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To Watch Theatre

Essays on Genre and Corporeality


Rachel Fensham

This book is about watching theatre; and how to utilise a corporeal semiotics to read genres of contemporary theatre. It suggests that three key concepts interact: genre, the formal term that structures theatricality, including the textual grammar of a dramatic work, its performance style, theatrical frame, and mode of rhetorical address; corporeality, an assemblage of the troubling physical work of the actors, the figurative forms in the text, and the ambivalent bodies of the spectators; and performance, the presenting of theatre as symbolic action in the social world.
In order to develop new models of embodied spectatorship, these essays examine canonical productions of Medea, King Lear, Miss Julie, Genesi: The Museum of Sleep directed by Deborah Warner, Barrie Kosky, Anne Bogart, and Romeo Castellucci. With close attention to bodies and texts in performance, the book argues that to watch theatre is an intimate, yet political, atunement to processes of human transfiguration. It concludes by offering a reinvigorated perspective on tragedy and tragic experience in the theatre.
Contents: On Genre and Corporeality – The Body Double and Female Tragedy: Medea – Smell-bodies: Tragic Masculinity in a Postcolonial King Lear – Performativity and Desire in the Romance Plot: Miss Julie – The Rhetoric of Organs without Bodies: Genesi: The Museum of Sleep – On Watching Tragedy.