Last Updated 17 Jun 2020

Drama Theatre Performance: Postmodernism and Theatre Performance

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Postmodernism was a movement that began in the 1960s that affected all forms of art and literature of that time period. Postmodernism followed modernism and it sought to challenge the ideas and values of modernistic theatre, modernism was formed to shake up theatre, introducing new theories of science and technology to explain the world, whereas postmodern theatre raises more questions than supplying the answers for the audience. Modernism created a ‘grand-narrative’ whereby there was only one meaning which would be told to the audience.

Postmodernism broke down the ‘grand-narrative’ when Jean-Francois Lyotard wrote La Condition postmoderne: Rapport sur le savoir (The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge) (1979), he came up with the idea of micro-narrative which allows the audience to come up with many meanings. Lyotard felt that as science and technology developed so did human understanding. As understanding increased people began questioning everything that they had been previously told such as society, politics and religion.

We no longer have recourse to grand narratives.... But as we have seen, the little narrative remains the quintessential form of imaginative invention.... In addition, the principle of consensus as a criterion of validation seems to be inadequate. It has two formulations. In the first, consensus is an agreement between men, defined as knowing intellects and free wills, and is obtained through dialogue. This is the form elaborated by Habermas, but his conception is based on the validity of the narrative of emancipation.

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In the second, consensus is a component of the system, which manipulates it in order to maintain and improve its performance. Franko B is a performance artist who uses his own body as art. He uses his body as a canvas to portray feelings such as vulnerability, love, hate and power he also attempts to portray the fears of human condition. His shows are controversial and have been questioned as to whether it is art and as to why the arts council are funding his projects.

The arts council responded to this by saying “But it is important that we do fund a range of things, including things that are challenging do stretch the boundaries, and fund some things which from time to time will shock and offend people. That's what art's about. ” Franko B performance relates to postmodernism as he creates a performance that allows the audience to think for themselves, he does this by not using any form of language as well as not allowing any form of connection with the audience for example in one of is shows he stood on stage naked in a Christ-like pose with blood pouring from his wrists and feet, whilst walking up and down a catwalk while bleeding from his arms. In doing something controversial like this, he makes the audience ask why he is doing this, many of them see it as abnormal. Managing to get the audience to question what he is doing he is making them question social constructions and is breaking the conventions by doing so.

Although walking around naked and bleeding is already seen as controversial he also uses the environment of a cat walk for his piece, it is typically known as place where beauty is observed and admired, what we are observing is it beauty? That is what Franko B wants you to think about, he aims to break the wall of social constructions, making beauty and suffering become one. "He is internationally acclaimed and has performed across the world. His repertoire mixes both visual art and live performance art and he would say his work is about beauty, with his body as the canvas and his blood as the material.

I find Franko B shows strangely fascinating but hard to watch as what he is doing in the shows is grotesque and abnormal but as this is the method he uses to get his audience to question what is normal and to get the audience to look at things in a different way to how you would normally look at things, I watched several of his art instalments on you tube to try and understand what he tries to portray to his audiences the one that struck me the most was one titled I’m thinking of you, I found this intriguing as Franko B is sat on a swing naked swinging back and forth to calming idyllic music I find this fascinating as while I’m watching all I am thinking about is how it reminds me of innocence yet it’s a large tattooed naked man on a swing.

Forced entertainment are an experimental theatre company that formed in Sheffield in the 1980s at the height of the postmodernist movement, they use forms of culture and their surroundings to ask necessary questions to engage communities. They have created many shows over the past 25 years and throughout these years have come up with the artistic policy that there shows will make art that explores the highs and lows of complexities of contemporary life.

An example of one of their compelling and provocative shows is the club of no regrets, the main character Helen, gives direction to two other performers to enact series of small stories whilst their inside a tiny box, there are two other performers who act as brutal stagehands or even captors, they either smooth the progress or hinder these enactments. The two performers who act as stagehands bound the first two performers to chairs whilst threatening them with toy guns, they also assist the first two by bringing them texts and props they may need in the performance. The scenes are replayed many times as though Helen is unsure of what order they should go in.

The scenes then become more violent and chaotic using further text and a confused narration of Helens stories which she calls club of no regrets. I feel this relates to postmodern theatre as in showing a story in so many different ways it is breaking down the ‘grand- narrative’ and creating many micro- narratives which allows the audience to come up with their own understanding and meaning. “In turn, the audience are liberated by the freedom that the “maker” has in creating the show. In watching Forced Entertainment productions, we found ourselves without any expectations about the show, nor hope for any feeling of closure and satisfaction from it.

Instead we watched with a more open mind, prepared to digest and consider anything that the show ‘threw at us’, so to speak. ” I find Forced Entertainments work very interesting as I feel each piece they do is completely different and makes you want to question what you are watching. Although some of their work isn’t as interesting for example the instalment of the institute of failure which was someone reading a list of things that constitute of failure and then a essay on examples of failure in the media and advertisement industry. Although I did not find the piece entertaining or that interesting in the beginning after I had watched it I realised that I was thinking about what had been said and thinking of things that constitute failure.

Whilst doing research into postmodern theatre I have found many strange and interesting theatre groups and performers, Franko B and Forced Entertainment just being some of them although I feel that they were the most interesting as they were one of the most controversial acts that I found. I think the main reason I found these attributes of postmodernism interesting is that they make the audience question what they are watching instead of simply being told what to like, as well I find that as the performers work is aimed at getting you to think about what is happening on stage it breaks the ‘grand-narrative’ in general life as it sets of a domino effect and you begin to question other things.

Bibliography

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/music/1976059.stm

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Drama Theatre Performance: Postmodernism and Theatre Performance. (2017, Mar 26). Retrieved from https://phdessay.com/drama-theatre-performance-postmodernism-and-theatre-performance/

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