National Theatres in a Changing Europe (Review)
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On the very last page of National Theatres in a Changing Europe, Janelle Reinelt poses the question that haunts the volume it crowns: “How can a productive tension between past and present create a theatre that provokes the social imagination to posit a viable future?” (236–37). This is the challenge facing Europe’s contemporary national theatres. It’s a heady one for, as Dragan Klaic notes in his chapter: “Today, it is difficult to imagine how any National Theatre can pretend to represent the spirit of the nation, construct and enhance national identity and stress the distinctions of national character. . . . All those notions—spirit of the nation, national identity, and national character—have become worn out and deprived of consensual meaning” (217). On a continent once battered by destructive nationalisms and now working overtime to integrate ethnic differences while celebrating them within a pan-European economic and political union, is national theatre any longer possible? How do we reconcile the European Union (EU), the “global” metropolis, and the national stage? In this freighted triumvirate, is the latter an anachronism, ridiculous, a shell of a tourist attraction, or can it, as Reinelt provocatively suggests, become “in the right circumstances . . . a radical democratic institution” (235)?