Dematerialised Political and Theatrical Legacies: Rethinking the Roots and Influences of Tim Crouch's Work

Cristina Delgado-Garcia

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This article reassesses the legacies of both theatre and conceptual art in Tim Crouch’s practice, and suggests rerouting the reception of his work towards a more balanced and politicised understanding of his influences, trajectory and current dramaturgy. The article first reflects on the prevalent account of Crouch’s engagement with theatre, and problematises the claim that the language-based minimalism of his work authorises spectators to imaginatively co-create it. This section also outlines a complementary narrative about the relationship between theatre and Crouch’s practice. This narrative draws from a less restrictive view of the twentieth-century theatre tradition and from the theatre-maker’s lesser known, politically-committed theatrical and pedagogical career. The article then moves on to examine the ideological and aesthetic affinity between Crouch’s theatre and conceptual art, with particular reference to three plays that have been overtly aligned to this paradigm: Shopping for Shoes (2003), My Arm (2003) and ENGLAND (2007). Here, it is argued that conceptual art’s ambiguous relationship with capitalism has been understated in the debate on Crouch’s work. A thematic critique of conceptual art’s potential for banality or exploitation is also unveiled in his plays. Moreover, the article questions the use of the term ‘dematerialisation’ with regards to Crouch’s practice, and calls for a reconsideration of theatre ontology, and a politically-inflected revision of the role of materiality in his work. It concludes that conceptual art in particular and art in general offer Crouch suitable metaphors to question the ways in which some human lives become exploited, commodified or rendered immaterial to warrant the pleasure of others. It therefore recommends for a more nuanced understanding of Crouch’s engagement with conceptual art, as well as sensitivity to his theatrical roots.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)69-85
JournalPlatform: postgraduate e-journal of theatre and performing arts
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • Tim Crouch
  • Conceptual art
  • Political Theatre
  • Shopping for Shoes
  • My Arm
  • England


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