Theatre of ideas & disruptive panache: It's time to reinvent the Radical Fringe

The avant-garde? Experimental fusions? Agitprop  theatre? Didn't we move on from all that? 

Maybe. But we need it back. Dysfunctional times need fully-functioning theatre with things to say. A theatre for London of disruptive panache, critique and useful, progressive ideas for the future.  That theatre needs places to live. That’s why The Cockpit continues to develop a programming strand called Theatre of Ideas.

What does it amount to?

It's a collaborative programme with commissions and events designed to nurture debate and risky new work. The aim is to reinvent the London fringe tradition of home-grown provocative theatre. This is motivated theatre, driven by a necessary urge to create, with eclectic style and socio-political edge, and encouraging ensemble style working among theatre-makers with things to say. 

Has it produced anything yet?

Yes.  We've commissioned a response to the Blair years by five London writers called  Blair’s Children co-written by Anders Lustgarten, Paula Stanic, April de Angelis, Mark Norfolk and Georgia Fitch and we were pleased to premier the Offies nominated Streets The Musical dealing with the London riots.  We are also hosting debates and discursive events, such as From Babylon To The Edgeware Road, investigating what events in the middle east and elsewhere mean for London.  In election year, our unique Economics Burlesque night is evolving into Futures Burlesque and we worked with Wildspark Theatre to present The Bombing Of The Grand Hotel, a new play recalling the attempted assassination of Thatcher and dealing with political violence and the relationship between its institutional and personal stakeholders

Why now?

Because there is distrust of current political and economic orthodoxies, growing unease at power and wealth imbalances - particularly in London  - and a hunger for change. But platforms for alternative voices are vanishing. It’s time for The Fringe to regain its agility and reckless streak; to offer up to the minute social and political critique.
Theatre of Ideas is designed to respond to the social, political and economic changes we face. London theatre is buzzing with innovative, brilliantly staged shows but we live in changing and deeply challenging times: what new ideas can we reach for?  Where can new voices be heard?  We need a Fringe that thinks and walks and talks and takes risks as well as gets bums on seats. 

Fabulous. Is this in any way really open?  Can anyone actually get involved?

  • If you have new work to try out, consider Theatre In The Pound, our monthly scratch night which is being re-tuned to promote radical work with links to development opportunities
  • Attend debates. The Cockpit has joined forces with the Institute Of Ideas – led by Claire Fox - to introduce topical debate events to its diary. Watch website for details.  
  • Submit a proposal for a So-fi  50:50  box-office split deal. These are box office split deals for incoming shows  by companies with track record working with social fiction as a generic development of sci-fi. Think Black Mirror.
  • Have a piece or an idea but don't have the funds for a full run? Consider submitting a show and be part of the Camden Fringe festival for your latest outburst.
  • Are you 18 - 26? Have a passion for Theatre? Become a Vanguard for exclusive classes, seminars & events as well as discounts on all our shows and studio hires. 
  • Interested in new writing? New Stuff gives writers the chance to have their work read in front of a responsive audience and gives the audience the chance to witness new work and provide informal feedback to help the pieces develop.

Why are you bothering?

Because The Cockpit has grown to the right size to have an independent voice: small enough to be light on it's feet and responsive to contemporary events but also a multi-space hub used by a wide range of theatre activists.  We need London fringe theatre to be global enough to address the collapse of old assumptions about the place of markets, states and the politics of left and right on the one hand  - and the proliferation of transformational technologies, social movements and new kinds of communities and relationships on the other. It also needs to be local enough to talk about the kind of city London is, the lives Londoners lead, the future we want for our city and the people we want to be.

People have already told us they want The Cockpit to act as a meeting place, an ideas exchange and a dating agency for people and projects. Theatre of Ideas exploits the venue’s unique physical flexibility, capacity for fast event turnaround and studio and meeting spaces and build on the potential for cross-over between our theatre, music and classes activity strands.

Naturally we want it to be huge fun too.  We're calling on the spirits of Ken Cambell, Joan Littlewood, Pinter, Joe Strummer, Fela Kuti, Malcolm Hardee, Gore Vidal, Gil Scott Heron, Kurt Vonnegut - you name 'em - as well as Brecht, Weill and Billie Holiday.

Can I come in drag?

You betcha life you can