Hostname: page-component-77c89778f8-5wvtr Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-07-19T15:25:24.114Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

When the Kissing Stopped… and What Happened Next

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  15 January 2009


In his major work on Theatre Games (Methuen, 1977), Clive Barker provided both a practical textbook on the uses of game-playing for actors, and some theoretical background to its value. There, he largely stressed the function of games as a means to an end – the development of acting skills, and the enrichment of the rehearsal process. But, partly as a result of the book's appearance, he has also conducted many one-off ‘game workshops’, often for groups whose concerns are not primarily or professionally theatrical: and in the following article he discusses the value that game-playing still seems to have for such groups, by close analogy with the function of the ‘kissing-games’ of his own childhood and adolescence – as a means of breaking down inhibitions within a context that is both socially acceptable and controlled. Clive Barker, whose career in the professional theatre began with Joan Littlewoods's Theatre Workshop company, is co-editor of New Theatre Quarterly, and now teaches in the Joint School of Theatre Studies at the University of Warwick.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1988

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Notes and References

1. Barker, C., Theatre Games (London: Methuen, 1977)Google Scholar.

2. Caillois, R., Man Play and Games (London: Thames and Hudson, 1962)Google Scholar.

3. I am sure these games have a wide currency as they are used satirically in several films – for example, Tom Jones, directed by Tony Richardson.

4. Goffman, Erving, Frame Analysis (New York: Harper and Row, 1974)Google Scholar.

5. Other forms of forbidden activity (I realize now) were licensed at street parties. I could not understand, as a boy, why one particular married couple always appeared in each other's clothes on these occasions.

6. The most cohesive force in the community was the common ownership of property. All security was invested in ‘the house’. The strongest force acting against divorce was the mutual vested economic interest in the family house.

7. My mother was aware of sexual tension. In 1969 she complained bitterly that all her life she had been told that sex outside marriage was ‘wrong’. At the time, every magazine, even the most staid of women's journals, was telling her it was a good thing.

8. In the particular period under discussion there was the added problem of marriage partners being split up as men were sent away and often abroad in the armed forces with an indefinite possibility of returning.

9. A similar function is served by the mistletoe hanging at Christmas.

10. The particular community in which I grew up has now disintegrated completely with the rapid and almost total decline of industry. At present 39 per cent of the male population is out of work and in at least one area the male unemployment figure is over 90 per cent.

11. Part of the function of the session-leader is to provide the guarantee that no-one will be put at risk, by remaining in a control capacity and not participating in the games.

12. Barba, Eugenio, The Floating Islands (Holstebro: Odin Theatre, 1979)Google Scholar. The quotation is from the essay ‘Theater-Culture’, p. 149.

13. It has to be borne in mind that although it is notionally possible that any workshop can be developed into a long-term group project, which could lead to the formation of a Third Theatre company, what I am discussing is most unlikely to develop in that way, since it largely involves people with a settled way of life. It is possible that such a pattern of work carried out among young unemployed people might lead to the formation of such a company. However, it is unlikely that such a social grouping would be attracted to a workshop on acting or theatre in the first place.

14. It should be acknowledged that my colleagues in Inter-Action, Ed Berman, David Powell, and Carry Gorney, have moved right away from theatre into other areas of social co-operation and enterprise, using games structures as the basis of their work.