CTC Seminar: Genet’s ‘rituals of the oppressed’ and the main stage

Presenter: Margaret Hamilton
Time/Date: 24 November 2016, 12:30pm-1:30pm.
Venue: Research Hub 19.2072.

In 2013 Benedict Andrews directed Jean Genet’s The Maids at the Sydney Theatre Company. Cate Blanchett (in the role of Claire) and Isabelle Huppert (as Solange) played the maids Genet originally intended to be acted by male performers, and Elizabeth Debicki as Madame performed the object of the maids’ ritual simulation of murder. Genet’s play, a fictionalisation of Christine and Léa Papin’s brutal slaughter of their mistresses in 1933, heightens the experience of theatrical modes of perception in its insistence on role-playing against a backdrop of social stratification. Andrews’s production of Genet’s play exemplifies theatre central to highly charged, polemic public debate concerning the prevalence of adaptation in Australia. According to Andrews the process of translating a text for the stage constitutes interpretation and subsequently a political act. But what, if any, political function does this performance of Genet’s drama have in the context of main stage theatre in Australia and beyond? Is it simply an example of star marketing that fails to correspond to contemporary notions of critical art? What issues are at play for the audiences that see this production? In considering these questions this paper will examine Peter Boenisch’s (2015) theorisation of Regie (directing) as a process of ‘making sense’ rather than consumption and the implications of this conceptualisation for adaptation as an aesthetico-political strategy; celebrity spectacle; and, the question of the commodification of theatre as a cultural form.

Margaret Hamilton is Senior Lecturer in Theatre Studies at the University of Wollongong, Australia. She is the author of Transfigured Stages: Major Practitioners and Theatre Aesthetics in Australia (Rodopi, 2011), and specialises in research on contemporary Australian theatre. Her research has encompassed the emergence of postdramatic theatre in Australia and currently focuses on internationally significant main stage directors and theatre productions as part of a project that analyses the prospect of artistic critique in the context of late capitalism. In addition to critical book collections, her research has been published in a number of journals, including Theatre Journal, Sexualities and Australasian Drama Studies. She is a Chief Investigator on AusStage’s Australian Research Council funded project Phase 5: Australian live performance and the world – global networks, national culture and aesthetic transmission and Phase 6 – Visualising venues in Australian live performance research. For a number of years she developed and managed a major program of contemporary Australian arts in Berlin for the AustraliaCouncil for the Arts and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
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