Testimony as speaking out
Performing the ethico-political imperatives of witnessing
in Performing the testimonial
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This chapter considers the proposal that testimonial performance has the political potential to stage what Foucault has described as parrhesia, a mode of speaking truth to power. In testimonial theatre, the witness as parrhesiastes speaks out about real events of injustice and in so doing illuminates perspectives that have been overlooked or erased by dominant political discourses. Drawing on a discussion of The Colour of Justice (Norton-Taylor, 1999), The Hounding of David Oluwale (Agboluaje, 2009) and Notes from the Field (Smith, 2019), three plays about police racism and racialised social injustice, the chapter argues that the dramaturgical form of the tribunal play does not necessarily offer the most political or ethical engagement with acts of parrhesia. Rather it is through testimonial dramaturgical approaches that the parrhesiastes can be repositioned as narrators of their own story and able to speak out in their own words about the injustice endured. The chapter concludes with some proposals that address what is articulated as the ‘ethical demand of testimonial practice’ – a premise developed by drawing on the philosophy of Simon Critchley and Knud Ejler Løgstrup’s theorisation of the ethical demand.

Performing the testimonial

Rethinking verbatim dramaturgies


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