Institute of Advanced Studies (IAS)


VIRTUAL IAS Festival: The City Dionysia – Narrating Wasteland in Urban Life

06 May 2021, 12:00 pm–1:30 pm


Dramatist Nicola Baldwin and Dr Pushpa Arabindoo present extracts from their UCL Urban Lab Creative Fellowship collaboration Wasteland, discuss themes from the play, and explore the relationships between critical research and creative practice with guests.

This event is free.

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Do we need to refer to Wasteland in planetary terms? In what ways can Wasteland help reorient our understandings of society and its pluriverse? What does ‘waste’ mean, applied to people? What use are ‘sustainable’ products if their producers are disposable? How can we address problems of Waste without questioning our values? Why do we find it easier to talk about Waste than the global inequality that drives it?

Introduced by Professor Nicola Miller (IAS Director), with responses from guests: Professor Vittoria Di Palma (University of Southern California), Monika Gravagno (Facciocose Theatre), author and activist Rahila Gupta, and Professor Rob Swain (Birkbeck). We present adapted monologues from Wasteland performed by Rebecca Crankshaw, Jimena Larraguivel, Tara Kearney and Shreya Patel.

Dramatist and UCL alumna Nicola Baldwin joined the IAS on a Creative Fellowship to collaborate with Dr Pushpa Arabindoo, Associate Professor in the Department of Geography and co-director of UCL Urban Laboratory, on The City Dionysia – Narrating Wasteland in Urban Life. Invoking the ancient Greek practice of CITY DIONYSIA where plays fuelled public debate, the project set out to explore how twenty-first century theatre could create new audiences for academic research.

Using as a testbed Pushpa’s priority area of ‘Wasteland’ at UCL Urban Laboratory and the 2019-2020 collaborative annual theme of ‘Waste’ at the IAS and Urban Lab, Nicola collaborated with students on the MSc Urban Studies programme, actors, and wider IAS community. Exploring political practices of urban activism as forms of theatricality that can dramatise, and more than symbolically address a theme, to imagine an urban performativity that offers new ideas about the role of theatre in society, and representation of Wasteland as a liminal space.

Wasteland tells the story of one night… the night before the launch of academic LOU’s prize-winning departmental building; the first shift back at work for cleaner ROSA after her strike; meanwhile student JESS races against time in the 24-hour library before her day job. It is also the story of one tumultuous year, and THE PLAY fights to make sense of 2020’s unfolding drama in which Waste spills out from academic research in ever larger waves; the IWGB industrial action at UCL; UCU contract strikes; and eventual worldwide pandemic.

The first draft of Wasteland had an online reading in July 2020 and is currently being developed for virtual, and site-specific performance.

Specially written monologues for ‘Alternative Epistemologies’ by the original cast.

- Rebecca Crankshaw as LOU 

- Jimena Larraguivel as ROSA

- Tara Kearney as JESS

- Shreya Patel as THE PLAY

Link to Nicola Baldwin bio at the IAS.

Link to Pushpa Arabindoo bio at UCL Geography.

This project has been jointly funded by the Urban Laboratory and the Institute of Advanced Studies, both at UCL.

UCL Urban Lab logo

This talk forms part of the IAS fifth anniversary festival on the theme of ‘Alternative Epistemologies’.

All welcome. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you need assistance on the day, and follow this FAQ link for more information and to read our virtual events code of conduct. All of our events are free, but you can support the IAS here.

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