Abstracts for Week 10
Interpreting between privacies: place and space in Brian Friel’s Translations.
According to Vimala Herman’s theory, to view theatrical space as a continuum rather than a binary on-stage/off-stage construct redefines the dramatic space which constitutes the fictional play-world as an aspect of theatrical space – that which is “presupposed by a play and which is realised anew by each performance within the bounds of its unique space-time structure”. On-stage space and off-stage space become, respectively, the theatrical space within and the theatrical space without; both “belong to the same universe and form a continuum”. A continuum of theatrical space is, therefore, the overall stage event, which includes the audience, and which forms the deictic context of the play. What is most significant in Herman’s reading, however, is that, given that there is no longer a verbal/visual divide in place when considering theatrical space, “the primary point of reference for deictic referencing” is the corporeal speaker who gives voice to a dramatic text and thereby brings the continuum of theatrical space into being.
With this in mind, what this paper aims to do is to consider the way in which Friel explores the relationship between place and space in his play Translations through an interrogation of the power of the acting body – or rather a body capable of producing meaningful sound – to transform place into space and vice versa. Concentrating in particular on the relationship between Maire and Yolland, the paper will assert that to view Translations as that which takes place within a continuum of theatrical space is to reveal it as a play in which power exists in the liminal, transformative, mediatory zone between place and space; as a play in which to misunderstand or to be misunderstood is to jeopardise realities.
Deconstructing Samuel Beckett’s Not I
Samuel Beckett wrote, Not I, in English in 1972, and according to James Knowlson, he was conscious that it was ‘on the very edge of what was possible in the theatre’. This paper argues, that while the mise en scène of the play ‘announces the limit of representation’, in a similar way to how Jacques Derrida argues Antonin Artaud’s Theatre of Cruelty does, engaging in the textuality of the text, reveals a paradox, raising the question whether Beckett was, in Derrida’s words about Edmund Husserl, ‘able to break so completely with presuppositions which – in one form or another – have dominated the whole of Western intellectual tradition’.
The first section examines the central role of the stage directions in dramatizing Mouth, the play’s protagonist at the limits of representation, at the border crossing of a ‘theatre of representation’, and a ‘theatre of life’. ‘Life’ here is Derrida’s term, ‘the nonrepresentable origin of representation’, which ‘carries man along with it but is not primarily the life of man’. ‘Representation’, ‘describes man and what he does’, what Derrida terms, ‘the humanist limit – of the metaphysics of classical theater’. The second section explores the aporia of Mouth, as firstly, a stage image, secondly as a character and finally as the real mouth of the actress. The textuality of the text will be explored to reveal what Christopher Norris terms ‘blind-spots of metaphor’, which have a disruptive effect on Beckett’s attempt to bring a close to representation.