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Books: Performance Theatre and the Poetics of Failure

Books: Performance Theatre and the Poetics of Failure

[amazonify]0415585651[/amazonify]What does it mean to “fail” in performance? How might staging failure reveal theatre’s potential to expand our understanding of social, political and everyday reality? What can we learn from performances that expose and then celebrate their ability to fail?

In Performance Theatre and the Poetics of Failure, Sara Jane Bailes begins with Samuel Beckett and considers failure in performance as a hopeful strategy. She examines the work of internationally acclaimed UK and US experimental theatre companies Forced Entertainment, Goat Island and Elevator Repair Service, addressing accepted narratives about artistic and cultural value in contemporary theatre-making. Her discussion draws on examples where misfire, the accidental and the intentionally amateur challenge our perception of skill and virtuosity in such diverse modes of performance as slapstick and punk.

Detailed rehearsal and performance analysis are used to engage theory and contextualise practice, extending the dialogue between theatre arts, live art and postmodern dance. The result is a critical account of performance theatre that offers essential reading for practitioners, scholars and students of Performance, Theatre and Dance Studies.


1. Introduction: Failure and Representation
2. World(s) after a Different Image: Marxism, Slapstick, Punk
3. Profane Illumination: Theatre and Forced Entertainment
4. News from Nowhere: Goat Island Performance Group
5. Dislocations of Practice: Elevator Repair Service
6. Afterword

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Caden Manson is Editor In Chief and Curator of Contemporary Performance Network and co-founder and artistic director of Big Art Group, a New York City performance company founded in 1999.

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