Transfigured Stages: Major Practitioners and Theatre Aesthetics in Australia, by Margaret Hamilton

Denise Varney


This book, which is Volume 14 in Rodopi’s Australian Playwrights Series, offers an account of the performative turn in Australia, or to be more precise, Sydney, in the 1980s and 90s. Turning away from playwrights, the book argues that the stage was in that moment ‘transfigured’ by radical new aesthetic practices. With chapters devoted to Open City, The Sydney Front and The Aboriginal Actors Company, whose work at the Performance Space and other venues intrigued, confronted and confused audiences, author Margaret Hamilton makes the case that the performative turn is best articulated through Hans-Thiess Lehmann’s concept of postdramatic theatre, adapted to the circumstances and intentions of local artists, but connected to international movements as well. Outside Sydney, Hamilton finds Melbourne-based writer-director Jenny Kemp exemplifying the new performance-oriented artist whose explorations of the visual-textual nexus are highly suggestive of Lehmann’s ‘landscape play’ (115). Also in Melbourne, Anthill Theatre’s 1982 presentation of Heiner Müller’s Hamletmachine is the occasion for a discussion of Müller’s postdramatic theatre and its influence on the local scene.

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