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Reviewed by:
  • Dramaturgy of the Real on the World Stage Edited by Carol Martin
  • William Palmer
Dramaturgy of the Real on the World Stage. Edited by Carol Martin. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012. vii + 309 pp. $95.00 hardcover, $29.00 paper.

This anthology of essays and performance texts forms part of the Studies in International Performance series edited by Janelle Reinelt and Brian Singleton. The series focuses on how performance crosses borders and interacts between varying nations and cultures. Dramaturgy of the Real on the World Stage continues in this vein by exploring the performance of theatre of the real, sometimes known as documentary theatre, in multiple locations across the globe. This anthology offers a look into how these performances of real events are created and portrayed on international stages. Martin structures the anthology into two sections: the first includes essays that focus on theatre of the real performances, and the second features actual texts of performances in either their entirety or partial construction. Through both the essays and recorded texts of the performances, readers can gain insight into other cultures’ performances of reality.

Carol Martin, in her introduction as well as her essay “Bodies of Evidence” that follows, defines theatre of the real, discussing its multiple titles from docudrama to verbatim theatre and theatre of fact, and how the slightest variation in nomenclature alters exactly what can be expected of the performance. She emphasizes that theatre of the real for an American audience is derived from actual texts and testimony. Witness accounts, court documents, and other factual evidence are used as a starting point, and the expectation of such a performance is that it offers a near reenactment of actual events. In the beginning essays, Martin notes that what is true about American theatre of the real may not be so internationally. Other cultures may view documentary theatre as witnesses telling their actual stories, as visual performance art, as commentary on the actual cultural [End Page 289] event(s), or as imagined reenactments. She also notes how today’s theatre of the real intersects both the global and the local in its creation.

The first section includes essays discussing theatre of the real performances across the globe. “Toward a Poetics of Theatre and Public Events: In the Case of Stephen Lawrence” by Janelle Reinelt examines a theatre of the real performance in the United Kingdom. The Colour of Justice centers on the brutal stabbing death of a black youth, Stephen Lawrence, by five white youths, and follows his parents’ journey to gain some form of justice. Reinelt’s essay thoroughly dictates the events of the actual hate crime and its aftermath and then describes the documentary theatre performance. The following essay moves the reader geographically from the United Kingdom to the Middle East. Wendy S. Hesford’s “Staging Terror” delves into two separate performances: Inconvenient Evidence and Guantánamo. Inconvenient Evidence premiered in Tehran, Iran, in the form of multiple roadside murals depicting the abuses of Iraqi detainees by American soldiers in Abu Ghraib as shown in released photographs. It later traveled to New York in the form of photographs of the murals displayed at the International Center for Photography. Guantánamo premiered in London as a documentary play based on the letters of Guantanamo detainees who were found innocent. Both of the pieces Hesford discusses display the brutal events occurring behind the “victories” of America’s War on Terror.

The next essay in this section is Yvette Hutchison’s “Post-1990s Verbatim Theatre in South Africa: Exploring an African Concept of ‘Truth.’” Hutchison primarily reviews the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) that worked to address the actions and wrongs of apartheid. From the TRC, actual interviews from both victims and oppressors are used to create multiple verbatim theatre pieces, such as REwind: A Cantata for Voice, Tape and Testimony found in the text section. “Reality from the Bottom Up: Documentary Theatre in Poland” by Agnieszka Sowińska (translated by Benjamin Paloff) explores Polish theatre of the real that uses factual and historical sources as inspiration for the creation of a text. The essay explores this style through different examples, such as High-Speed Urban...


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pp. 289-291
Launched on MUSE
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