The Routledge Companion to Theatre and Politics  book cover
1st Edition

The Routledge Companion to Theatre and Politics

ISBN 9781032093468
Published June 30, 2021 by Routledge
386 Pages 10 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

The Routledge Companion to Theatre and Politics is a volume of critical essays, provocations, and interventions on the most important questions faced by today’s writers, critics, audiences, and theatre and performance makers. Featuring texts written by scholars and artists who are diversely situated (geographically, culturally, politically, and institutionally), its multiple perspectives broadly address the question "How can we be political now?"

To respond to this question, Peter Eckersall and Helena Grehan have created eight galvanising themes as frameworks or rubrics to rethink the critical, creative, and activist perspectives on questions of politics and theatre. Each theme is linked to a set of guiding keywords:

  • Post (post consensus, post-Brexit, post-Fukushima, post-neoliberalism, post-humanism, post-global financial crisis, post-acting,  the real)

  • Assembly (assemblage, disappearance, permission, community, citizen, protest, refugee)

  • Gap (who is in and out, what can be seen/heard/funded/allowed)

  • Institution (visibility/darkness, inclusion, rules)

  • Machine (biodata, surveillance economy, mediatisation)

  • Message (performance and conviction, didacticism, propaganda)

  • End (suffering, stasis, collapse, entropy)

  • Re. (reset, rescale, reanimate, reimagine, replay: how to bring complexity back into the public arena, how art can help to do this).

These themes were developed in conversation with key thinkers and artists in the field, and the resulting texts engage with artistic works across a range of modes including traditional theatre, contemporary performance, public protest events, activism, and community and participatory theatre.

Suitable for academics, performance makers, and students, The Routledge Companion to Theatre and Politics explores questions of how to be political in the early 21st century, by exploring how theatre and performance might provoke, unsettle, reinforce, or productively destabilise the status quo.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations

Notes on Contributors


1. A Dramaturgy of Cultural Activism

Helena Grehan and Peter Eckersall


2. Reflections Upon the ‘Post’: Towards a Cultural History and a Performance-Oriented Perspective

Andy Lavender

3. Post-Dictatorship Chilean Theatre and the Political Imperative: Ictus’ Esto (no) es un testamento

Jennifer Joan Thompson

4. After the Referendum: When the Theatre Tries to do ‘Something’

Marilena Zaroulia

5. Arab Political Theatre Post-Arab Spring

Marvin Carlson

6. Queer Politics/Nostalgia: Performing the UpStairs Lounge Fire of 1973

Sean F. Edgecomb

7. Contemporary Theatre, the Contemporary, and Historicity

C. J. W.-L. Wee

8. The vita perfumativa and Post-dramatic, Post-conceptual Personae

Jon McKenzie

9. Post-98 Indonesian Theatre and Performance: Politics Between a war of Loudness and the Dramaturgy of a Silencer

Ugoran Prasad

10. The Theatre of Posthuman Immunity

João Florêncio

11. Revolutionary Trends at the South African National Arts Festival

Anton Krueger

12. The Cultural and Political Impact of Post-migrant Theatre in Germany

Azadeh Sharifi

13. Staging Post-Democracy in State 1-4 by Rimini Protokoll

Imanuel Schipper

14. Parsing the Post: The Post-Political and its Utility (or not) for Performance

Janelle Reinelt


15. Hosts of Angels: Climate Guardians and Quiet Activism

Denise Varney

16. Reflecting upon Freedom with Meiro Koizumi

Shintaro Fujii

17. An Assembly of Mourning: Documentary Theatre as a Mode Alternative Historiography

Kai Tuchmann

18. Assembly as Community: Politics and Performance in Late 20th- and Early 21st-Century Buenos Aires

Jean Graham-Jones

19. Advocacy, Allies, and ‘Allies of Convenience’ in Performance and Performative Protest

Bree Hadley

20. From Revolution to Figuration: A Genealogy of Philippine Protest Performances

Sir Anril Pineda Tiatco and Bryan Levina Viray.

21. The Politics of Care: Play, Stillness and Social Presence.

Michael Balfour

22. Assembling Non-Presence in The Aborigine is Present

Lara Stevens

23. 100% Tokyo (2013) by Rimini Protokoll as a Political Forum by Emancipated Performers and Audience Members

Ken Hagiwara

24. Lessons in Revolting: A Postdramatic Theatre in Egypt

Areeg Ibrahim

25. Obscene Public Speech

Tony Fisher


26. Dogwhistle Performance: Concealing White Supremacy in Right-wing Populism

Shannon Steen

27. Arkadas Kalabilir miyiz?/Can we remain friends? A Reflection on the Politics of Land, Performance and Friendship

Özgül Akinci

28. The Construction of Material Referentiality in Chilean Theatre: Los que van quedando en el camino (2010)

Milena Grass Kleiner

29. To Rest in the Gap: Possibilities for Another Politics through Theatre

Jazmin Badong Llana

30. ‘You are Bernarda’: Marginalised Roma Women Take on the Main Spanish Stages

Mara Valderrama

31. Dancing in the Gap

Rachael Swain

32. Touring San Francisco’s Chinatown: Collective Memories and Peripatetic Performance

Sean Metzger and Marike Splint

33. ‘It’s Just Not Right’: Performing Homelessness in Kalisolaite ‘Uhila’s Mo'ui Tukuhausia

Emma Willis

34. ‘Resisting Production’: The Slow Politics of Theatre

Mark Fleishman

35. The Speculative Collectivity of the Global Transnational, or, Social Practice and the International Division of Labour

Verónica Tello

36. Acts of Collaboration and Disruption: Notes on the Asylum Ballet Uropa

Solveig Gade


37. The Power of Abuse

Jen Harvie

38. Institutional Aesthetics and the Crisis of Leadership

Christopher Balme

39. The Politics of Teaching Theatre

Glenn D’Cruz

40. Going Feral: Queerly De-Domesticating the Institution (and Running Wild)

Alyson Campbell

41. Artists versus the City: The Curious Story of the Jakarta Arts Council 1968-2017

Helly Minarti

42. Festival Dramaturgy

Ong Keng Sen

43. ‘100-Days House’: Blackout as Political Action

Konstantina Georgelou

44. The Performative Institution

Edward Scheer

45. Punishment and Chaos

David Pledger


46. Maria Lucia Cruz Correia’s Urban Action Clinic GARDEN: A Political Ecology with Diplomats of Dissensus and Composite Bodies Engaged in Intra-Action

Christel Stalpaert

47. Docile Subjects: From Theatres of Automata to the Machinery of Twenty-first-century Media

Evelyn Wan

48. The Human Object in Oriza Hirata’s I, Worker and Sayonara

Sarah Lucie

49. Clarke and Dawe’s Mock Interviews and the Politics of Duration

Yuji Sone

50. Exposing the Machinic Present: Rimini Protokoll’s Theatre of Operations

Timon Beyes

51. Performances of Exposure: Santiago Sierra’s Ethical Interruptions

Gabriella Calchi Novati

52. VOID

Kristof van Baarle

53. Performance in the Biosphere: or, a Theatre of Things

Eddie Paterson


54. How does the Riot Speak?

Sophie Nield

55. The Hopeless Courage of Confronting Contemporary Realities: Milo Rau’s ‘Globally Conceived Theatre of Humanity’

Peter M. Boenisch

56. Ibsen as Method: Critical Theatre for the Era of Post-Truth Politics

Andrew Goldberg

57. Facing Fear: the Radical Reversal of Narratives of Risk

Sigrid Merx

58. Form and Violence: Beyond Theatrical Content

Eero Laine

59. The Message is Maori: The Politics of Haka in Performance

Nicola Hyland

60. A Theatre of the Middle Way: Buddhism, Convictions, and Social Engagement in Burma/Myanmar

Matthew Yoxall

61. Contemporary Chilean Political Theatre between Opacity and Propaganda: the Case of Colectivo Zoologico’s Dark

Fabián Escalona

62. Flânerie of the Mind: Beyene Haile’s Asmara Play as a Dramaturgy of the Street
Christine Matzke

63. Acting on Behalf of Themselves: the Theatrical Politics of Child’s Play

Bryoni Trezise


64. End and Interval

Joe Kelleher

65. ‘Stage Managing’ Ruins in Lebanon’s Borderlands

Ella Parry-Davies

66. Striving, Falling, Performing: Phenomenologies of Mood and Apocalypse

Peta Tait

67. Plastic Animals in Praxes of Metamorphosis

Eve Katsouraki

68. Against Staging Apocalyptic Disasters with Butoh Dance: Ohno Yoshito’s Flower and Bird/Inside and Outside

Hayato Kosuge

69. Theatre and Eschatological Politics

Felipe Cevera

70. Holstein’s hair: The Politics of Decadence in The Famous Lauren Barri Holstein’s Splat!

Adam Alston

71. Performance as Infrastructure and Institutional Unlearnings

Gigi Argyropoulou

72. Radically Dead Art in the Beautiful End Times

Peter Eckersall


73. A Chinese Catastrophe? The Moving Target of Political Theatre

Paul Rae

74. Preserved by Permafrost: Reanimating and Reimagining Complexity in Canada’s Klondike Gold Rush

Phoebe Rumsey

75. The Situated Performative: Considering the Politics of the Pause in Performance

Alexa Taylor

76. Between Resistance and Consensus: The Mercurial Dramaturgy of The Necessary Stage

Melissa Wansin Wong

77. Open Platforms for Dialogue and Difference: Critical Leadership in Singapore Theatre

Charlene Rajendran

78. Geomnemonic Performance: Activating Political Ontology through Unsettled Remains

Daphna Ben-Shaul

79. Art, Politics and the Promise of Rupture: Reimagining the Manifesto in an Age of Overflow

Helena Grehan

80. Re-visit/ Re-Examine/ Re-Contextualise/ Re-Ignite: Protest and Activism as Performance

Sarah Ann Standing

81. Evidencing Slow Making in One-to-One Performance at the Proximity Festival

Renée Newman

82. Re-Inventing a Political Theatre in Burkina Faso

Heather Jeanne Denyer



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Peter Eckersall is Professor of Theatre at the Graduate Centre, CUNY, and Honorary Fellow at the University of Melbourne. Recent publications include New Media Dramaturgy (with Edward Scheer and Helena Grehan, 2017) and The Dumb Type Reader (with Edward Scheer and Fujii Shintaro, 2017).

Helena Grehan is Professor of Creative Arts at Murdoch University. She writes on performance and politics, spectatorship and ethics, and new media dramaturgy. Her most recent books are New Media Dramaturgy (with Edward Scheer and Peter Eckersall, 2017) and William Yang: Stories of Love and Death (with Edward Scheer).


This impressive companion offers deep analysis and extensive international coverage of performances, contexts, theories and geographies. The eight terms that structure it creatively disrupt conventional perceptions of politics and standard ways of thinking about theatre’s impact. The length of each short essay belies both its complexity and its contribution to productive negotiations between theatre and politics.

Professor Joanne Tompkins, The University of Queensland

The Routledge Companion to Theatre and Politics provides crucially diverse and consistently inspiring clarion calls to action. A rich collection of interventions from across our contemporary world, The Companion offers vital examples of cultural activism that readers might engage, develop and deliver in their own acts of political performance.

Professor Susan Bennett, University of Calgary