The Dark Theatre: A Book About Loss

Research output: Book/ReportBookpeer-review


What if Culture were not the solution but the problem when it comes to the protection of well-being? Creativity not the remedy but the symptom of a structural malaise called inequality? Performance not the panacea but the measure of the precarity of the irreparable subject?

Alan Read returns to the bankrupted warehouse in Hope (Sufferance) Wharf in London’s Docklands where he worked through the 1980s to identify a four-decade interregnum of ‘cultural cruelty’ wreaked by financialisation, austerity and communicative capitalism.

Between the OPEC Oil Embargo and the first screening of The Family in 1974, to the United Nations report on UK poverty and the fire at Grenfell Tower in 2017, The Dark Theatre is a book about loss and, from the ashes, a quiet manifesto for hope. To identify injustice by naming it is not after all to resolve it, but to recognise the urgency of its claim.

In the aftermath of suffering what might one imagine? Damages? Compensation? The evidence of The Dark Theatre tracked through hearings at the Royal Courts of Justice suggests little comfort or care from institutions (the Royal Opera House) publications (The London Review of Books) and professions (building, mining and educating) who might have known better. These field notes from a fire sale, angry arts of advocacy, represent those abandoned as the detritus of cultural authority, second-order victims whose crime is to have appealed for help from those looking-on, audiences of sorts.

The Dark Theatre is an indispensable text for lay publics wondering what theatre might have to do with their futures, students and scholars across Theatre and Performance Studies, Urban Studies, Cultural Studies, Political Economy and Social Ecology and all disciplines concerned with the state of culture, society and the arts in the twenty-first century.

Alan Read is a Writer and Professor of Theatre at King’s College London.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationAbingdon
Number of pages332
ISBN (Electronic)9781003004776
ISBN (Print)9780367436407, 9780367436377
Publication statusPublished - 27 Apr 2020


  • Theatre
  • Performance
  • Cultural Cruelty
  • Loss
  • Capitalism
  • Ecology
  • Social Reproduction
  • Opera
  • Grenfell Tower
  • Racism


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