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Thinking Through Tragedy and Comedy A Symposium on Performance Philosophy and the Future of Genre

Kate Katafiasz


In The Under Room (Bond, 2006) an illegal immigrant is represented by a Dummy and a Dummy Actor. At the end of the play the immigrant has been murdered; the unwitting Dummy Actor enters, notices his own foam rubber viscera, and speaks unintelligibly. This ostensibly tragic scene may also evoke a valid comic response; comedy commonly materialises when physicality refuses to support our expectations.

My paper will argue that there is a crucial distinction to be made between Bond’s work, where comic and tragic responses simultaneously split the auditorium, and Brecht’s Epic confrontation between stage and auditorium, where we ‘laugh when they weep’ (1987: 71). By contesting signs from inside Lehmann’s ‘fictive and simulated text cosmos’ (2006: 55) with signs from outside it, Brecht instigated the now familiar schism between theatre and performance. More radically perhaps, Bond destabilises the sign itself; a movement which does not necessitate postdramatic narrative rupture, interrupting instead lip-synched words and bodies, as did ancient theatrical masks and skenes. Dummy Actor and Dummy stage proskene and obskene ‘apart-together’ (Rancière 2009: 55-56) . In the play between these incompossible coded and uncoded positionalities, I will argue, the physicality of comic and tragic reponse challenges the symbolic order.
Works Cited
Bond, Edward, (2006), ‘The Under Room’ in Plays: 8, London: Methuen.
Brecht, Bertolt, (1987) Brecht on Theatre, London: Methuen.
Lehmann, Hans-Thies, (2006), Postdramatic Theatre, London: Routledge.
Rancière, Jacques, (2009), The Emancipated Spectator, London: Verso.

Dr. Kate Katafiasz is Senior Lecturer in Drama at Newman University in Birmingham, UK. She completed her PhD at the University of Reading in December 2011. Research interests include embodiment, aesthetics and intermediality in applied drama and theatre.