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  • Cited by 6
Cambridge University Press
Online publication date:
December 2018
Print publication year:
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Book description

Theatre is often said to offer unique insights into the nature of reality, but this obscures the reality of theatre itself. In Real Theatre, Paul Rae takes a joined-up approach to the realities of theatre to explain why performances take the forms they do, and what effects they have. Drawing on examples ranging from Phantom of the Opera and Danny Boyle's Frankenstein, to the performances of the Wooster Group and arthouse director Tsai Ming-liang, he shows how apparently discrete theatrical events emerge from dynamic and often unpredictable social, technical and institutional assemblages. These events then enter a process of cultural circulation that, as Rae explains, takes many forms: fleeting conversations, the mercurial careers of theatrical characters and the composite personae of actors, and high-profile products like the Hollywood movie Birdman. The result is a real theatre that speaks of, and to, the idiosyncratic and cumulative experience of every theatre participant.


'Real Theatre is an elegant and entertaining read that makes a major contribution to debates around the realities of making - and watching - theatre. This is a book characterized by its willingness to engage seriously with the mass cultural forms of theatre that are so often overlooked by scholars, offering an analysis of the sophisticated ways in which audiences consume performance. A genuinely original and energetic approach to how we might conceptualise the theatre event, this book is a humane and richly insightful account of the peculiar realities that comprise theatrical performance.'

Aoife Monks - Queen Mary University of London

‘It is the great strength and joy of Real Theatre that it recognizes that, whenever it comes to the matter of theatre, and sometimes most illuminatingly when it doesn’t, that thing is forever and everywhere decidedly ‘only theatre’ and, as such, absolutely essential.’

Alan Read Source: Modern Drama

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  • Chapter 6 - Infratheatre
    pp 158-180
  • What Theatre Is When It’s Not Quite Theatre


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