Published online by Cambridge University Press: 22 September 2009
What is the geography of capitalism?Neil Smith, Uneven Development (ⅹⅱ)
Written by an English author some four hundred years ago, Shakespeare's plays are part of a worldwide theatrical repertory, and so sustain a critical tension animating dramatic performativity today, the sense that classic plays can be successfully – meaningfully, forcefully–performed on the contemporary Western stage through performance forms drawn from traditions far beyond the original circumstances of Shakespeare's – or even Western – theatre. From Ariane Mnouchkine to Yukio Ninagawa to Umabatha: The Zulu Macbeth, Shakespearean performance raises an important question in the practice of contemporary theatre: what does the dramatic text contribute to the force of stage action? And it poses that inquiry in the idiom of an increasingly globalized performance culture, as a question of the (inter)cultural politics of theatrical representation. As opposed to a literary notion of the universality of Shakespearean writing – in which kathakali Othello is said to “work” because classical Indian dance drama somehow replicates the intrinsic dynamics of Shakespeare's play – a “performative” sense of dramatic theatre enables a sharper, dialectical reading of the ways in which different theatrical practices transform Shakespearean writing into action and acting, into meaningful behavior onstage. Shakespeare is an unusually prominent element of globalized theatre, at once the vehicle of an international theatrical avant-garde (Robert Wilson, Ariane Mnouchkine, Peter Brook, Peter Stein, Yukio Ninagawa, Tadashi Suzuki), of intercultural exchange (kathakali performances of King Lear and Othello), of global tourism (Shakespeare festivals worldwide), and of postcolonial critique (Césaire's A Tempest, Shakespeare Wallah).