Review of To Watch Theatre: Essays on Genre and Corporeality by Rachel Fensham
Contemporary Theatre Review
URL with Digital Object Identifier
Rachel's Fensham's To Watch Theatre claims at its outset to be ‘about watching, specifically about watching theatre as an embodied activity’ (p. 11). This line – the book's first – sets the tone for the pages that follow, in which Fensham elaborates readings of four very different theatrical performances through the lenses of a number of cultural theories. Fensham's goal is an ethics of spectatorial engagement: ‘To watch theatre,’ she posits, ‘implies a responsibility not to the text, nor to the institution, but to the observance of what matters in the human subject and their [sic] relations with the world’ (p. 11). It is this focus on the ethics of performance – on her own ethical engagements with the productions under scrutiny here; on the ethics of the theatre-makers whose work she analyses; and on the ethics of the performance, cultural and psychoanalytic theories with which she works – that best characterizes Fensham's book. Both watching in a more literal sense – that is, in the sense of audience theory or spectator-response criticism – and genre studies (also promised in Fensham's title) ultimately take a back seat to questions of what performance does and does not demand of human witnesses in the so-called global age.