A day showcasing and exploring combat and theatre, from Shakespeare’s time to today. Featuring pro-wrestlers, fight historians, theatre performers and a bear expert.
Before Shakespeare (University of Roehampton) and Engendering the Stage are hosting their next performance workshop at Goldsmiths, focusing on combat as entertainment.
Combat, acrobatics and feats of strength were everywhere in the early modern period: wrestling happened on the streets, in the countryside and in plays such as As You Like It. When he wasn’t doing terrible things to women and to God, Henry VIII, the most famous Tudor male, was also a renowned wrestler.
Women, men and non-binary people performed strength, sword and rope displays for public audiences. Animal combat, such as bear-baiting, was probably an even more popular cultural pursuit than theatre and was watched by all sectors of society across the country and in specially-designed London venues that were in direct competition with the playhouses.
Although modern culture tends to sharply distinguish between theatre and combat as forms of entertainment, the playhouses of Shakespeare’s time were dedicated spaces for play and games of all kinds and were as much fighting venues as theatres. Likewise, up until the twentieth-century music halls and theatres also hosted boxing and wrestling matches, and employed boxers and wrestlers for sparring exhibitions or as actors in plays.
These historical matters have parallels with the contemporary UK wrestling scene, which is now thriving, and thinking anew about gender, sexuality, race and disability in the ring and in its audiences.
Ruff Play brings together combat and theatre historians, fight directors, professional wrestlers, actors, sports scholars and animal archaeologist for a conversation in which no one person is an expert. We look forward to generating new conversations and discoveries between our speakers and our audience.
For anyone interested in street performance, popular play, combat as a form of entertainment or the links between theatre, circus and sport, we’d be excited to have you join us.
Confirmed speakers so far:
Broderick Chow - Reader and Deputy Director of Learning and Teaching at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, competitive weightlifter and coach
Sarah Elizabeth Cox - MA History student, Goldsmiths, trainee pro-wrestler and author of http://www.grapplingwithhistory.com
Oisin Delaney - Professional wrestler, one half of the tag-team The NIC
Many more to be announced!
Dates & times
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