Theatre & Globalization, and: Theatre & Interculturalism, and: Theatre & Prison (review)
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Reviewed by
Theatre & Globalization. Dan Rebellato. Theatre& series. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009; pp. 112.
Theatre & Interculturalism. Ric Knowles. Theatre& series. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010; pp. 104.
Theatre & Prison. Caoimhe McAvinchey. Theatre& series. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011; pp. 104.

Palgrave Macmillan’s Theatre& series is designed to introduce readers to specific contexts and questions that run through the range of performance, from formal cultural conceptions of theatre to embodied acts of ritual. Series editors Dan Rebellato and Jen Harvie have, since 2009, gathered leading academics to explore big subjects in short books. The series is intended to be a growing selection of short introductions that chart the interdisciplinary intersections of theatre and its contexts, providing detailed historical groundwork, as well as positing key theoretical questions arising from the interplay between theatre and the chosen discourse. Each volume is organized into three or four sections, framed by a more general introduction. The intention of each section is to provide access to different perspectives on the theme, and to offer specific examples of historical and contemporary theatre practice. Particularly valuable as a teaching resource is the section of further reading, which includes not only bibliographic references, but it also outlines key sources for students and researchers to explore specific aspects of the field.

The series as a whole is a valuable addition to a library, in that it outlines the up-to-date thinking about the subject area and suggests contemporary further reading. The series is intended to offer affordable introductions for a wide readership. Some of the other titles in the series are Theatre & Education by Helen Nicholson, Theatre & Sexuality by Jill Dolan, and Harvie’s Theatre & the City. A strength of the series is that its authors offer a geographical spread, accounting for non-Western practices, as well as European and North American approaches to theatre.

The Theatre& series is ideal for an undergraduate syllabus, packing intellectual punch that belies its size and challenging and provoking, while nevertheless sketching each subject area as complex and rich. Thus the series’ main contribution is in the way each volume can motivate and inspire students to take up the complex questions and examples provided in order to flesh out their own positions in relation to theatre and its paradigms, themes, and settings. The three volumes considered here form a triumvirate of politically charged contributions in the series. Two of the three volumes are about the related discourses of globalization and interculturalism; the third considers the prison as a context and theme for theatrical concerns. As a trio, themes that emerge among them highlight the valuable role of performance in commenting on contemporary phenomena, specifying the importance of the live event in transforming discourses of power and inequality through presenting different ways of relating to and creating meaning. Thus the series as a whole offers an impressive range of epistemological analyses and a reflexive account of performance discourses in different contexts.

Rebellato’s Theatre & Globalization provides a resonant definition of globalization from a range of competing and contradictory ones. In doing so, it provides a means of viewing theatre’s interrelationship with globalization, with a key example being the standardization of the mega-musical against anti-globalized practices, such as site-specific theatre and community theatres. This frame considers the forms and themes of theatre that transcend local origins, such as “successful” touring theatre from historical antecedents (notably Peter Brook’s Mahabharata through Robert Wilson’s CIVIL warS ). The first half of the book outlines globalization in theatre, before considering how the anti-globalization movement is reflected in theatre practices; its final section mounts a compelling argument for how theatre is a valuable approach for promoting cosmopolitan perspectives.

In the opening section, Rebellato explores the rise of capitalism using a Marxist perspective, while offering key examples of performance that serve to concretize concepts that students might find alienating (such as economics). He explores the inevitability of globalization through examples like Sarah Kane’s Blasted, in which the setting is nowhere though could be anywhere—capitalism’s de-territorialization of space. In addition, he offers an overview of the themes of global economies recently explored onstage in works like Caryl Churchill...