from Paris to Avignon via Villeurbanne, May–July 1968
Theatre seems to have been omnipresent in May 68. Often references to theatre were used to mock the importance of what had occurred: conservatives pilloried the events as a kind of "carnival", a "Punch and Judy" show, or, in the words of the historian and sociologist, Raymond Aron, a mere imitation of real History — real in the sense that blood is shed and people lose their lives. Yet sometimes the analogy with theatre was used more positively when discussing the style of student mobilization: the radicalism and the symbolic violence of the student protests, as well as their absolutely spontaneous and unpredictable language (the new "prise de parole"), made them seem at times like a gigantic collective "happening". So similarities were observed between the politics of 1968 and theatre. But, in addition to this, May 68 also shook the world of the theatre even more than it did the cinema. This matched in some sense the huge emotional and political investment that had occurred in the utopia of popular theatre over previous decades. More than any other art form, theatre can be compared to an agora. In the nineteenth century it was the site of a kind of populist politics at a time when there were as yet no democratic political arenas. And in the post-1945 era, people working in the theatre had spearheaded the postwar politics of cultural decentralization and democratization which was then co-opted by the Gaullist state through André Malraux's Maisons de la Culture — a development much criticized by the gauchiste left.
Loyer, E. (2011)., The politics of theatre and the theatre of politics: from Paris to Avignon via Villeurbanne, May–July 1968, in J. Jackson, A. Milne & J. Williams (eds.), May 68, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 316-324.
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