(In)famous Angel: The Cherub Company and the Problem of Definition

“(In)famous Angel: The Cherub Company and the Problem of Definition”

Presenter: Brian Cook, a PhD student in Theatre Arts, specializes in alternative and counter-hegemonic theatre forms and practices, especially as they appear in Britain.  A director and theatre artist, he recently directed “Playhouse Creatures” for University Theatre, a play about the first actresses on the British stage in the 1660s.

The Cherub Company was an alternative British theatre company whose work defied most of the categories which inscribed theatre practice in Britain in the 1980s, largely due to their Eastern European aesthetic.

Cherub’s work today would likely be commonplace, but in its own time, it was derided for producing “bad” theatre. In part, the criticism was directed at how they uprooted conventional depictions of gender in the canonical plays of Shakespeare. This presentation examines gender in Shakespeare and Fletcher’s “Two Noble Kinsmen” (1979) and Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” (1982), two productions that especially offended the traditionalist drama representatives of the primary arts funding body, the Arts Council of Great Britain. This case study allows us to see what happens when governments, critics or historians use only a narrow canonical judgement to separate “good” artists from the “bad.” Often, artists, like Cherub, must conform or perish, and this has potentially detrimental impact on diversity in the arts.