Relating Singapore : cosmopolitan aesthetics and contemporary performance
This thesis addresses the place and function of theatrical performance in the highly globalized postcolonial city state of Singapore. In so doing, it combines a detailed study of a number of theatrical events and performative practices, with a broader enquiry into how the localized experience of theatre can be valued without recourse to instrumentalist justifications or appeals to afunctionality. Recognising modern Singapore's distinctive status as a "world city" run as an "illiberal democracy", it proposes the idea of a "cosmopolitan aesthetics", which understands the encounter with theatre in relational terms as fostering worldliness. The introduction elaborates on this with reference to firework performances in Singapore and London, and the responses of the author as a British person resident in Singapore. Part One surveys current perspectives on cosmopolitanism, and develops the idea of relationality with reference to the singularity of the theatrical event at its moment of emergence, and to the social context into which the event intervenes. It also reflects on the relations between foreignness and the challenge of writing about live performance. Part Two explores the complex ways in which singular and social relations intertwine in the process of relating Singapore on and to the stage. Each chapter takes theatrical space as a constant against which are measured expanding scales of social experience: solo performance and selfhood, socially committed theatre and city space. intercultural improvisations and regional dynamics I internationally-staged performances and globality, and an olfactory dérive, performances about trees, and the figuring of the environment. The thesis aims to make a positive contribution to the growing literature on intersections between artistic practice and global cultural and economic processes, and to compensate for a dearth of discussions on the relationship between theatre and cosmopolitanism. It also promises an original perspective on Singapore theatre, and proposes a number of enabling critical concepts, including "weak interculturalism" and cosmopolitan relationality.