1. bookVolume 69 (2021): Issue 3 (September 2021)
Journal Details
First Published
30 Mar 2019
Publication timeframe
4 times per year
access type Open Access

Dramatising Cultural Diversity: Youth Theatre as a Performance of Local Memory and Identity in a Multiethnic Environment

Published Online: 11 Oct 2021
Volume & Issue: Volume 69 (2021) - Issue 3 (September 2021)
Page range: 381 - 398
Journal Details
First Published
30 Mar 2019
Publication timeframe
4 times per year

This article presents a comparative analysis of two ethnographic case studies conducted in local theatres in the Slovak town of Komárno and the British city of Coventry. These two locations are very different – one is a small town on the Slovak-Hungarian border and the other an urban centre in the Midlands region of Britain – and yet they are both characterised by the multiethnic and culturally diverse composition of their populations. The two youth theatres in question are also distinct in their genres: one bases its performances on folklore traditions, whereas the other is an avant-garde physical theatre. At the same time, the productions of both groups manifest a deep involvement in the representation of cultural heritage and the current social issues in their respective locations. Drawing on anthropological conceptualisations of theatre as a form of ritualised performance (see Turner, 1969, 1982; Schechner, 1985, 1993), this paper explores the processes and contexts of the enactment of past conflict and/or violence presented by the two theatrical groups in order to engage with traumatic events in local (and national) history. These processes, which embrace the values of cultural diversity and inclusion, are important for the construction of community identities. The liminality of ritualised performance enables actors and audiences to cross social (including ethnicity and class) and temporal boundaries. They reproduce memories of past violence to make sense of present tensions, such as growing nationalism and xenophobia, and to project their vision of the communal future. This often results in the contestation of the very meaning of place, community and belonging. Furthermore, the article demonstrates that such artistic interpretations of the local past and heritage are instrumental in shaping the identities of the participating youth. The comparison of the two cases also reveals noticeable differences between cosmopolitan and ethno-cultural discourses, which are prevalent in imagining the place, history and heritage of Coventry and Komárno respectively.


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