“In Comes I”: Performance, Memory and Landscape, Mike Pearson

Ian Maxwell


’I can take any empty space’ Peter Brook wrote famously in 1968 ’and call it a bare stage.’

A man walks across this empty space whilst someone else is watching him, and this is all that is needed for an act of theatre to be engaged.

This any empty space, of course, for the purposes of titling Brook’s observations on making theatre, took the definite article, and has become something of generational catch-phrase—theatre as the empty space: a site of pure potential, a blank canvas upon which the theatre artist is free to create. Brook, along with the usual suspects—Grotowski, Barba, Schechner et al—has long since become identified with a universalist theatrical aspiration, championing a radical theatrical pan-culturalism in the name of Man, in the name of Art, in the name of Theatre and so on: the roll-call of Kantian absolutes. The Empty Space, realized in a thousand black box theatres, removes practice from context; each black box presents as an a-topia, a no-place unburdened by mere location, holding out the possibility of numberless eu-topias, each dedicated to the ideals of holiness and/or roughness, and the celebration of a transcendent, pan-human togetherness predicated upon the fundamental unity of all mankind.

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Ulmer, Greg. Heuretics: The Logic of Invention (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994).


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