New Theatre Quarterly

Research Article

The Past in the Present? A Response to Stan's Cafe's Revival of ‘The Carrier Frequency’

Frances Babbage


The premiere of The Carrier Frequency took place in 1984, the result of a collaboration between Leeds-based Impact Theatre Cooperative and the novelist Russell Hoban. Impact was founded in 1978 by Claire MacDonald, Pete Brooks, Steve Schill, Graeme Miller, Tyrone Huggins, and Richard Hawley, with Nikki Johnson and Heather Ackroyd joining in subsequent years. Many companies since have cited Impact as a major inspiration, with The Carrier Frequency in particular achieving almost mythic status. Today, Impact has long since disbanded, and little documentation of their work remains to enable their legacy to be passed on. In April 1999, the theatre company Stan's Cafe (none of whom had seen the original show) decided to restage The Carrier Frequency as part of Birmingham's ‘Towards the Millennium’ festival; in association with this project, a symposium was held on the subject of ‘Archaeology, Repertory, and Theatre Inheritance’. What follows is a personal response to the experience of attending the symposium and performance, and records a variety of attitudes towards myth-making, re-creation, and the potential and problems of documentation. Frances Babbage lectures in Theatre Studies at the University of Leeds.