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Rantin and raving: Kieran Hurley's aesthetic communities

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)166-179
Number of pages13
JournalContemporary Theatre Review
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 5 Aug 2019


This article focuses on the work of Glasgow-based playwright and performer, Kieran Hurley. In his debut play, Hitch (2009), Hurley hitchhikes through Europe to join protesters at the G8 summit in L’Aquila, Italy. For David Archibald, this autobiographical narrative of travel and human connections directly explores ‘what it means to be politically engaged in the twenty-first century’ (Archibald 2011). Hurley’s performances reflect and generate a mobile and relational engagement with the world: challenging isolationist trends in contemporary British life through the enactment of contingent and temporary collectives. Following the political enquiry initiated by Hitch, and developed through three subsequent plays (Beats (2012), Rantin (2013) and Heads Up (2016)), this article examines the potential for theatre to work against societal separation by constructing and addressing aesthetic communities (Rancière 2011). Jacques Rancière’s aesthetic communities are dialectically formed, constructed through collective inhabitation of the ‘sensory reality’ presented by the artwork, and at the same time cognisant of the ‘twisting together of sensations’ that comprises any group. This dynamic is present in Hurley’s performances, which address multiple collectives: the theatre audience; those engaged in political struggles encountered and recounted through his stories; and ultimately, an aspirational political community in the making.

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