'On collaboration between spectator and performer in improvised performance: A study of the conflict between resistance and meaning'

Rea Dennis

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review


Reception in contemporary and movement based performance is complex relationship that shifts and changes through time and space between audience and performer. As an improviser I have found that insinuating the narrative into the performed work represents a kind of resistance by the artist to yielding fully to what emerges between them in live action and the spectator. The desire to maximise or direct the meaning making for an audience can obscure the essential mystery of the live encounter. This paper seeks to explore such reception as a kind of collaboration. Jacques Ranciere states "there is no theatre without spectators". In his critique of theatre from the point of view of the contemporary spectator he promotes spectatorship as akin to transformation. Taking the performance as research project Train Tracks and Rooftops as a site of collaboration this paper engages with Ranciere's proposition alongside that of Forced Entertainment's Tim Etchells, who also reflects on the mystery of the dramaturgical encounter for both artist and audience member. He claims that collaboration in the theatre is not a “perfect understanding” of the other, rather it is “a mis-seeing, a mis-hearing, a deliberate lack of unity.” These dissonances, he claims, compel the momentum of creative force within a devising group. In his efforts to give an account of what then occurs on stage between and among the creators he says, “what we see is not all one thing either - but rather a collision of fragments that mis-see and mis-hear each other.” (p.29). This provocations seeks to explore the intersection between performer and spectator and the collaborative acts of resistance and productions of meaning within devising practice and within live performance.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationN/A
Publication statusUnpublished - 1 Jan 1990
Event Theatre and Performance Research Association Conference - Cardiff School of Creative and Cultural Industries
Duration: 7 Sept 20109 Sept 2010


Conference Theatre and Performance Research Association Conference


  • autobiographical performance
  • devising and embodiment
  • collaborative dramaturgy


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