Post- or After?
Subsidy, Experimentation and the Contemporary European Text
In recent years written drama has seemed bound to one of two scenarios: either (a) being defined as postdramatic and therefore being seen as progressive, liberated from existing norms, or (b) adopting traditional formats and being seen as derivative at best and at worst irrelevant. At the same time, in the UK the term ‘European’ (which this paper will probe) has been predominantly used to apply to the kind of theatre that some might categorize under the ‘postdramatic’ umbrella: the formally open and abstract text, where the playwright and director do not readily deliver a ‘message’ to the audience. Such categorizations have been all the more facile in cases of scenic or staging experimentation (often including the blending of narrative forms and/or technology), or heavy stylization.
Taking into account the shortcomings and negative impact of rigid definitions, my paper will rather turn to a different path through which to explain the status of experimental written drama in Europe today: funding schemes and a radical reconceptualization of the dramatic. I will contend that artistic experimentation and the investment that key European theatres have taken to commissions of bold new work, or indeed radical revivals of the classics often attached to international director auteurs, are necessarily linked to subsidy. Looking at specific urban contexts where experimentation in art has traditionally flourished, I will probe to what extent the radical past informs the present; I will also argue as to how the urgent, open, unconventional written text of today exists outside the scope of the postdramatic, or, on the other hand, the institutional, tracing what this means for an audience that, neither detached nor institutionalized, performs its own stake in a European theatre collective.
Dr Vicky Angelaki is Lecturer in Drama at the University of Birmingham, UK. Her research is internationalist in its scope, with a specialism in modern and contemporary British and European theatre, translation, adaptation, spectatorship and citizenship, aesthetics and politics, as well as performance, critical/cultural theories and philosophy, with a focus on phenomenology. Major publications include The Plays of Martin Crimp: Making Theatre Strange (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012) and Contemporary British Theatre: Breaking New Ground (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013).
Mark O’Halloran’s Trade: Site-Specific Theatre Meets Literary Drama
This paper contends that Mark O’Halloran’s 2011 play, Trade is a unique and important work, because it combines the strengths of traditional theatre with the new energies associated with site-specific approaches. Since much site-specific work is devised, the scripts that arise from the workshopping process can often be very strong in some ways (especially as regards emotional immediacy, authenticity, and showcasing actors’ strengths), but can often be weak in others (for instance, seeding a theme or motif right through a piece, or maintaining a steady tone within a character’s dialogue). Like a well-made theatre play, O’Halloran’s script is extremely tight; the tone of each character’s speech is thoroughly consistent, and the dialogue (though words and ellipses) makes powerful points – in a subtle manner – about Irish family life, sexuality, the power of language to wound, and Celtic Tiger greed. Since Trade, a play about an encounter between a rent boy and a sexually-conflicted, middle-aged man, was staged in a real bed and breakfast on Dublin’s Northside, it gave audiences all the richness of staged, literary drama, with the visceral excitement (and occasional discomfort) associated with site-specific works.
During the course of my arguments, Trade will be compared with devised work produced in a theatre (such as Corn Exchange’s Everyday and TheatreCLUB’s Heroin) and devised, site-specific pieces (such as Anu’s Basin and Percolate’s Green Street).
Dr David Clare is an Adjunct Lecturer in English and Drama at NUI Galway and UCD. He is based in the Moore Institute at NUIG, where he recently completed an IRC-funded postdoctoral research fellowship under the supervision of Prof. Patrick Lonergan. His publications include peer-reviewed journal articles on Martin McDonagh, C.S. Lewis and Bernard Shaw, and peer-reviewed book chapters on Mark O’Rowe, Samuel Beckett and Bernard Shaw. Since 2009, Dr. Clare has delivered thirty-one conference papers and public lectures in Ireland, Britain, Canada and the United States on, among others, George Farquhar, Oliver Goldsmith, R.B. Sheridan, Maria Edgeworth, Oscar Wilde, J.M. Synge, Brendan Behan, Brian Friel, and Marie Jones.
Laibach and the NSK: Aestheticising the East/West Nexus
This paper reflects a study in how the Slovenian Performance Art collective the NSK (Neue Slowenische Kunst) and more specifically its sub-group Laibach, interrogate the representation of Central and Eastern Europe in the late-capitalist ‘post-ideological’ age, and operate as a nexus between Eastern Europe and the West.
Emerging in the wake of Tito's death and shaped by the break-up of Yugoslavia, the NSK were founded in 1984 in Ljubljana, northern Slovenia. The NSK is a multi-disciplinary Gesamtkunstwerk primarily comprised of three groups: IRWIN (visual arts), Noordung (theatre), and its most influential delivery system, Laibach (music). Championed by Slavoj Žižek, Laibach are Slovenia’s most famous cultural export, with a global following and an international and domestic history of controversy.
Laibach and the NSK’s prime strategy is Retrogardism, a process of re-mythologising iconography associated with the Grand Utopian Narrative, which late-capitalism can only relate to as offensive kitsch. Through this process of re-mythologisation Laibach and the NSK explore the unfinished narrative of Communism and the legacy of the European traumatic historical in the context of a ‘post-ideological’ age. Retrogardism is unique to Eastern European aesthetic praxis and as such has been re-contextualised by artist and cultural theorist Marina Gržinić as the new ‘ism’ from the East. For the East, according to Gržinić, ‘Only one subject is topical: history – the re-appropriation of history’.
This Performance Art collective continues to stage exhibitions and interventions, and in its thirty-year history has proved a major influence on other Eastern European artists. In 1999, the NSK launched the East Art Map project, the purpose of which was to address the problem of an Eastern European aesthetic discourse autonomous of Western hegemony. East Art Map was an act of self-historicisation, an attempt to contextualise the work of the NSK and Eastern European artists in an art-history for the East. At the Tate Modern NSK symposium of April 2012 in London, the NSK spoke on this project, observing that prior to East Art Map there was no Eastern art discourse, just the ‘local mythologies of Eastern Europe’.
In performance, Laibach and the NSK’s articulation of an East-West nexus is often deliberately obtuse, at times appearing to re-affirm Western misconceptions and prejudices about Eastern Europe, and at other times making little or no attempt to be understood by the West. This paper posits that that this conceptual space of celebrating difference is positive, in that the resulting inability by the West to comprehend Laibach and NSK praxis becomes a discursive field whereby the failure to converse becomes a constructive and fruitful text, generating a creative interplay of texts and aesthetic systems.
Performative Reappropriation: Taking Back our Voices at the Abbey Theatre
The staging of Taking Back our Voices (2012) at the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, followed a six-month gestation period which saw six professional actors meet with women who had been involved in prostitution with the sole intention of forming “personal and honest” relationships and exploring any dramatic material that may emerge. This intention is difficult to qualify as the Abbey Theatre’s partnership with Ruhama (and hence its related political motives) could be interpreted as at odds with this alleged “personal and honest” objective. The performance was commissioned by the Abbey Theatre’s Community and Education Department and developed in collaboration with Ruhama, a Dublin-based NGO, who work with women whose lives have been affected by prostitution.
The performance strove to challenge what Ruhama consider to be contemporary misconceptions concerning the commercial sexual exploitation of women, notably that their involvement in prostitution is consensual and that prostitution should be legalised. However, by aligning themselves with Ruhama, who, within the context of global debates on the issue promote a radical feminist viewpoint, the Abbey Theatre was taking a distinct political stance and promoting the theatre as in favour of the criminalisation of prostitution. The workshop phase of the production allowed professional actors to present first-hand accounts of prostitution in a structured theatrical format. However, the Abbey was keen to emphasize that the intentions of the project were artistic rather than therapeutic, and that although testimony informed the piece, this was not a piece of verbatim theatre, and it may be altered/fictionalized to serve its theatrical purpose. This is a further indication of the Abbey’s weariness to espouse a particular political viewpoint, for the narratives that emerged from these meetings were exploited for their artistic potential.
Hence, this paper will consider, from an aesthetic posture, how Taking Back our Voices utilised the topic of prostitution as a synecdoche for wider gender injustices still endemic in society today. It will analyse how the production drew connections between prostitution and other types of labour from the perspective of women’s rights and roles. Thus, in its focus on female objectification and gender discrimination within the workplace, the aims of this production were best served by portraying prostitution as humiliating and degrading. This representation thus worked to de-glamourize, diffuse and re-appropriate the falsified eroticism of the commercial sex industry.
Dr Emma Creedon was awarded her PhD from University College Dublin in 2013 for her thesis on the influence of visual and theoretical surrealism on the plays of Sam Shepard. She teaches English and Drama at UCD and at NUI Galway and she contributes regularly to the Irish Theatre Magazine. She is currently co-editing a collection of essays on the theatre and films of Mark O’Rowe, to be published by Carysfort Press later this year. Her work has been published in the peer-reviewed journals Word and Text: A Journal of Literary Studies and Linguistics and the Journal of Contemporary Drama in English and her research interests include Modern American Drama, Surrealism, Modern and Contemporary Irish Drama and European Absurdism.
Red Kettle Theatre Company as Social, Political and Economic Actor
Theatre companies, particularly small ones, not only function as the vehicles through which performances are brought to audiences; theatre companies in themselves perform, or perhaps function as actors in certain social, economic and political contexts. This paper examines the “formal evolution” of the Red Kettle Theatre Company in Waterford—independent of, but contingent on individual productions—and proposes the notion of the company as “performer” in particularly a regional context. It is contended that, in many respects, Red Kettle was a star in the Waterford firmament. Currently, that star is falling. This paper will examine the dynamics behind this perception.
Since 1995, government funding for the arts has been provided by the Arts Council on a planned approach. Coinciding with the economic boom, the funding grew, and in 2006, for the first time, all Arts Council applications for funding were granted. However, this trend for funding also followed the economic downturn, and the provision of 1.3 billion euro made by the Arts Council for the 2007-2013 National Development Plan suffered from a major loss of predicted capital. This research paper explores how Red Kettle has responded to these challenging economic times and looks at models of other theatre companies, Irish and European, who have survived and flourished in times of economic difficulty. This paper will explore the idea that perhaps there is a “type” of company that can survive when funding dwindles - like an artist who is prepared to surrender principle to undertake more lucrative (but less meaningful) work?
Little is known about Red Kettle’s place in the landscape of Irish theatre, and this paper aims to contribute to the knowledge of this area, while also adding significantly to the story of Irish regional theatre which has up until recent years been side-lined in the narrative of Irish theatre studies. The paper will specifically consider the relationship between Red Kettle’s performance and its regional context and in this way examine the extent to which Red Kettle “performed” aspects of regional identity, in its larger production strategy, marketing decisions, and membership as well as in choices within individual productions. This paper considers the Red Kettle archive and draws on primary material to highlight the financial and economic contexts within which the company has functioned throughout its history, and set these dimensions with the arts policies that have existed and developed over the last 30 years.
The research aims to offer an insight into arts infrastructure and funding, post-economic crisis. Consequently, this paper will have relevance to national and international scholars of Irish theatre studies and culture, and also to arts policy makers as it will reflect on aspects of arts policy in particular as they affect regional arts development.
Elizabeth Howard was awarded a PhD scholarship in Theatre Studies, by WIT, and is currently in her first year of study. Previously, Elizabeth completed an MA in Performance Making at Goldsmiths College, London, and gained BA (Hons.) in Drama and Theatre Studies with Counselling Skills from the University of Chester. Elizabeth has extensive theatre industry experience as an artist and producer.
The Chorus is for Real: Modern Choric Theatre, Oppression, Discrimination and New Writing
Whispered prayers and menacing hums are jammed with screams and notes from Disney songs. Chanted recipes by Nigella Lawson cut through the quotes from Simone de Beauvoir’s Second Sex and Sophocles’ Antigone. The atmosphere of a public lecture mixes with language of a gossip column. Twenty-eight barefoot singers, dressed in monochromatic but individualized clothes, share an intense rhythm forming unique group for more than an hour: “Choir of Women”. Polish director and vocalist Marta Górnicka created this to expose the political situation of contemporary woman as a worker, partner and citizen.
Górnicka’s choristers are not professional performers, though after hundreds of shows at the international festivals from Belfast to New Delhi they have reached a high level of virtuosity. The general message of their show might not be a novelty to anybody who ever had even the slightest insight into debates on equality. A lot has been said about the ways women are deprived of rights and humiliated. The form of the show, however, is stunning. The choir is not a facilitator or witness of a true protagonist’s progress. It acts on its own behalf, reflects on its own situation.
By inviting girls and women to share one strong voice, Górnicka brought back the tradition of group commentary, lament and accusation, which appears so frequently in the ancient tragedies. Inspired by Soviet mass performances and the Choric Theatre of German director Einar Schleef, she developed her own method of transforming gifted amateurs into a potent political force. In her projects the repressed figure of the choir in her performances wins back agency without sacrificing individuality. Górnickais just one of the artists engaged in the revival of the choric theatre. Redefining ancient chorus attracts innovators who are disappointed in a representational theatre and classical forms.
By using chorus theatre makers challenge the role and limits of the theatre. The dramas of Elfriede Jelinekare prefer scores then scripts. Performances by composer Heiner Goebbels combine elements of concert and installation. Rene Pollesch substitutes choirs for individual characters to expose social prejudices hidden in plays from the world canon.
Modern choric theatre emerged in the 1980s in Germany in an atmosphere of scandal – Einar Schleer was accused of giving forum to a form associated with fascism. However after the first shock, perfectly trained male choirs populated Germans stages for two decades. It was a powerful tool but still a theatrical tool. Today, choirs aspire to be tools of social change. They consist of people directly affected by the matter they reflect on: unemployed, homeless, discriminated. The popularity of the new authentic choruses encourages writers to look for new ways of composing texts for theatre. It also changes the organizational strategies of the theatres that have to reach the local communities and new financial resources.
In my paper I will explore how modern authentic choruses influence new forms of writing, staging and founding. I will present examples from works by Marta Górnicka, Volker Lösch, Heiner Goebbels, and Nicolas Stemann.
Joanna Derkaczew has been the chief theatre critic, reporter and columnist for Gazeta Wyborcza, the leading newspaper in Poland, for eight years. She has been honored with the ASSITEJ Award for Excellence in Criticism. She was a juror, selector and co-organizer of Polish and international festivals. Now based in Ireland, she has translated several Irish plays into Polish (including the work of Simon Doyle and Gavin Quinn, Deirdre Kinahan, Amy Conroy, Tom Murphy, Owen McCafferty, Elaine Murphy and Kate Heffernan). She also works as a dramaturg and theatre producer. She lectures at the University of Social Sciences and Humanities in Warsaw.
Personal Spaces: Anonymity and the Integration of Experience
Changes from conventional audience anonymity as an aesthetic strategy are being explored in practice by performances that request a measure of co-creation and / or interaction from the audience. However, performances which encourage traditional audience anonymity can be effective precisely because the audience is allowed to integrate its experience into the performance as memory. This paper addresses the issue of audience anonymity with special attention to the space in which the theme, action, or narrative are integrated into the audience member’s attention and memory.
Specifically, it will interrogate the work of ANU Productions in two performances from the series Thirteen, and Forced Entertainment’s production Tomorrow’s Parties in their uses of anonymity to serve their theme. Thirteen, a series of immersive, site specific performances addressing political and historical themes, places the audience as a group in the position of performers to emphasize the experiences of those locked out in 1913’s labor unrest in Dublin. In contrast, Tomorrow’s Parties uses conventional audience anonymity and specific production choices to encourage audience members to co-create in the privacy of their own minds and memories. The paper will refer to the writing of Helena Grehan and Gareth White, among others, to examine the creation of memory and the integration of performance into audience members’ experience. It will argue that emphasizing conventional audience anonymity can be effective in the co-creation of a performance if memory is considered as a center of a creative process.
By closely examining the use of anonymity as a strategic device in these performances, this paper will show that the creative process is most effective when the audience is allowed to integrate the performance with their own experiences.
Sarah Hoover is currently a Masters student in the Practice as Research joint program with NUIM and the Gaiety School of Acting. She has performed, directed, and written in plays and independent films for fifteen years, and served as Exec. Dir. of a small theatre foundation for the last five. Her experience has led her to the post-dramatic world of participatory theatre as the area in which the audience which demands authenticity and liveness can be best satisfied.
European Drama of Ireland: Beckettian Imports and Exports
From Croker’s Acres to the Île des Cygnes, traces of multiple and ‘overlapping’ geographies (Kennedy) are woven throughout Beckett’s oeuvre, meaning that his work might be seen to straddle an imaginary geographic line dividing Ireland from Europe and, in terms of its form, represent a European Modernist theatrical aesthetic. The cultural value of his drama in particular has become imagined and activated variously as Irish or as European at specific times and for specific purposes: it was arguably seen as something of a European import in the 1950s, but achieved Irish iconicity (and export value) in the 1990s. When directing the Sarajevo Waiting for Godot, Susan Sontag perceived the play to be quintessentially European, and it is evident that certain of Ireland’s theatre companies see Beckett as an access node, a connection to a European performance tradition; there are others who justifiably trace an Irish terroir in its texts and its performances and ascribe cultural value accordingly.
Drawing on the history of the Gate Theatre’s successes with Beckett, the recent work of theatre companies like Pan Pan and Blue Raincoat, as well as the ‘festivalisaton’ (Singleton) of Beckett’s work, this paper will address the influence of European drama on the Irish stage, and the ways in which its presence is defined and valued, as well as the extent to which Beckett’s drama is used as a vehicle in this process of cultural importing. The ability of a play such as Waiting for Godot to speak to many geographic and political locales has been well documented, yet it is the malleability of Beckett’s work across these binaries, European-Irish, local-global, foreign-domestic that make the drama an interesting case study in interrogating the meanings and implications of such distinctions. Examining how the aforementioned companies and their productions are part of a longer history of Irish theatrical interaction with the continent, I will examine also how such binary distinctions come under increasing pressure in the globalised thinking of the creative industries
Dr Trish McTighe: Having completed her Ph.D. thesis at Queen’s University, Belfast on Samuel Beckett’s later drama for stage and screen, Trish is currently a post-doctoral research assistant on the Staging Beckett Project at the University of Reading, UK (funded by the AHRC). Her book, The Haptic Aesthetic in Samuel Beckett’s Drama, was published in June 2013 by Palgrave. She has also published articles in several international journals on aesthetics, corporeality and technology in Beckett’s drama.
The History of Irish Performance Art
The history of performance and live art in Ireland spans four decades from the arrival of Joseph Beuys in 1974 to the eclectic, dynamic, cross-disciplinary performance practice that exists in contemporary Irish culture. This history has so far not been documented, but a new survey volume is being produced for publication (Intellect, 2015) in collaboration with the Live Art Development Agency in the UK. Some of the foremost writers on performance art and live art in Ireland and the UK are contributing texts, reviews and images for this book, edited by Dr Áine Phillips. This publication is funded by an Arts Council of Ireland project award.
This paper will present summaries on the contents of the anthology, covering the key artists and performance art events that determined and shaped contemporary practice in Ireland. The focus will be on documenting artists and practices that reflect embodied live performance art. Chapters explore innovative and activist feminist performance in the 1980’s to contemporary feminist live art that builds on this legacy. Performance in Northern Ireland is examined, including works that powerfully addressed ‘the Troubles’ using subversive and cathartic public actions that functioned to deconstruct political conditioning from 1974 to the present day. The development of sound art in Ireland is shown growing from roots in Cork in the 1970’s, gathering significant international influences and connections to its wide ranging manifestations in mainstream musical performance contexts and the internet. The development of the Dublin performance art scene is documented as an important nexus of experimental practice that inspired and cross-pollinated dance, music and theatre performance, particularly contemporary post-dramatic theatre. Irish artists who live and work globally are documented as their presence on the world gallery/festival/theatre stage formulates and defines current international trends while holding a mirror back to this island. Contemporary performance practices such as socially engaged practice, new media performance, participatory, durational and installed performance are studied showing future advancements in the field.
A blog has been created to populate a timeline of practitioners and major performance events since 1974. This chronology has been filled and added to by artists and audiences, creating an open access space where history can be recorded and written by its makers. This timeline will become a central motif in the publication.
Presenting this paper – this overview of the history of performance in Ireland - will be an important opportunity for the editor to inform audiences and practitioners of a unique history, to gain support and feedback from an invested audience and with the intention to expand content and attract image contributions, historical documents such as posters or visual materials and recollection texts. The book will be published and distributed internationally in 2015.
Contributors to the publication include Dr Christa-Maria Lerm Hayes (UU), Megs Morley, Danny McCarthy, Anthony Kelly/David Stalling, Amanda Coogan, Dr Helena Walsh (Queen Mary University London), Dr Kate Antosik Parsons (UCD), Prof André Stitt (Cardiff University) Maeve Mulrennan and Dr Áine Phillips (Burren College of Art), Karine Telec (UU), Cliodhna Shaffrey, Tony Sheehan and others.
Dr Áine Phillips is based in County Clare where she is head of sculpture at Burren College of Art. She is an artist, writer and curator who creates multi-media performance works, installation and video in Ireland and internationally since the late 80's. She has created work for diverse contexts; public art commissions, the street, club events, galleries and museums. Recent exhibitions include City of Women Festival Ljubljana, Kyoto Art Centre Japan, Stanley Picker Gallery London and Bunkier Sztuki Krakow. In 2013 she had a mid career retrospective at Galway Arts Center. For more information see www.ainephillips.com
Reconsidering the Postdramatic: Pan Pan Theatre and Contemporary European Performance
Since Hans-Thies Lehmann’s seminal publication in 1999 contemporary European theatre has been largely analysed under the lens of the ‘postdramatic’. Undoubtedly, Postdramatic Theatre (2006) provides scholars with a corpus of analytical and critical tools as well as vocabularies specific to contemporary theatre and performance forms in all their variety and complexity, especially since postmodern discourses presented limitations to the medium’s specificity. However, Lehmann’s thesis has also been opened to much critical debate and more recently some scholars have scrutinised the inherent ontological dichotomy in Lehmann’s argument: dramatic/text-based and non-dramatic/non-text-based theatre, which problematises the analysis and categorization of contemporary playwriting. Most prominently, Liz Tomlin reconsiders the binary from a Marxist standpoint, proposing a dialectical synthesis through a poststructuralist lens from the thesis of the dramatic and the antithesis of the postdramatic. On his part, Stephen Bottoms interrogates Lehmann’s interpretation of representation and illusionism as anchored in the “logocentric logic of drama”, which postdramatic theatre rejects favouring the presentational.
These debates open new academic spaces to recalibrate and expand the possibilities of contemporary theatre and its scholarly analysis as this paper will briefly exemplify with the work of Pan Pan Theatre, in particular with regards to their use of text and the integration of illusionism and liveness through a specific performance style. However, in line with Joe Kelleher and Nicholas Ridout, one may also consider the (inter)-cultural, socio-political and historical dimensions of the contemporary in European theatre. On one hand, although many regard Europe – especially the contemporary idea of Europe – as a construct, the philosophical developments since Plato and Aristotle and their relationship with the arts have gone hand in hand across the continent in a constant inter-exchange and inter-play of ideas and explorations. Lehmann’s and Tomlin’s arguments prove the point, anchored the former in German idealism, particularly Hegel, and the latter in Marxist materialism and post-structuralism. Their divergence in argument can be identified as manifestations of the different cultural spaces that configure and have configured Europe. Similarly, the cultural products that said spaces produce can be aesthetically connected from a pan-European perspective without – even with the advent of festival aesthetics – losing their idiosyncratic cultural identity. In that regard, this paper aims to locate Pan Pan as an Irish experimental company in the wider context of Europe and how their aesthetics have evolved as a confluence of these glocal influences.
Dr Noelia Ruiz is a theatre practitioner and a PhD Graduate from the Drama Studies Centre in University College Dublin. The focus of her doctoral research was Contemporary Theatre and Performance Creative Processes. During her research she worked with companies such as The Performance Corporation, Locus Theatre, and Pan Pan Theatre, with whom she is still working. Noelia also holds a MA in Directing for Theatre (UCD, 2007), and has trained with artists such as Anne Bogart SITI Company, Wendy Houstoun, Lisa Nelson, Oscar McLennan, Anne Seagrave, Cindy Cummings, Caroline McSweeney, Gavin Kostick and Ruth Zaporah.
Recent directing credits include: Animus (Dublin Fringe Festival 2013) in collaboration with composer Denis Clohessy, a dance/theatre piece driven by a music score created in response to ideas of justice and murder as inspired by Edward Gorey’s work. Better Loved From Afar (Dublin Fringe 2011) explored the relationship between photography, narrative and performance in documentary form under the theme of the Irish diaspora in Argentina, in collaboration with Angel Luis González director of PhotoIreland Festival. The multilingual and interactive theatre piece The Cappuccino Culture (ABSOLUT Dublin Fringe Festival 2010) explored the impact of immigration in Ireland during the Celtic Tiger.
She collaborated as a performer/deviser in Bernardo in the Dublin Theatre Festival 2013, an in-development-piece conceived by Dylan Tighe, José Miguel Jiménez and Manuela Infante.
Currently she is the production manager and visual designer for Oscar McLennan’s new show, Kiss of the Chicken King, commissioned by Adelaide Theatre Festival 2014 and co-produced by Project Arts Centre in April.
Noelia convened a monthly Performance Reading Group with former Artistic Director of Project Arts Centre and current director of the Dublin Theatre Festival Willie White between 2010/11.
Realism After Neoliberalism: Katie Mitchell in Berlin
In November 2013 I delivered a plenary address at the American Society for Theatre Research (ASTR) annual meeting in Dallas, Texas; that plenary argued for contemporary “after Ibsen” productions and revivals (that is: productions and adaptations of Ibsen and work in the mode of Ibsen and his contemporaries) as politically generative re-imaginings of the bourgeois realism that theatre studies has long panned as retrograde, racist, sexist, and class-blind. Reading Carrie Cracknell’s blockbuster A Doll’s House (Young Vic 2012; Duke of York’s and BAM 2013), as well as her short film Nora, I argued for Hattie Morahan’s emotional excess in the lead role as a near-Brechtian verfremdungseffekt that exposed, from within the framework of emotional realist performance itself, the metatheatrical dimensions of what I call the “early bourgeois creative economy” – the immaterial labour, as well as its socio-economic glorification, on which so much post-industrial waged work (including Morahan’s, in this role and others) depends.
I propose for “Pushing Form” to examine another dimension of contemporary “After Ibsen” performance, looking specifically at the work of Katie Mitchell, the British auteur (formerly of the National Theatre) who has become associated over the last several years with Berlin’s Schaubühne. My paper will focus on Mitchell’s debut production for that company, Fraulein Julie (2010; Barbican 2013), a work that combined her longstanding interest in rigorously Stanislavskian emotional realism with her ongoing experimentation with live filming on stage, and matched both to her current narrative interest in the lives of the working underclasses. The result was “fourth-wall filmed naturalism” that laid bare the “backstage” spaces of Strindberg’s play, as well as the rich inner life of that play’s often-marginalized servant figure, the cook Kristen.
Reviewing the Berlin premier in Financial Times magazine, Ian Shuttleworth asked, rather unhappily: “What kind of theatre is it that restores the fourth wall, so that – some windows notwithstanding – we can only properly see the live action on screen?” Where Shuttleworth is cranky I will be political, arguing that Mitchell’s major innovation in this production is to locate Kristen visibly, audibly, intellectually, socially, and physically outside the “fourth wall” world playing out invisibly at centre stage, and thus to align her audience with the perspective of the one person on stage who has neither social status nor hope for advancement under the play’s default socio-economic regime. Creating a naturalist double-optic that permits both the voyeuristic pleasures of the “realist” and the distancing challenges of a class-inflected verfremdungseffekt, Mitchell marries Brecht with Stanislavsky in this production, reminding us in the process of the important political as well as practical links between these two acting “masters” – links that conventional theatrical histories have typically forgotten.
Dr Kim Solga (Queen Mary) is author of Violence Against Women in Early Modern Performance: Invisible Acts (Palgrave, 2009), and co-editor of several volumes including Performance and the City (Palgrave, 2009), Performance and the Global City (Palgrave, 2013), and New Canadian Realisms (Playwrights Canada Press, 2012), which won the Patrick O'Neill Award from the Canadian Association for Theatre Research. Her book in progress is titled Realism After Neoliberalism: Bodies at Work in Contemporary Performance. Kim also writes a teaching blog; find her at http://theactivistclassroom.wordpress.com.
Migration as Odyssey? Performances of Mobility, Displacement and ‘Becoming European’ in the Premiere Production of Emine Sevgi Özdamar’s Perikızı (2010)
Lizzie Stewart, University of Edinburgh
In 2010, in celebration of Essen’s year as European Capital of Culture, the newly dubbed ‘Ruhr Metropolis’, an area of North Rhine-Westphalia in Germany, staged a theatrical project named Odyssey Europa. This project took place over a series of weekends during which audience members signed up to participate in an ‘odyssey’ of their own through North Rhine-Westphalia. Each ‘odyssey’ consisted of a weekend long journey, both theatrical and physical, in which the audience moved from town to town, theatre to theatre, creating ‘the performance of a whole region’ (Ulf Pape, SpiegelOnline) through a series of active displacements. The project commissioned plays from various ‘international’ playwrights, among them Turkish-German actress, playwright and novelist Emine Sevgi Özdamar. Despite being resident in Germany for several decades, and known as a German-language author, Özdamar was presented as a Turkish playwright, displaced within the German theatrical landscape. Her play, Perikızı, tells the story of a young Turkish woman similarly displaced, whose dream-like Odyssey departs from Turkey and takes her into a strange and mythologized Europe.
Part of the Ruhr area’s stated aim as European Capital of Culture was to use the year to create a new understanding of the area as a European metropolis characterised by diversity. In this paper, I will outline the ways in which the commission of Perikızı for Odyssey Europa relates to the programme’s view of Odysseus as a ‘symbol for the modern European’ and of freedom of movement or as a quintessential element of life in contemporary Europe. Drawing on video recordings, scripts, advertising materials and reviews of the premiere production, I will explore the somewhat problematic conflation of migration and mobility created by the festival’s rhetoric and its reflection in the aesthetics of the 2010 production of Perikızı. On one hand, the conflation of Odysseus both with the modern European who is free to move between states, and with the economic migrant, might be seen as a welcome acknowledgement of the ‘epic’ quality of the experiences of Europe and Germany’s ‘newer’ subjects. On the other, redrawing the lines of inclusion in this way also runs the risk of obscuring the EU (and Germany’s) role in excluding particular migrant subjects from belonging. As will be shown, the interactive nature of this particular production and of the festival in which it was embedded seem to function to align the audience with the protagonist Perikızı. While this creates identification with the figure of the migrant woman, the dramaturgical alignment of the audience with Perikızı through their shared movement also arguably obscures the differences between the privileged theatrical tourist and the more compromised position of the migrant character.
The Performance of Politics: Nicolas Sarkozy’s Opening Speech of his 2007 Presidential Campaign
The presidential election can be viewed as a national drama. Candidates are characters in this drama, casting themselves as heroic protagonists and opponents. A candidate auditioning for presidential power strives to become a collective symbol that embodies the best qualities of citizens, and the nation. This idea of a collective symbol is reinforced in the French presidency by the legacy of General Charles de Gaulle’s romantic view of leadership, which was that of a privileged relationship between the people and the providential leader. This leader could render the greatness of France operational because of his mythical understanding of France.
The performance of Sarkozy’s opening speech in his 2007 presidential campaign was viewed as a success because he was able to temper his divisive image as a man of action with a more fitting image for the presidential function, that of a man of reconciliation. This paper will begin by looking at Sarkozy’s “image deficit” and how he staged his inaugural speech in order to correct it and to reach out to all voters. It will then explore his strategic use of repetition and expression of emotions as way of presenting his candidacy in a personal and confessional way. Finally, the importance of personal change coupled with the notion of an active and transparent presidency will be demonstrated in his references to Gaullism. This paper will conclude that Sarkozy’s performance successfully increased the electoral appeal of his presidential candidacy.
Dr Maura Stewart is Lecturer in French at the National University of Ireland, Galway. She has published on French presidential elections, France-EU relations, and political and media discourses. She has also provided analysis on related topics in her interviews with and articles for French and European media outlets. Her current book project examines how French presidential candidates have addressed the nation and Europe in their bids for the highest political office since 1988.
Staging Contemporary Undeadness
Over the next year, two key journals dedicated to the fantastic—Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts, and Brumal: Research Journal on the Fantastic—will publish issues focussing on theatre and performance. While most scholarship in the four decades since Todorov’s ground-breaking study (The Fantastic: A Structural Approach to a Literary Genre) has emphasized literary fiction and film, these forthcoming issues point to a surge of interest in the relationships between the fantastic and performance in the early 21st century. My paper investigates a particular dimension of the fantastic—undeadness, and its uncanny appearances in the theatre of European playwrights such as Conor McPherson and Caryl Churchill. Recent work by these playwrights reveals undeadness as a peculiarly contemporary concern, related in unexpected ways to European economic, political, and social crises and developments. Taking as my focus McPherson’s 2011 The Veil—which stages a full-scale séance—I draw on the psychoanalytic philosophy of Slavoj Žižek to interrogate the potentially radical implications of staging undeadness at the dawn of the new century. Central to my investigation is the question of how undeadness in the theatre compels playwrights and practitioners to push form, and to this end I bring The Veil’s spectral presences into conversation with Andrew Sofer’s recent work, Dark Matter: Invisibility in Drama, Theatre, and Performance (2013).
Dr Graham Wolfe is an Assistant Professor of Theatre Studies at the National University of Singapore. His PhD dissertation, entitled Encounters with the Real: A Žižekian Approach to the Sublime and the Fantastic in Contemporary Drama, was the University of Toronto’s sole nomination for the 2011 “CGS/UMI Distinguished Dissertation Award.” His articles have appeared in journals such as Mosaic, Modern Drama, Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism, Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts, Theatre Research in Canada and The International Journal of Žižek Studies.