Acting Out
: The Pleasures of Performance Horror

  • Madelon Hoedt

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    horror genre has always been a subject of fascination, both in popular culture and in academia, and its manifestations continue to inspire monographs and papers. These studies, however, often focus only on books and movies, whilst the genre encompasses much more: art, music, theatre and games, forms which have not had as much attention. The objective of the current discussion is to move beyond this limited tradition, instead engaging with performance, or live action, horror. This study begins with the premise that, because of its often immersive format, performance horror creates an intensity that is unique to this form. This uniqueness stems from the fact that the form is live and this type of horror thus creates a confrontation between audience and performance that cannot be replicated by books or film.
    The focus of this thesis, then, is in the analysis of this form and its elements and to identify how these work together to create a particular narrative. In order to adequately discuss performance horror, a theoretical framework is established in the introduction, aiming to bring together a wide variety of scholarship in order to pin down the specifics of the form and its features. As such, secondary reading provides a clear context for the work presented here. In addition, case studies of a number of productions are used to show how performance horror works in practice. These case studies are informed by close readings of both play scripts (where available) and marketing materials. Interviews with many of the creators were undertaken to gain insight into the underlying ideas and thought processes when staging these productions. Each of these tools helps to build a picture of the elements which influence the narrative of this form of horror, how they are translated into performance, and how they may impact an audience. Through this process, the thesis provides a new way of looking at this particular practice, as well as a means to approach the study of popular and immersive performance.
    Date of AwardJul 2014
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorDiana Wallace (Supervisor) & Richard Hand (Supervisor)

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