Stage Presence, Jane Goodall (London: Routledge, 2008).

Veronica Kelly


Does stage presence derive from technique or mystique? And how might we talk about the ‘electrifying’ or ‘mesmerising’ effects of the ‘charismatic’ performer without – as I have just done – reaching for metaphoric descriptions from realms of science, pseudo-science or the supernatural? Goodall’s study of the ‘presence’ of such performers who possess it (since not all do) starts and ends with the complementary powers of both audience and language to act as ‘co-present’ with the performer: to produce or receive the energies which can be seen variously as sucked inwards by the performer (the vampirising inflection of the occult model) or else radiating from the performer to galvanise the audience (scientific model). In a sense, the audience is this book’s other main player.

Whether the audience seen as is discharging or attracting the shamanic energies of performance, its co-creation of performer presence, along with its own considerable powers – responsiveness, volatility and an ever-present feral social danger – are read as essential for the manifestation of presence. In this study the crackle of performance ‘electricity’ is not treated as dismissible, or indeed even explicable through deflationary psychologies of mass audience delirium or self-hypnosis. Rather the focus is on the performer herself. How does s/he actually do it, and at what cost? How do technique and mystique together co-create the magic of presence?

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Roach, Joseph, It (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2007).

Taylor, Diana, The Archive and the Repertoire: Performing Cultural Memory in the Americas (Durham: Duke University Press, 2003).


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