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Reviewed by:
  • The Journal of War and Culture Studies
  • Jenna L. Kubly
The Journal of War and Culture Studies. Special issue on “Performance and War.” Edited by Debra Kelly and Luke Dixon. Volume 3, issue 3. Bristol, UK: Intellect Books, 2011.

The Journal of War and Culture Studies,inaugurated in 2008, is devoted to the “relationship between war and culture in the twentieth century and onwards” (inside cover). The journal’s special issue devoted to “Performance and War” will be of particular interest to theatre and performance scholars. While there are studies that focus on theatre during or about specific wars and three earlier collections, Modern War on Stage and Screen(edited by Wolfgang Görtschacher and Holger Klein, 1997), Theatre, War, and Propaganda: 1930–2005(edited by M. Scott Phillips, 2005), and Performance in Place of War(edited by James Thompson, Jenny Hughes, and Michael Balfour, 2009), this special issue is a welcome addition to a growing body of scholarship that focuses exclusively on war and theatre/performance. The articles included in the issue cover an array of “performances,” from traditional live theatre to televised media to performance in everyday life.

In their introduction, editor Debra Kelly and guest editor Luke Dixon consider the phrase “Theatre of War,” first used by Carl von Clausewitz in 1832. Clausewitz’s use of the word “theatre” harkens back to the Greek theatron, which denotes the architectural performance space, but the two terms of the phrase further resonate in that much Greek drama was written during times of war. Other instances of the “synergy between these two theatres” (270) range from the plays of Shakespeare to the recent War Horse, produced by Britain’s National Theatre and Handspring Puppet Company. As the editors note, “[w]ar has used the stage just as the stage has used war” (270), and the articles published in this special issue consider theatre and performance as forms of cultural production amid war and its aftermath (271).

For example, Dixon’s essay “Drama, Conflict Resolution and the Birth of a Kosovan National Theatre” recounts the history of the Center for Children’s Theatre Development (CCTD) and the growth of the National Theatre of Kosovo (NTK). As Dixon notes, Jeton Neziraj co-founded the CCTD in 2002, six years before Kosovo declared independence; its goal was to use Applied Theatre and Boal’s Forum Theatre “to help children and young people come to terms with their experiences of the conflict” (276). Seeking to bring about transformation through participation and never advocating a specific vision but giving each person a voice, the CCTD quickly became a “virtual national theatre” (281). Recently, Neziraj was appointed to head the state-sponsored NTK, which still primarily features a “‘politically correct’ artistic repertoire” that does not “disturb” the state (283, 284). In his new position, Neziraj seeks to redefine “national drama” by creating a forum to promote ever-changing “national values” (285).

Frederick Yamusangie’s essay “Notes on the Importance of Theatre in the Democratic Republic of the Congo Today” argues that theatre can have a positive impact on development in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), a country that has been devastated by ethnic conflicts. Specifically, Yamusangie suggests that, given the country’s low literacy rate, theatre could play a vital role in assisting progressive policy makers to help citizens [End Page 306]“understand, identify with and take part in the policies” that would contribute to reconciliation and economic development (289).

Shifting from theatrical performance to television, Christophe Collard’s essay “Warring and Whoring: Mamet Performs for Television” considers David Mamet’s television series The Unit(2006–09), which focuses on members of a military counterterrorism unit. Drawing on media theory, Collard suggests that some television series have successfully blended “high and low, artistry and commercialism, while being innovative and popular” (295). Analyzing two episodes of The Unit,Collard demonstrates how Mamet’s series includes the expected “action and macho talk” (301) of his earlier dramatic work, but is distinguished by a complexity that moves beyond a one-sided view of war to grapple with “polarizing issues without yielding to facile reductions” (301).

Philip Hammond’s essay “Simulation and Dissimulation” considers contemporary media...


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pp. 306-307
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