If there is an unstageable: a synchronic exploration

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The contemporary theatrical and performative trope that anything is stageable is
strengthened and supported as technology mounts, as genres and media expand and traverse each others’ boundaries, and as the question of what theatre is, what performance is, becomes an ever-widening gyre of possibility. My doctoral thesis reflects on this breadth of expansion and observes its counterpart, the unstageable.
A study of this chimerical term presents a shifting terrain of language, time, and context, and situates itself tangentially to, though not within, discussions of concepts of failure and impossibility in theatre and performance studies.
Focusing on three examples drawn from the nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first centuries respectively, the thesis’ case studies begin to suggest an alternative view of the history of staging, a history which tends to focus upon what theatre has been able to stage, and rarely upon what it has not. Taking this synchronic route through recent theatre history, and illuminating points of unstageability with the theoretical aid of
Jacques Rancière’s writing on the unrepresentable in response to Jean-François
Lyotard’s discussion of the unpresentable, the thesis’ examples engage with the broad spectrum of the term’s history, without suggesting a diachronic evolution or overview of its position in the field.
Invoking the world premiere of Ibsen’s Peer Gynt in 1876, and the demise of the
Parisian Théâtre du Grand-Guignol in 1962, the first two case studies in the thesis engage with the possibilities of the unstageable as they emerge in particular historical contexts. Returning to the twenty-first century, the recent work of Socìetas Raffaello Sanzio invites a dialogue regarding unstageability now, and the implications that this shifting signifier may continue to have for theatre and performance.
Date of Award2013
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorAlan Read (Supervisor) & Lara Shalson (Supervisor)

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