Dystopian performatives and vertigo aesthetics in popular theatre
Speculative theatricality: dystopian
performatives and vertigo aesthetics
in popular theatre
The scientific version of our existence on this planet may very well be physically true, but we don’t like it much. It isn’t cuddly. There aren’t many tunes
you can hum in the shower. (Atwood 2012, 54)
What is this feeling
So sudden and new?
I felt the moment
I laid eyes on you
My pulse is rushing
My head is reeling
My face is flushing
What is this feeling?
Fervid as a flame
Does it have a name? (Holzman and Schwartz 2006, 146)
The novelist Margaret Atwood snappily
and tensions. To explore this it is necessary, for a while, to go
outside the 1950s, and away from film history, for film criticism and
theory has been churlish about the theatrical in cinema; indeed, the
inferiority felt by the film industry towards the theatre noted earlier
is markedly absent. In theatre criticism, to note that a play is
‘cinematic’ is often to find something interesting in it, to
Street theatre and the production of postindustrial space explores how street theatre transforms industrial space into postindustrial space. Deindustrializing communities have increasingly turned to cultural projects to commemorate industrial heritage while simultaneously generating surplus value and jobs in a changing economy. Through analysis of French street theatre companies working out of converted industrial sites, this book reveals how theatre and performance more generally participate in and make historical sense of ongoing urban and economic change. The book argues, firstly, that deindustrialization and redevelopment rely on the spatial and temporal logics of theatre and performance. Redevelopment requires theatrical events and performative acts that revise, resituate, and re-embody particular pasts. The book proposes working memory as a central metaphor for these processes. The book argues, secondly, that in contemporary France street theatre has emerged as working memory's privileged artistic form. If the transition from industrial to postindustrial space relies on theatrical logics, those logics will manifest differently depending on geographic context. The book links the proliferation of street theatre in France since the 1970s to the crisis in Fordist-Taylorist modernity. How have street theatre companies converted spaces of manufacturing into spaces of theatrical production? How do these companies (with municipal governments and developers) connect their work to the work that occurred in these spaces in the past? How do those connections manifest in theatrical events, and how do such events give shape and meaning to redevelopment? Street theatre’s function is both economic and historiographic. It makes the past intelligible as past and useful to the present.
Stage women, 1900–50 explores the many ways in which women conceptualised, constructed and participated in networks of professional practice in the theatre and performance industries between 1900 and 1950. A timely volume full of original research, the book explores women’s complex negotiations of their agency over both their labour and public representation, and their use of personal and professional networks to sustain their careers. Including a series of case studies that explore a range of well-known and lesser-known women working in theatre, film and popular performance of the period. The volume is divided into two connected parts. ‘Female theatre workers in the social and theatrical realm’ looks at the relationship between women’s work – on- and offstage – and autobiography, activism, technique, touring, education and the law. Part II, ‘Women and popular performance’, focuses on the careers of individual artists, once household names, including Lily Brayton, Ellen Terry, radio star Mabel Constanduros, and Oscar-winning film star Margaret Rutherford. Overall, the book provides new and vibrant cultural histories of women’s work in the theatre and performance industries of the period.
Anglophone precedents and thus robbed it of the
clear sense of direction that had enabled its rapid postwar modernization.8 These drastically altered circumstances, characterized by pervasive
uncertainty, make working memory both especially necessary and more
As I demonstrate below and throughout this book, working memory
operates theatrically and performatively. To make historical sense of
deindustrialization and redevelopment requires theatrical events and
performative acts that revise, resituate, and re-embody particular pasts.
Working memory depends
beyond the human: to an emergent history of the
universe where humanity makes a brief appearance; to climatic forces
with which we are painfully at odds; to a cosmology in which humans are
minutely peripheral. The tendency for theatrical performance to emerge
from the political paradoxes of science runs throughout the examples
discussed in this book.
Theatre, as incarnated in the figures of McKellen/Prospero and MilesWildin/Miranda, struggles with the decentring of the human subject
even as it attempts to grapple with the emergence of new objects; science
creative interactions between the robot and performers at
the opera. Members of the robotics research team started visiting the
opera house and, along with Myon, ultimately found themselves in
rehearsals and then on stage.
The collaboration culminated in a short series of performances on the
main stage of the opera house in summer 2015. As I will discuss in more
detail below, these were celebratory events involving a large eclectic cast
Science in performance
and all the theatrical infrastructure of a large state-funded opera. The
singers from the opera house
Care and debility in collaborations between non-disabled and learning disabled theatre makers
resulting performance is often perceived as belonging primarily to Bel’s repertoire rather than Theater HORA’s. Gerald Siegmund ( 2017 ) proposes that Bel’s collected work constitutes an ongoing critical interrogation of dance itself, a discursive project in which Bel sets the parameters for a theatrical examination of the dancing body as culturally produced. Everything that happens within these parameters therefore participates in ‘the discourse “Jérôme Bel”’ (Siegmund, 2017 : 12).
Siegmund accordingly suggests that Disabled Theater attends to several recurring
. I find this claim
to be anti-theatrical, and also inadequate in its reductive account of
street theatre’s political, spatial, and temporal work. Ultimately, this
investigation reveals that street performers might do more complex
historiographic work in the theatrical event than these dominant
origin stories would suggest.4
Street theatre’s negative space
Contemporary French street theatre emerged concomitantly with
what François Hartog calls a ‘memorial wave’ in the 1970s and 1980s.5
French historians and film-makers released works that reckoned with
, a narrative, an image’ that ‘stands
for the past in the present.’6 To excavate is to hollow out, but meaning
and narrative are fabricated (rather than found) within the void.
PlayRec and SPP offer two models of theatrical archaeology, both
of which play on the constructedness of urban and industrial memory
while remaining faithful to a materialist metanarrative. By this I mean
that the theatrical revelation of memory’s constructedness – or even the
theatrical re-enactment of memory’s construction – does not presume
radical polyvocality; it neither dispenses with