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Campbell, P., 2018.

Black Rivers

Output Type:Performance
Venue:Heron Corn Mill, Beetham, Cumbria

This 54-minute solo performance interrogates genealogy; personal and artisanal ancestry and heritage, but also in the Foucaultian sense of the history of power/knowledge. During Black Rivers, I embody my family's complex ethnic heritage, examining racial performativity across seven generations. The piece draws on research developed alongside Jane Turner through the wider Third Theatre Network project, initiated in 2014. Third Theatre is a transnational lineage of laboratory theatre craft (Barba, 1999) which I have been actively involved in for the past thirty years.  
The performance was conceptually framed by trauma studies, postcolonial theory and historiography, drawing on UCL's Legacies of British Slave-Ownership Centre, which includes archival documentation of my ancestor's slave purchases. Praxically, I developed the dramaturgy of Black Rivers in collaboration with the renowned Workcentre of Jerzy Grotowski and Thomas Richards, and Carran Waterfield, founder of award-winning Triangle Theatre (UK). The performance was grounded in psychophysical training of the Roy Hart Theatre and Nordisk Teaterlaboratorium/Odin Teatret. This portfolio includes a related journal article critically analysing my recently-uncovered Jamaican family album. Archival footage charts the journey from devising to public performance.
This research project argues that the intergenerational embodied persistence of traumatic racial performativity gives rise to aporia, which convoke future generations to attempt closure. Black Rivers contributes to the urgent need on the British stage to contest hegemonic narratives regarding multiracial experiences, whilst focusing on invisible heritage and queerness in a unique way. With its focus on intergenerational multiracial identity and postmemory, Black Rivers can counter the accusations of cultural appropriation that have plagued the European Third Theatre community (Watson, 2002) in ways that other productions have not, by foregrounding one actor's grappling with his own complex ethnicity and heritage on stage.