Irrational theatre : the challenge posed by the plays of Howard Barker for contemporary performance theory and practice
This study arose out of an awareness that contemporary performance theories and production techniques were not appropriate to the plays of Howard Barker. The first section, a comparison of Barker with Edward Bond, attempts to 'situate' the former with reference to a major dramatist of the seventies and early eighties. This reveals a number of significant differences, including almost diametrically opposed conceptions of the function of drama. In the second section, I consider Barker against a wider background of deconstructive and postmodernist thinking. As opposed to Bond's Brechtian notion of a Rational theatre, I argue that Barker's theatre is irrational and suggest that irrational interaction is Seduction. Barker's plays are considered from the point of view of a theory of seduction - in particular Jean Baudrillard's. There follows a review of a range of discourses on performance by influential practitioners such as Stanislavsky. Although seduction is identifiable in all their practices, it is almost universally denied or shunned - except by Grotowski. Also the focus of acting technique is invariably on the actor/character relation with little consideration of interaction with others. The third section considers in some detail two plays by Barker - JUDITH and THE CASTLE, analysing them from a seductive perspective.