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  • Regarding Theatre:Thoughts on Recent Work by Simon Vincenzi and Romeo Castellucci
  • Nicholas Ridout

A spectator is a kind of pervert, they say. Spectatorship is a condition, a disease. It will make you pale and feeble; it will sap your energy and render you unfit for action. You will weep for deaths when no one died and discharge valuable psychic resources on unreciprocable loves. You will wear out your capacity for genuine feeling and lose touch with real people. A hooded figure with only smoldering eyes where a face should be, a wraith, a vacancy, a life unlived. psychoanalysts will have all sorts of things to say about you—few of them flattering—about your voyeurism, your scopophilia, or what Freud himself called your Schaulust.

As Tiffany Watt-Smith has pointed out, we might be entitled to think of Schaulust as more than just a pleasure found in looking, which is the sense implied by its translation into anglophone psychoanalysis.1 It might also be a pleasure taken in showing, a pleasure to be found in the show of the Schauspiel, and by those onstage in the Schauspielhaus, the Schauspieler themselves. Or, to take this idea one step further, a pleasure to be found (and taken) in precisely the reciprocity in which someone shows something (such as themselves) to someone else, without whose reception of that which is shown no showing would have happened, without whom there would have been no show. Where once we had just one pervert, we now have at least two.

A third pervert, however, is necessary to complete the scene. This is the one who happens to be watching you watching. The one who appears behind you in the hallway, in a scene from Sartre’s Being and Nothingness (has anyone adapted that for the stage?), as you stoop with your eye to the keyhole. The one in the seat next to you who is wondering why you just laughed in that way, or suspects that you may find that performer strangely alluring. Even if the third party is not there in person, you will find that there is no shaking them off: they are always on your mind, or thereabouts. You cannot get rid of the feeling that the very fact that you are here, watching this, this of all things, might be held against you; that the specific content of your very particular perversion is in circulation, an occasion [End Page 427] for gossip and the entertainment of others. Only in those strange moments of utter captivation or trance, when you forget that you are a spectator, forget that you are even there yourself, will all trace of this third pervert evaporate. But there is no lasting pleasure in this fleeting moment of absorption; something will always bring you back to the scene of your own spectating, where the real pleasures of Schaulust are to be found (and taken). The moment it does, that third person will be there, at your shoulder, their eyes not quite your eyes, their ears not quite your ears, but close—close enough, perhaps, for you to mistake them for your own, to mistake this third pervert for yourself.

All is not lost, however. There is some hope of redemption, that the color will be returned to your cheeks through some wholesome acts of participation. In place of screens, curtains, and strangely shaped apertures, there will be human contact; where there was passive gazing, there shall be action; where there was separation, there shall be harmony—where darkness, light. Wo es war, soll Ich werden. You shall sleep no more.

Working at odds with the current vogue for the pseudo-activity of participatory experiences and their supposedly health-giving properties, London-based theatre artist Simon Vincenzi has developed a series of four related works since 2008 under the collective title of Operation Infinity.2 The first of these, The Infinite Pleasures of the Great Unknown, was the debut of Troupe Mabuse, a chorus that seems to have escaped or perhaps come adrift from Fritz Lang’s film The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (1933). In Vincenzi’s theatre, this chorus appears to be caught in some kind of hypnotic...


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