Review of Performance, Ethics, and Spectatorship in a Global Age, Helena Grehan (Palgrave MacMillan, 2009)

Una Chaudhuri


Like the six works—four plays, a digital opera, and an installation—which Helena Grehan treats in this book, her own project here is deeply challenging (in all senses of that word), even daunting. Mirroring the complex dramaturgies and multiple, layered stylistics of the works she analyses, Grehan’s argument is intricate and deliberately difficult, not in the sense of being obfuscating or inaccessible but in the sense of modeling a rare level of toleration—even appreciation—of ambiguity and ambivalence. The willingness to remain present to deeply disturbing ideas and emotions is understood here as the central task of ethical spectatorship in the globalised present, and the book is a detailed demonstration of how certain contemporary works are constructed to engage their audiences in a process of experiencing and working through their conflicting responses to subjects of vast ethical and political import.


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