Theatrical Performance and the Forensic Turn  book cover
1st Edition

Theatrical Performance and the Forensic Turn

ISBN 9780415854504
Published April 11, 2019 by Routledge
238 Pages

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Book Description

Contemporary theatre, like so much of contemporary life, is obsessed with the ways in which information is detected, packaged and circulated. Running through forms as diverse as neo-naturalistic playwriting, intimately immersive theatre, verbatim drama, intermedial performance, and musical theatre, a common thread can be observed: theatre-makers have moved away from assertions of what is true and focussed on questions about how truth is framed.

Commentators in various disciplines, including education, fine art, journalism, medicine, cultural studies, and law, have identified a ‘forensic turn’ in culture. The crucial role played by theatrical and performative techniques in fuelling this forensic turn has frequently been mentioned but never examined in detail. Political and poetic, Theatrical Performance and the Forensic Turn is the first account of the relationship between theatrical and forensic aesthetics.

Exploring a rich variety of works that interrogate and resist the forensic turn, this is a must-read not only for scholars of theatre and performance but also of culture across the arts, sciences and social sciences.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Theatrical Performance in the Forensic Turn

The forum: object evidence and the agency of things

Popular culture and the embedding of forensic aesthetics

Language and aesthetics

The economy of legibility

From existential actualization to interpellated coherence: ideas of self in the forensic turn

Illusions and Imperatives

The forensic and the theatrical: forum and theatron

Generative doubt

Does the human have to die for the forensic to begin?

Theatre and the Black Mirror

  1. Data Chaos and the Verification Void
  2. Flusser and Beck: technical images and risk society

    Darkness and the bigger picture

    Life in the verification void

    Enron and the transparency illusion

    Landscape with Weapon

    New Enlightenment Bubblethink

  3. I’m Seen Therefore I Am: Romance in the Forensic Turn
  4. Parallels and possibilities: the epistemological romcom

    Voyeurism, screens and forensic culture

    The heterotopic capsule

    Ghosting the techno-present machine


  5. The Hypothetical Real vs. the Interiority Illusion
  6. The interiority illusion

    The hypothetical real


    The Events: Greig’s Rough Theatre vs. Baudrillard’s informational event

    Dis-integrating the techno-present ‘real’

  7. Life Throes: The Strange Case of the Diehard Corpse
  8. Death as metaphor in forensic aesthetics

    Breathing Corpses

    How to Disappear Completely and Never Be Found

    Theatrical ghosts and leaky containers

  9. Undead Domesticity: Naturalism and Home in the Forensic Turn
  10. The half-life of the living-room play

    Away from home

    Framing the taming of chaos

    London Road: choric pathos

    From Taine to Raine: Tribes and translation anxiety

    The game family and the AFK family: Neighborhood 3

    The Open House

    The tabloid forensic and the one-room drama


  11. Open Dialogue as Prefigurative Performance: Re-assembling the Forum (Part I)
  12. Stringing along: participation in crisis?

    It felt like a designated participatory opportunity

    Building a forum on open dialogue

    The Eradication of Schizophrenia in Western Lapland

    What happens to the hope at the end of the evening: the prefigurative power of the dematerialised stage

    I Wish I Was Lonely

    A poetics to dislodge habit

  13. Effects of Infinity: Re-assembling the Forum (Part II)

Direct address

Necessities of thought

Monologic energy-exchange and the split subject: Eno’s ragged warriors

Sustaining fictions and the failure to undercut

Effects of infinity



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James Frieze teaches contemporary performance practice and theory at Liverpool John Moores University. His devised theatre-making centres on the adaptation of non-theatre texts for site-responsive and other performance contexts. He is also the author of Naming Theatre: Demonstrative Diagnosis in Performance (2009) and the editor of Reframing Immersive Theatre: The Politics and Pragmatics of Participatory Performance (2016).