Book Reviews

An Introduction to Theatre, Performance and the Cognitive SciencesAn Introduction to Theatre, Performance and the Cognitive Sciences

This is the first textbook designed for students, practitioners and scholars of the performing arts who are curious about the power of the cognitive sciences to throw light on the processes of performance. It equips readers with a clear understanding of how research in cognitive neuroscience has illuminated and expanded traditional approaches to thinking about topics such as the performer, the spectator, space and time, culture, and the text. Each chapter considers four layers of performance: conventional forms of theatre, performance art, and everyday life, offering an expansive vision of the impact of the cognitive sciences on performance in the widest sense.
Written in an approachable style, An Introduction to Theatre, Performance and the Cognitive Sciences weaves together case studies of a wide range of performances with scientific evidence and post-structural theory. Artists such as Robert Wilson, Societas Raffaello Sanzio, Ariane Mnouchkine, Bertolt Brecht, and Antonin Artaud are brought into conversation with theories of Gilles Deleuze, Shaun Gallagher, Alva Noë, Tim Ingold and the science of V. S. Ramachandran, Vittorio Gallese, and Antonio Damasio. John Lutterbie offers a complex understanding of not only the act of performing but the forces that mark the place of theatre in contemporary society.
In drawing on a variety of scientific articles, Lutterbie provides readers with an accessible account of significant research in areas in the field and reveals how the sciences can help us understand the experience of art.
By John Lutterbie. Reviewed by Roxanne Paire.

Drama and Social JusticeDrama and Social Justice Theory: research and practice in international contexts

Much has been written within the tradition of drama education and applied theatre around the premise that drama can be a force for change within both individual lives and society more broadly. However, little has been published in terms of charting the nature of this relationship. By combining theoretical, historical and practical perspectives, this book unpacks and explores drama’s intrinsically entwined relationship with society more comprehensively and critically.
Chapters gather together and develop a range of theoretical understandings of social justice in applied drama in the first part of the book, which are then used to frame and inform more focused discussions of drama research and practice in the second. Contributors move beyond practical understandings of drama for empowerment or development in order to engage with the philosophy of praxis – the interconnected and symbiotic nature of theory derived from practice, and practice derived from theory. Including concrete examples from current research and practice in the field, the book opens up a conversation on and counter-narrative to perceptions of the nature and impact of applied theatre and drama education on social justice.
By Kelly Freebody and Michael Finneran. Reviewed by Helen Murphy.

Drama and Theatre in Urban ContextsDrama and Theatre in Urban Contexts

Urban theatre can be described as theatre made with or by those whose lives are marked by the urban landscape and its social limits and possibilities. At the heart of this text lies the question of how theatre can illuminate the urban and how theatre is illuminated by the urban. The city, like a play, is a space where everything adopts multiple meanings. It is an objective thought and a subjective experience, a charged and symbolic thing, as well as a real, material, lived reality.
The chapters in this book illustrate the theatre’s uncanny ability to narrate and symbolize the physical and psychic space of the city. Running through all of the pieces presented are the themes of power and of young people’s sense of agency within the structures they dwell in and are shaped by. Through drama education and applied theatre practices, the affinity between the urban and its theatres is radically replaced by marginal spaces, boulevards and schools. As Guillermo Gómez-Peña suggests, the theatre has gone to the people to serve their local and immediate need for a means of holding the urban and the self so that both can be interrogated and re-imagined; so that the various dystopias of urban existence can be envisaged as places of urban solidarity and as utopias, at least, of the mind.
This book was originally published as a special issue of Research in Drama Education: The Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance.
Edited by Kathleen Gallagher and Jonothan Neelands. Reviewed by Nicola Abrahams.

Incapacity and TheatricalityIncapacity and Theatricality: Politics and Aesthetics in Theatre Involving Actors with Intellectual Disabilities

Incapacity and Theatricality acknowledges the distinctive contribution to contemporary theatrical performance made by actors with intellectual disabilities. It presents a close examination of certain key theatrical performances across a variety of different media, including John Cassavetes’ 1963 social issues film A Child Is Waiting; the performance art collaboration between Robert Wilson and Christopher Knowles; and the provocative pranksterism of Christoph Schlingensief’s talent show mockumentary FreakStars 3000.
Tracing a global path of performances, Incapacity and Theatricality offers an analysis of how actors with intellectual disabilities have emerged onto the main stage, and how their inclusion calls into question long-held assumptions about both theatre and intellectual disability.
McCaffrey’s work offers a vital consideration of the intersubjective relations between people with and without intellectual disabilities and ultimately addresses urgent questions about the situation and representation of the contemporary subject caught up somewhere between incapacity and theatricality.
By Tony McCaffrey. Reviewed by Paul McNamara.

The Routledge Anthology of Restoration and Eighteenth-Century PerformanceThe Routledge Anthology of Restoration and Eighteenth-Century Performance

The Routledge Anthology of Restoration and Eighteenth-Century Performance brings together a selection of particularly memorable performances, beginning with Nell Gwyn in a 1668 staging of Secret Love, and moving chronologically towards the final performance of John Philip Kemble’s controversial adaptation of Thomas Otway’s Venice Presever’d in October 1795.
This volume contains a wealth of contextual materials, including contemporary reviews, portraits, advertisements, and cast lists. By privileging event over publication, this collection aims to encourage an understanding of performance that emphasises the immediacy – and changeability – of the theatrical repertoire during the long eighteenth century.
Offering an invaluable insight into the performance culture of the time, The Routledge Anthology of Restoration and Eighteenth-Century Performance is a unique, much-needed resource for students of theatre.
Edited by Daniel O’Quinn, Kristina Straub and Misty G Anderson. Reviewed by Trevor R. Griffiths.

Using Shakespeares Plays to Explore Education Policy TodayUsing Shakespeare’s Plays to Explore Education Policy Today: Neoliberalism through the lens of Renaissance humanism

Shakespeare is revered as the greatest writer in the English language, yet education reform in the English-speaking world is informed primarily by the ‘market order’, rather than the kind of humanism we might associate with Shakespeare. By considering Shakespeare’s dramatisation of the principles that inform neoliberalism, this book makes an important contribution to the debate on the moral failure of the market mechanism in schools and higher education systems that have adopted neoliberal policy.
The utility of Shakespeare’s plays as a means to explore our present socio-economic system has long been acknowledged. As a Renaissance playwright located at the junction between feudalism and capitalism, Shakespeare was uniquely positioned to reflect upon the nascent market order. As a result, this book utilises six of his plays to assess the impact of neoliberalism on education. Drawing from examples of education policy from the UK and North America, it demonstrates that the alleged innovation of the market order is premised upon ideas that are rejected by Shakespeare, and it advocates Shakespeare’s humanism as a corrective to the failings of neoliberal education policy.
By Sophie Ward. Reviewed by Tom Harrison.

Publisher: National Drama Publications

ISSN 2040-2228

©2013 National Drama - Drama Research: international journal of drama in education

© Copyright National Drama 2020

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