Visuality in the Theatre: The Locus of Looking, Maaike Bleeker (Basingstoke, Palgrave MacMillian, 2008)

Peta Tait


Maaike Bleeker’s stimulating exploration of visuality in theatre is a welcome addition to performance studies theory. Bleeker provides a comprehensive summary of conceptual approaches to looking and seeing (or not) furthering these with her own thoughtful analysis. ‘Visuality’ is a slippery concept to encapsulate but Bleeker manages to make it accessible without losing the complexity. This is a book relevant to scholars and others and advanced students who wish to grapple with how to think about what is seen.

The book builds carefully from the claim that “visuality happens” and as a process that defies simple objectification. The fundamental starting point of the theatrical event is how to navigate gaps in reception. So too with theoretical investigations of how to bridge “the one seeing and what is seen” (2), and the discussion of these key issues is expressly philosophical. Since this extends to questioning assumptions about the positioning of the subject in theatrical (cultural) spaces, it does seem that once again the intricacies of thinking in performance studies are usefully productive for other disciplines.

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