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Joanne Tompkins

Foucault’s description of heterotopia in ‘Of Other Places’ has remained under-appreciated in theatre criticism, even though it can offer a detailed awareness of theatre’s spatial arrangements and their implications for the world at large. This chapter rereads heterotopia against a more theatre-specific understanding of performance than Foucault provided in his brief essay. It expands the potential for heterotopia in theatre by focusing on the alternate spaces of mythic and unreal spaces through Gaston Bachelard’s concept of topoanalysis and Yi-Fu Tuan’s exploration of mythic space. The chapter examines a historical play (Richard Brome’s The Antipodes, first performed in 1638) and a contemporary play (debbie tucker green’s 2015 hang) which each address a location that is not ‘real’ but that is equally ‘not unreal’ and which help situate heterotopia to speak to the fundamental changes to theatre spatiality in the twenty-first century.

in Foucault’s theatres
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Theatre, performance, Foucault
Tony Fisher and Kélina Gotman

The introduction sets out the rationale of the book, and specifically unfolds its core aim, that of examining the ongoing influence of Michel Foucault to contemporary theatre and performance scholarship, simultaneously examining how theatricality enters Foucault’s own critical and philosophical practice. Discovering a ‘theatrical Foucault’ enables a reassessment of the political and ethical importance of his approach to questions of truth, governmentality, and critique. Of specific import to the introduction is the notion that shifting the critical gaze is a theatrical endeavour, one that is central to Foucault’s performance as a public intellectual and salient critic of contemporary life. The introduction proposes that the present political context makes it ever more urgent to analyse the theatrical and performative structures of power and knowledge, so as to rearticulate ways of cultivating forms of resistance and practices of autonomy. It is not paradoxical, the chapter argues, for Foucault’s own work to play with language and rhetorical style, just as he examines the aesthetic dimensions of historical and contemporary modes of subject formation.

in Foucault’s theatres
‘The Platonic differential’ and ‘Zarathustra’s laughter’
Mischa Twitchin

How might relations between face and mask, nature and artifice escape from a Platonic dramaturgy? In which theatrical worlds might metaphysics become displaced by phantasmaphysics? Between Foucault and Deleuze, how does the drama of thought become manifest in a specifically philosophical theatre? And how might this relate to the claims of universality in a modernity that constantly disavows its colonial particularity? Exploring his reading of Deleuze, this chapter extends Foucault’s sense of a ‘rebirth of phantasmaphysics’ to a reading of cinema (with Jean Rouch’s Les Maîtres Fous) and the transformation of erstwhile ethnographic museums into ‘museums of world cultures’.

in Foucault’s theatres
Foucault interviewed by Moriaki Watanabe
Robert Bononno
Michel Foucault

In this 22 April 1978 Tokyo interview with Japanese theatre scholar, Moriaki Watanabe, Michel Foucault explores the tropes of theatricality at play in his work. A specialist in French theatre and literature, Watanabe was in the process of translating Foucault’s ‘The Will to Knowledge’ (La volonté de savoir) into Japanese. The interview is significant for the direct way in which Watanabe inveigles Foucault to reflect on his interest in the theatre, and in the explicitly theatrical ways in which Foucault’s thinking and writing operate. Questions of the Western obsession with the gaze, the theatricality of knowledge, the crisis of the real and the illusory provoked by theatre, distinctions between true and false, and the spectacle of the world are explored with characteristic aplomb by Foucault.

in Foucault’s theatres
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Foucault and Naturalist theatre
Dan Rebellato

Although Foucault wrote almost nothing about Naturalist theatre, despite having taught a course on it in the 1950s, The Birth of the Clinic (1973) has close thematic links to that movement: the Naturalists made widespread use of medical imagery in their theory and practice and Foucault’s book is an account of the emergence of the nineteenth-century medical gaze. The affinities between Naturalism and clinical medicine are not merely metaphorical; the chapter shows a series of precise homologies and overlaps between the two, including the silencing of theory and language – which in theatrical terms is effected by producing semiotically dense ‘reality effects’ that attempts to overpower the structures of mere representation, and a ruthless avoidance of metaphor or generalisation. Naturalism, like medicine in Foucault’s terms, produces the realities that it discovers, in part by constituting them as secrets to be revealed. Finally, Foucault’s ultimate project seems to be to establish the birth not just of modern medical practice but also of the modern individual, precisely to mark the finitude of the human; Naturalism, too, is marked not just by the emergence of a new conception of the human, but also of its end. Naturalism is, then, the beginning of theatrical post-humanism.

in Foucault’s theatres
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Popular illegalism on the nineteenth-century stage
Tony Fisher

This chapter draws on Foucault’s pioneering work on the early political economy and his analysis of working-class ‘illegalism’ to understand how images of poverty were discursively constructed during the nineteenth century. It shows how the poor were both captured and made visible by a vast ‘theatre of poverty’, central to the emergence of what Foucault termed ‘societies of moralisation’. It argues that the theatre of poverty was rendered explicit on the stage through ‘poor plays’, such as Dion Boucicault’s melodrama, The Poor of New York (1857) – adapted as The Streets of London in 1864 – in which moralising discourse represented the poor either as the deserving victims of circumstance or as perpetrators of ‘popular illegalisms’ (from habitual drunkenness to machine wrecking). The chapter shows that although these plays were driven by an agenda of social reform, they remained indebted to the political economy’s theatre of poverty, particularly in their depiction of improvident indigence. It concludes by examining the contemporary influence of the theatre of poverty on the way today’s poor are represented, arguing that the theatre of poverty makes the poor visible, but determines the way they appear according to the circumscribed spaces made available to them by discourse’s modes of representation.

in Foucault’s theatres