Performance and the Everyday
This blogpost is adapted from Charlotte Canning’s Editorial of the latest issue of Theatre Research International (TRI).
Where do the limits of performance and everyday life intersect? How do performance and life make sense of one another? The articles in the latest issue of TRI focus on the most basic and definitive categories of live performance: music, dance, theatre, performer, director, choreographer and, of course, audience. Taken as a whole, the seemingly disparate articles of this issue offer provocative approaches to understanding how practitioners create performance out of their experiences, and where audiences can connect their own experiences to what they see onstage. In doing so the authors collectively redefine the active relationship of a performance with its audience, and the powerful potential of that relationship.
Joanne Zerdy’s exploration of the National Theatre of Scotland’s (NTS) much-discussed production of Black Watch examines both actual and theatrical conditions of production. Through the regiment’s past the production lays bare the tangled local and global intersections from family to geopolitics that produce the Black Watch in Iraq. The NTS performs that ‘production’ of the Black Watch, and in doing so shows us how to make theatre out of lived experience. As the actual regiment has been deployed historically around the world, so too has the Black Watch theatrical tour travelled in some of the regiment’s footsteps. The article teases out the intersections of transnational military and cultural production through the Black Watch and Black Watch. This process reveals the connections between large-scale categories like nation and the smaller-scale ones of everyday life.
In his article, Dennis Eluyefa mines his own experiences, refracted through scholarly methods and practices, to analyse his failed efforts to establish himself as a performer in two different English churches. Motivated by his experiences in Nigeria and Hungary, where he expressed his faith through his performance practices, his attempts to duplicate those experiences in England are thwarted by legacies of colonialism and the circulation of power in daily life. This form of autoethnography gives us direct access to how performance emerges out of a constellation of forces – political, historical, aesthetic, spiritual, physical and emotional – even when the performance ultimately never occurs. Eluyefa reminds us that performance begins long before the audience is present. In this case it is the performer’s everyday life that is the locus for invention and the source for critiquing what might have been.
Akiko Yuzurihara demonstrates that Kylián’s manipulation of the traditional spatial structures of classical ballet yield unexpected possibilities. This is nowhere more apparent than in Kaguyahime, his adaptation of the venerable Japanese story Taketori Monogatari (The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter). Through a reinvention of ballet’s spatial composition techniques, Kylián engages audience members in the story of Taketori Monogatari while almost completely abandoning its plot. This highly abstract dance has concrete impact by invoking offstage worlds, including that of the spectators, who are invited to imbricate their world with the fictional and abstract ones invented onstage. As readers, we are invited to think beyond the page in front of us to the non-literary world of space, time and movement.
Theatre specifically, and live performance in general, is often posited as the realm of transformation. This issue of TRI offers examples of how the most ordinary, quotidian things – putting on a kilt, looking at a garden, joining a church, comparing yourself to a goose, or walking slowly along a diagonal line – can become innovative, inspiring, and even liberatory. Through performance, spectators can make coherent and intelligible events, places and experiences that might otherwise be opaque and baffling. The everyday matters, these authors aver, because it is through the everyday that we can imagine a very different, and better, everyday to come.
Click here to access the full Editorial.