The Changing Face of Screen Performance
CHAPTER ONE: Performance, Realism and the Search Beneath and Beyond the ‘Simple Truth’ 25
25 CHAPTER ONE Performance, Realism and the Search Beneath and Beyond the ‘Simple Truth’ The idea of artistic representation as a reflection of reality can be found in Shakespeare’s writing (for example, in Hamlet’s advice that a performance should hold “a mirror up to nature”), and can even be located as far back as Aristotle’s Poetics. Realism as an artistic movement, however, emerged around the middle of the nineteenth century. It emanated from a post-Enlightenment confluence of scien- tism, secularism and social critique, and was underpinned by the ide- ology of liberal humanism which posited a universal and unchanging human nature and an autonomous individual capable of objective knowledge. Realism assumed the existence of an objective reality that can be comprehended and transparently recorded via language (in the case of literature and theatre) or via images (in the case of painting and photography). This view of realism is summed up by E.B. Green- wood who described it as the “artistic rendering of a universal truth about human nature.”1 Realism aspired to scientifically accurate methods of observing and transcribing the external details of human behaviour, as exempli- fied in naturalism. However, realism was also motivated by a desire to reveal the authentic truth of the human condition in all of its complex- ity. It is this latter aspect of realism which propelled it on an inner- directed trajectory towards attempting to represent the interiority of the individual. Hallam and Marshment note that during the nineteenth century “discoveries in the emerging...
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