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Talbot, RJ 2014, 'Devising Ridiculusmus’ "Total Football": A schematic reading of performance process.' , Studies in Theatre and Performance, 34 (2) , pp. 140-159.

journal contribution
posted on 05.01.2021, 11:43 by Richard James Talbot
This 2014 article presents a context for wider discussions around researcher-participant and 'embedded research', through critical reflection on the production of a series of drawings created during the devising process for Ridiculumus’ Total Football (2012).

Through a number of original diagrams, the discussion suggests that crude schema such as these could expand on dance notation practices for use in documenting the devising stages of contemporary performance.

Ridiculusmus' production, a narrative of a non-sporty bureaucrat tasked with harnessing the enthusiasm of football fans in the interests of national cohesion, examines the impossibility of thorough incorporation of a national body within the Olympic mo(ve)ment. Based on an existing convention among football commentators for contextualizing and narrating team play, a series of photographs of sketches-in-process discussed here capture the marks of live notation as an urgent activity during devising. As such the reader has access to a snapshot from Ridiculusmus’ rehearsal methods and process. The paper analyses the notation devices employed in the sketches arguing that the approximate qualities of sketched notation, and its failed totality, capture the tone of comedy in this work about masculine hubris. While the sketches attempt to keep pace with the spontaneity of tactics devised by performers, the paper argues that performance systems and dance notation that have paid attention to architecture and spatial arrangement as a score do not generally notate intention or strategy. The paper presents the idea that the sketches document a multiplicity of tactics, and footballing metaphor in process. The notation can be understood both as documentation of movement and a contribution to a theatrical and scenographic discourse that is concerned with more than a simple ‘blocking.’ The paper discusses the origins of ‘self-blocking’ in this production, its relation to a priori analysis of character and to unpredictable elements of game-playing in a piece about football. The paper discusses the way in which Ridiculumus tackle the inherent rigidity of the British class system through a metaphorical critique of the ‘4 4 2’ team formation in football. With its wasteful habit of long ball passes, the formation has proven vulnerable against continental versatility, just as a bureaucratic class that resists meritocracy will not withstand more imaginative social structures elsewhere in the world.

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