The Theatre of War Symposium, Abbey Theatre, 22-24 Jan 2015
PDF of schedule here
After slowing down to comatose this Christmas, my brain needed a good jolt to get going again. And what a jolt this was.
I hadn’t been able to attend the previous Abbey Theatre symposium on Theatre of Memory in January 2014, but had heard good things. A symposium on war, though? That was a harder sell for me. However when the ever-inspiring Dominic Campbell said he was on the programming committee, the decision was made for me. Dominic has a fantastic way of connecting people and creative ideas and often comes at topics from a direction I can’t predict. Conversations with him always leave me with a list of things to go home and google.
The programming of the symposium was excellent – both in terms of the spectrum of speakers and the scheduling of the three days. Nobody had quite enough time to speak, which meant they filled every second they were on stage with energy, so as an audience we rattled from one new thought, artistic practice or viewpoint to another. Also, thankfully, the few sessions I was less interested in flew by too.
As part of the symposium, the Abbey were able to bring together the extraordinary women involved in the recently established Project Ariadne which is a network of female theatremakers working in conflict affected areas. Securing visas alone was an administrative feat – the women traveled from Rwanda, Sri Lanka, Serbia, Palestine and Burundi via Belgium to speak at the event. Having them all in the one place for the first time, Ariadne‘s organisers Suzannah Tresillian and Georgie Wheedon were able to see the scale of the potential that the network has – I’m pretty sure a few stiff drinks were downed to help cope with the enormity of the situation. I was very lucky to have dinner with the network – I’ve never sat at a table so full of inspirational women.
I’ve listed my own highlights of the event here, with added links:
- Ariadne Project’s website and Twitter. The network members spoke on various panels during the symposium, and more information on each of them can be found here
- David Cotterrell‘s talk on the experience of being a war artist in Afghanistan
- Playwright Stacey Gregg’s piece on the “peace walls” in Belfast, as part of the Barriers panel on day 2
- A presentation by Ray Dolphin of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs on the fragmentation of Palestine
- Dr Anne Dolan of TCD’s paper looking anew at the Irish Civil War
- Extracts of songs from Helen Chadwick‘s performance War Correspondents
- Vladimir Shcherban on how Belarus Free Theatre keeps operations going