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'Gender (and its experiments) and performance are merely another metaphor for the unknown' (Fiona Shaw in Goodman and de Gay (eds) 1998, xxv).

Extracts from this essay...

Introduction

'Gender (and its experiments) and performance are merely another metaphor for the unknown' (Fiona Shaw in Goodman and de Gay (eds) 1998, xxv). 'Gender' and 'performance' are both terms that are being defined and redefined constantly. Talking about them collectively broadens the scope of definition. This then suggests that they are indeed 'merely another metaphor for the unknown'. If there is no clear definition that may be challenged then it is correct to mark that term as unknown. Lizbeth Goodman (1993) writes that 'the most difficult thing about writing on feminist theatres is reaching a definition, or set of definitions, of the term 'feminist' with which both theorists and practitioners might agree.' The subject matter that is feminism is just a small category within the term gender. When we speak of gender the immediate response, from most, is to think about roles of men and women throughout history. This is a valid and popular talking point and therefore must be considered. Fiona Shaw challenged the typical role of women within 'classical' theatre and literature when she played Shakespeare's, King Richard the II at the National Theatre. This is a typical gender challenging production where she says she wanted: 'if not a female Richard, then a genderless one'. When looking at gender and performance together one must take what gender issues arise from a particular performance and investigate them separate to a fixed idea of gender.

Middle

They did their jobs for him with up most effort but once achieved expected to also 'play hard'. The next vision of a female in the performance was a woman prostitute. She came on, was ordered by Jesus to cry and clean his feet with her tears. She would then become be forgiven and blessed by him, this act as a performance was degrading to her character and yet erotic. The character playing Judas argued with Jesus that the 'whore did not deserve blessing' and was therefore an insignificant being to themselves. This was and still is a view held by most people, Luce Irigaray (1977) marks this as 'the logic of sameness', Counsell and Wolf quite rightly agree and say 'such systems typically deploy Woman symbolically as Man's "other",' The questions whether Berkoff by changing the roles of gender or pushing boundaries of gender rules would degrade or make a mockery of this so legendary story. It would, perhaps, seem inaccurate but also fitting, as religion should be an eternal subject that follows and is influenced by popular culture, the same as theatre. The only other image of Woman or even femininity is where Mary gives a soliloquy about the pureness of virginity and how Jesus would be 'pure' because she was untouched. She then moves on to describe the explicitness of when God came to her and impregnated her with Jesus.

Conclusion

The gender aspect will be vital in this grouping. Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler, is a play that can and has indeed attempted to combine performance and gender and ask questions of the unknown. A contemporary look on Woman that an audience cannot ignore and has to acknowledge but then it may be argued that all theatre should not have to ask these questions. That is true and theatre must by diverse and celebrate traditional theatre as it grows but watching clichéd performances of very old views on gender is something that must be reviewed as valuable but also outdated performance. Gender is something that is inherent in all theatre whether it is gender specific or not. Characters should be explored with changeable genders but also and more importantly with a more relaxed view on stereotypical views on 'male and female'. Feminist theatres, contemporary drag acts and some gay and lesbian theatre have produced different and exciting theatre concerning gender. Perhaps it shouldn't be just the struggling genders that attempt this. It is clear that performance and gender can be a metaphor for the unknown but it is also very clear that performance and gender can both be constants that can only be metaphors for what is known by all. The latter will soon be realised as unimaginable and basic. Helene Cixous (1975) also senses change: 'Nothing allows us to rule out possibilities of radical transformation of behaviours, mentalities, roles, political economy - whose effects on libidinal economy are unthinkable - today.

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