Theatre theory and the new textualities of criticism
This paper will look at three recent theoretical texts, Howard Barker’s Death, the One and the Art of Theatre, Daniel Mesguich’s L’éternel éphémère and Alain Badiou’s Rhapsody for the Theatre. It will be concerned with the vexed question of the textuality of theatre theory in relation to Susan Melrose’s sense of the mismatch between written theory and performance practices. All three of these theoretical texts experiment with new critical textualities, often including dialogical, self-questioning, multi-voiced writing as a way of weaving auto-critique into their reflections on theatre, the didactic, the ethical and the relationship between the verbal and the performative, the critical and the creative. The paper will explore the links between these new critical textualities and the work of female theatre theorists, in particular Hélène Cixous, asking to what extent they have been influenced by ‘écriture féminine’ or other feminist critical poetics. At the same time, the paper will ask philosophical questions about the relationship between the critical meta-text and its object of analysis. Do the texts, I shall be asking, incorporate gaps, opacities, contradictions and digressions as a way of capturing the difference or the inadequacy of the verbal text in relation to theatrical performance? Or is the emphasis rather on making theatre theory more performative, so that it mimes or enacts the very critical practices it purports to frame and analyse? I shall use these reflections to raise wider philosophical questions about the relationship between critical practice and theatre performance by looking at the deconstructive work of Derrida and Cixous in relation to subjectivity, textual performance and bodily writing.
Dr William McEvoy is a lecturer in Drama and English at the University of Sussex. His work covers theatre theory, contemporary theatre and performance, site-specific theatre and the writer-director relationship in British and European theatre. He is currently working on essays dealing with theory, theatre criticism and new models for theorizing site-specificity.