Peter Boenisch, University of Kent - LICA Seminar Series 2009

Date:6 May 2009
Time:4.30 pm

LICA Seminar Series 2009.

Speaker: Peter Boenisch, University of Kent.

Venue: Lancaster University, Bowland North, Meeting Room 10.

Title: How to do things with texts: (Re-)Devising Classics in Contemporary Theatre.

How to do things with texts: (Re-)Devising Classics in Contemporary Theatre.

This seminar will investigate the interdependence and interference of play-scripts and their (re-) presentation on contemporary stages, in an attempt to challenge the established, yet unproductive oppositional positioning of (allegedly automatically avant-garde?) 'devised performance' vs. (supposedly conservative and outdated?) 'text-based theatre of the classics'. In fact, some of these 'radical' productions branded as devised, site-specific, physical, image theatre or other, rather reiterate the paradigmatic dramatic logic they set out to refute, whereas some productions of classic texts have managed to fundamentally challenge core parameters of theatrical performance. Discussing stage versions of Dostoevsky's Idiot by Frank Castorf and Katie Mitchell, and a peculiar version of Chekhov's Three Sisters by Chris Goode, I shall particularly explore how these examples map out different modes of a 'Production of Presence' (Gumbrecht 2004), and thus create different frameworks of perception for the audience. At the heart of this repositioning of the traditional 'total' theatrical viewing perspective are productions which no longer approach plays as a plot to be mimetically brought to live, but present the audience with embodiments of these texts in all their materiality. I will argue that for the audience, rather an observing a representation, this facilitates an encounter with the text: the mise-en-scène thus becomes a mise-en-sense which always already directs their experience as well, making the audience compliant agents participating in the very act of representation.

Dr. Peter M. Boenisch is Director of Theatre Studies at the University of Kent's School of Drama, Film & Visual Arts in Canterbury, where he is also a co-director, with Professors Patrice Pavis and Paul Allain, of the European Theatre Research Network (ETRN), founded at Kent in 2007. His research interests are directing and dramaturgy in contemporary European theatre, dance and physical theatre, and intermediality and theatre. His most recent publications discussed the works of William Forsythe, Michael Thalheimer, Rimini Protokoll, and Thomas Ostermeier. He is currently co-editing a forthcoming special issue of Contemporary Theatre Review on Flemish theatre and preparing a monograph on directing classic texts in contemporary European theatre.

Who can attend:Anyone

Further Information

Organising departments and research centres:Lancaster Institute for the Contemporary Arts
  • Lancaster Institute for the Contemporary Arts (LICA)
  • The LICA Building, Lancaster University, Lancaster LA1 4YW, UK