Politically engaged theatre has long challenged the theatrical frame that insulates theatre from everyday life. This essay examines recent theatre works that not only play with this tenuous perceptual boundary, but also stage its instability as their primary form of aesthetic political engagement. By repeatedly staging and breaking their framing as being either theatrical fictions or direct political interventions, these “Reality Frictions” willfully irritate the duality fictionality and actuality that Jonas Barish calls theatre’s “ontological queasiness.” Read within the context of debates about the ethics of “para-theater” and the politics of “postdramatic theatre,” the essay analyzes three works of Reality Frictions in European theatre that mobilize their fundamental “indecidability” as a political practice: Chance 2000, German artist Christof Schlingensief’s 1998 “electoral campaign circus”; the Estonian theatre company NO99’s “megaproject” Unified Estonia; and The New Forest, the Dutch theatre collective Wunderbaum’s “fictional platform” for socially engaged art. Through the irritational aesthetics of failure, over-identification, and parafiction, these artists stage the “indecidability” of their works’ fictionality to create a space for a politics of what Derrida terms the “ordeal of the indecidable.”


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pp. 473-498
Launched on MUSE
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