Theatre of witnessing
Towards the decolonisation of testimonial theatre
in Performing the testimonial
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This chapter shifts the focus of the book’s inquiry away from verbatim theatre in order to develop a distinct understanding of testimonial theatre practice. Through an interrogation of different concepts of testimony and witnessing, the chapter argues that testimonial theatre should be distinguished from verbatim theatre practices both in terms of its intention, its dramaturgical construction and its creative process. Drawing on a range of different testimonial plays developed in South Africa, Australia and America, the chapter critiques psychoanalytical conceptualisations of testimony and engages with theorisation developed by scholars who have sought to decolonise the discourses of testimony and the witness that have dominated Euro-American scholarship. Through an analysis of plays by South African director and playwright Yaël Farber, the Australian playwright Alana Valentine and the New York-based indigenous theatre collective Spiderwoman Theater, the chapter develops an account of three modes of witnessing. In each of the examples discussed, the dramaturgical structure of the play moves beyond the psychoanalytic framework of testimony, opening up new ways of understanding how theatre bears witness to real historical events of trauma and suffering.

Performing the testimonial

Rethinking verbatim dramaturgies


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