Queer in(g) performance : articulations of deviant bodies in contemporary performance
The aim of this thesis is to engage with current debates surrounding contemporary
performance, queer theory and the body, which proffer a number of complex and
contentious questions. How does queer theory work in practice, and does
performance provide the ideal context for such deliberation? How do the subjective
essentialisms of performance conflict with ideas of queer performativity and the
deconstruction of sexual identity? Drawing upon corporeal and ontological theories of
the body in conflict with queer strategic critiques, an attempt is made to articulate a
problematically "essential" form of queer subjectivity in performance.
By exploring the potential "origins" of a preceding queer practice in the works of
Antonin Artaud, Bertolt Brecht and Jean Genet, the work proposes that their approach
to theatre and performance articulated and deployed a particularly "deviant" form of
expression and aesthetic. They established an approach to theatre and performance,
which has continued to inspire and influence anti-essentialist and political forms of
queer performance in the new millennium.
From the early struggles of lesbian and gay theatre in the politically volatile context of
the seventies and early eighties, the thesis foregrounds a liberating yet problematic
attempt at enabling a "transformation" in British and North American theatre in
response to queer critical paradigms in the nineties. Critical paradigms that are
consistently promoted as the unique "product" of a postmodem deconstructive
culture, and yet derive much from the works of the early avant-garde, the experiments
of the sixties and the subversive texts of post-war British theatre.
The nineties have witnessed a proliferation of gay/queer-oriented performance "break
through" into the populist mainstream, and the "heteronormative" culture in general.
The concluding section focuses upon ideas of a queer corporeality that seeks to remap
the significatory potential of the live body in performance, in conflict with
discursive inscriptions that attempt to fix and regulate categories of gender and
sexuality. Yet, what role does the spectator/audience play in relation to this
"activated" queer form of performance? How is the gaze/reception problematised, or
does it subvert the very efficacy of queer theory itself?