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Jozefina Komporaly


Rewriting the Maternal Body: Intertextuality, Reproduction, Technology







This contribution aims to situate the body, women's health and current medical technologies as central issues within the landscape of British women's writing for performance in the early 21th century. It claims that the topic of parenthood and reproduction has continued to be at the forefront of investigations in women's theatre and performance, as in the previous decades, but there has been a transition from predominantly text-based material to devised performance pieces and to work that is located at the intersection of different media. To illustrate this, I plan to use a number of recent plays and productions as case studies including Anna Furse's Yerma's Eggs, Kaite O'Reilly's Peeling and Sarah Woods's Cake . All three works bring together an established playwright and a theatre company or a major venue for new writing, and all bear the hallmarks of collaborative practice. Furse founds her own company, Athletes of the Heart, in order to have maximum artistic freedom and grants devisor status to all six performers, O'Reilly draws on Graeae's disability-oriented agenda and extends the boundaries of dramatic language by integrating sign language and audio description into the performance text, whereas Woods writes puppetteering into her play and casts two marionette artists together with a range of inanimate objects in a piece of physical theatre for Jade. All three works are informed by current thinking in a variety of relevant disciplines, and also locate performance in the broader context of social and cultural investigations. Woods, for instance, incorporates the methods of philosophical inquiry, O'Reilly draws on historical evidence and testimonies regarding the silencing and de-sexualisation of the disabled, and Furse, whose project has been funded by the Welcome Trust, integrates cutting edge biomedical imagery via projections onto the performance space and the performers' bodies. Ultimately, it is the body that is of concern in all three performances, as a site of invasive medical intervention for Furse, as a locus of societal resistance to the sexuality and reproduction of the disabled for O'Reilly, and as the medium of the day-to-day practice of motherhood for Woods. The strategies employed also reconfigure some of the conventions of representation in performance practice, by firmly dissociating parental desire from age and sexuality in Furse, reinstating the link between disability and reproduction in O'Reilly and by exploring maternity as both a symbolic and actual realm in Woods.




Jozefina Komporaly joined De Montfort University as a Lecturer in Drama in September 2005. She previously worked at the University of Warwick, University of Hull, University of Hertfordshire and, most recently, Goldsmiths College (University of London). Her areas of research and teaching interest are: issues of identity (especially gender) in theatre and performance, post-war and contemporary British and European theatre, stage translation.  She is currently module leader for 'Theatre and Identity' (Level 3), 'Radical Texts for Performance' (Level 2), 'A Contextual Introduction to Performance' (Level 1).


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