Published online by Cambridge University Press: 20 January 2021
Chapter 7: This chapter looks at two recent performances, Arinzé Kene’s Misty (2018) and Neil Bartlett’s The Plague (2017), which depict cities under siege. Contagions, figurative and literal, spread among residents, destroying lives and tearing the fabric of the urban environment. In both productions the city is at war with itself, via the circulation of disease that passes between infrastructure and people. Focusing on these plays and their productions, this chapter explores how ideas of contagion are deployed to capture a sense of intangible danger spreading throughout the city, especially London, and how this formulation finds impetus in contemporary discourse that mobilizes the risk of economic, cultural, and political contagion as part of a divisive rhetoric. The chapter also considers how we might understand these forms of representation and discourse in light of the prevalence of ‘pathogenic performativity’, in which the language and phantasmagoria of contagion are deployed as tactics of governance, with theatre enabling its exposure or perpetuation.