Performance and Place, Leslie Hill and Helen Paris (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006).

David Moody


It is a truism of post-modern culture that any sense we have of a local place is at risk of being replaced by the bland blend of globalised ‘placelessness’, with its super-brands of Coca Cola, Nike, The Gap, Starbucks etc. Performance and Place discusses the intersections between this broader cultural concept of place and the specific, literal spaces in which we enact our performances, whether they are theatres, galleries or warehouses. It is perhaps both ironic and indicative that in a book that centres on ‘place’, the strongest sense of a location I have after reading this book is of a keyboard and screen. Of course, this is exactly the point: in this new, digitalized culture, place is a proverbial moveable feast, and the body of the performer often a fast-disappearing trace on a computer monitor. Here Phillip Auslander’s important comment, cited here by the appropriately named Jennifer Parker-Starbuck, that ‘the general response of live performance to the oppression and economic superiority of mediated forms has been to become as much like them as possible’ (166) is particularly apt. These performances adapt the tools of global disappearance or ‘placelessness’ to re-inscribe specific, if ephemeral, bodies and locations; sites of human dialogue, resistance and survival. However, I must say, when Parker-Starbuck asks in the title of her contribution to this book, whether we are ‘Lost in Space?’ (155), this book has not filled me with the confidence to answer in the negative.


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