Performing ‘risk’: neoliberalization and contemporary performance
This dissertation examines the relation between ‘risk’ and ‘performance’ through analysis of examples of contemporary theatre and performance practice commissioned, developed and produced under the New Labour government. The project is multidisciplinary and materialist. It problematises constructions of risk in theatre and performance studies as either inhering in the identity of the artist, as a dynamic specific to genre or indeed a discipline-specific value. In view of the explosion of social scientific interest in ‘risk’ which gathered momentum in the early 1990s, it follows work by theorists of neoliberal governmentality, geography and cultural studies to suggest that a more productive and historically specific treatment of the concept is one informed by political economy. Neoliberal policy rejects the welfare state’s collectivisation of risk and characteristically redistributes risk to individual, entrepreneurialised subjects. New Labour, seeking to produce ‘inclusion’, has deployed a managerial cultural policy in the service of this aim, the chief concerns of which are the ‘ethical training’ of social subjects and the economic regeneration of post- industrial sites. I analyse closely the mediation of four figures of contemporary political economic concern in theatre and performance: the asylum seeker, the young person ‘at risk’, the sex worker and the entrepreneur. On the basis of these analyses, I make two key claims. Firstly, that culture’s supplementary role to the state manifests in these works in a preoccupation with ‘value’. Secondly, that their strategies of, or concerns with aesthetic realism and immersion correlate to the delegation of risk to individuals imagined to operate in a ‘community’ space. The necessary implication of social subjects not in unproblematically communal relations but in systems of production and exchange will burst through in performance in the form of theatricality – a cognizance not of an immersive ‘community’ space, but of agonistic, dialectical relations.
- Theses