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Damocles and the Plucked: Audience Participation and Risk in Half Cut

Alston, A (2012) Damocles and the Plucked: Audience Participation and Risk in Half Cut Contemporary Theatre Review, 22 (3). pp. 344-354.

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This article looks to identify a political mode of audience engagement in the ‘one-on-one’ performance, Half Cut. In response to recent economic turbulence in the UK and abroad, I draw on Hans-Thies Lehmann’s appeal for an ‘aesthetics of risk’ in the theatre: an aesthetics which I suggest might begin at the level of audience reception. This marks a turn away from the more prevalent application of risk to artistic production. Couched in the sociological context of Ulrich Beck’s ‘risk society’, I compare risk-taking in contemporary financial markets with the apparently trivial and seemingly ‘risky’ act of paying to pluck a single hair from another’s body as a participant in Half Cut. I consider how affective responses such as embarrassment and awkwardness in one-on-one theatre (which might be felt as ‘risks’) function either as something masochistically consumed within the experience industry, or as positive values subversively premised on loss – such as loss of dignity and self-assuredness – provided that risk is not something passively submitted to, but actively committed to. The argument centres on an economically defined power dynamic operating between performer and participant, paying close attention to how the successful operation of this dynamic within the aesthetic space of Half Cut might lift an otherwise fetishised relationship into something felt through affectation. I suggest that a triadic relationship between risk, agency and responsibility – which is perhaps broken in financial markets – is forged through a ‘dialogic intimacy’ between performer and participant, opening space for a radical engagement with risk beginning at the level of an existential queasiness.

Item Type: Article
Divisions : Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences > School of Arts > Dance, Film and Theatre
Authors :
Date : 20 August 2012
Identification Number : 10.1080/10486801.2012.690742
Uncontrolled Keywords : One-on-one theatre, Half Cut, Theatre Delicatessen, Aesthetics of risk, Politics of participation, audience participation
Related URLs :
Additional Information : This is an electronic version of an article published as Alston A (2012). Damocles and the Plucked: Audience Participation and Risk in Half Cut. Contemporary Theatre Review 22(3):344-354 Available online at: 10.1080/10486801.2012.690742
Depositing User : Symplectic Elements
Date Deposited : 09 Dec 2013 20:07
Last Modified : 09 Jun 2014 13:48

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