Words as Weapons' takes up the challenge of the political writing of Bertolt Brecht and others from the 1920s and 1930s and asks how far these texts are still relevant and may be exploited today, both directly, in performance, and indirectly, to inspire contemporary political writing.
The project entails, in the first instance, a collaboration with a theatre group (Sphinx Theatre) and a homelessness charity (Crisis Skylight) to deliver a series of writing and performing workshops with Crisis clients. This will lead, in turn, to public performances by Sphinx Theatre at the Old Fire Station, incorporating elements which come out of workshops. The final element will be an appraisal of this work in the context of a new writing theatre festival and symposium, Alchymy, at the North Wall Arts Centre. First and most importantly, this kind of engagement work has the potential to transform the lives of the participants. It will, further, bring our work on Brecht's poems to a new, wide and very diverse audience, and it will allow us to reflect further on the processes of translation and cultural transmission, across languages and historical contexts. The project emerges from my research into the cultural transmission of Brecht's work (see http://brecht.mml.ox.ac.uk/), and in particular the work on Brecht's poems. It will feed directly into the editorial work on the presentation of these in a volume of Collected Poems, under contract with W.W. Norton, and in an article on Brecht's performance poetry. In addition, it will help me to develop my next project on the transmission of political theatre, both historical and contemporary.