Katie Mitchell: Beautiful Illogical Acts offers the first comprehensive study of Britain’s most internationally recognised, influential, and controversial theatre director. It examines Mitchell’s innovations in fourth-wall realism, opera, and Live Cinema across major British and European institutions, bringing three decades of practice vividly to life.
Informed by first-hand rehearsal observations and in-depth conversations with the director and her collaborators, Fowler investigates the intense and immersive qualities of Mitchell’s distinctive theatrical realism and challenges mainstream narratives about realism as a defunct or inherently conservative genre. He explores Mitchell’s theatre—and its often polarised reception—to question familiar assumptions governing contemporary performance criticism, including common binaries that pit realism against radical experimentation, auteurs against texts, feminists against Naturalism, and Britain against Europe. By examining a career trajectory that intersects with huge cultural change, Fowler places Mitchell at the centre of urgent contemporary debates about cultural transformation and its genuinely inclusive potential.
This is an essential book for those interested in Katie Mitchell, British theatre, directing, the transformative power of realism and feminism in contemporary theatre practice, and challenges to hierarchical distributions of power inside the mainstream.
Table of Contents
PART I Staging classics in the British mainstream (1989-2011); Foundations I; 1 Out of place: Mitchell and early modern drama; 2 Flesh and blood: Mitchell, Chekhov, and immersive realism; 3 Come and see: Mitchell, Euripides, and ethical witnessing; PART II The pivot to Live Cinema (2006-2008); Foundations II; 4 Moments of being: Live Cinema and the novel; PART III Adventures in Europe and avowing feminism (2008-2018); Foundations III; 5 Watch me vanish: Mitchell’s alternative feminist (German) canon; 6 Birch and Crimp: Mitchell’s collaborations with living writers; Conclusion; Appendix: Mitchell’s production chronology
Benjamin Fowler is a lecturer in Drama, Theatre, and Performance at the University of Sussex, UK.
"Katie Mitchell: Beautiful Illogical Acts succeeds in the really complex task of building and sustaining a rigorous theorised argument—not only about Mitchell’s work, but also about the nature and potential of realism as a form more broadly—while also offering detailed analysis of the material context of Mitchell’s practice (including critical reception); the key influences on her practice; and detailed analysis of key performances to demonstrate how both material context and key influences have played their part in her innovations in realism." Professor Liz Tomlin, University of Glasgow, UK
"Fowler’s book is a game-changer. Packed with rich detail gleaned from years of first-hand research, avowedly feminist, and gorgeously written, Katie Mitchell: Beautiful Illogical Acts reshapes our understanding of the foremost British theatre artist of our time. Essential, urgent reading." Professor Kim Solga, Western University, Canada
"Benjamin Fowler has written a forceful, personal and highly erudite book about the ground-breaking work of theater and opera director Katie Mitchell. Lit by the fire of his own enthusiasm for her productions and creative process, his analysis is thorough and penetrating. Grounded in his experiences from rehearsals into production, Fowler brings his deep knowledge of world theater to the arc of her trajectory through it. Fowler is uniquely able to contextualize her work and processes in the light of current political and hierarchic conditions." Anne Bogart