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About this book

With a Foreword by Dan Rebellato, this book offers up a detailed exploration of Scottish playwright David Greig’s work with particular attention to globalization, ethics, and the spectator. It makes the argument that Greig’s theatre works by undoing, cracking, or breaking apart myriad elements to reveal the holed, porous nature of all things. Starting with a discussion of Greig’s engagement with shamanism and arguing for holed theatre as a response to globalization, for Greig’s works’ politics of aesthethics, and for the holed spectator as part of an affective ecology of transfers, this book discusses some of Greig’s most representative political theatre from Europe (1994) to The Events (2013), concluding with an exploration of Greig’s theatre’s world-forming quality.

Table of Contents


Chapter 1. Introduction: A Shamanic Semionaut

The chapter begins by highlighting the relevance of the spiritual in David Greig’s work via a discussion of Greig’s creative engagement with shamanism. It coins the notion of the “shamanic semionaut” to describe the playwright (the second term, “semionaut”, is borrowed from Nicolas Bourriaud). Rodríguez subsequently introduces the playwright’s life and work from the beginning of his career to the present. The chapter argues that in his work, Greig is interested in the scenes from the world. Since conjuring up the scenes from the world in ethical ways in a play is no easy task, Greig’s plays importantly resort to the dialectical method. Theodor W. Adorno and poet W.S. Graham help the book approach Greig’s nuanced understanding of dialectics. The chapter finally introduces the ideas of holes and holed theatre and presents the reader with the book’s structure.
Verónica Rodríguez

Chapter 2. Holed Theatre as Response to Globalization

The chapter begins with a discussion of the connection between the concepts of neoliberalism and globalization. It then situates the concept of globalization within the contemporary while acknowledging the links with processes such as colonisation. The chapter deploys David Harvey’s theory of space, Zygmunt Bauman’s notion of negative globalization and Jean-Luc Nancy’s idea of mondialisation in order to introduce Greig’s theatre’s nuanced understanding of globalization. Exploring first the notions of “cosmo(s)politanism”, internationalism, the local and nationalism in relation to Greig’s work, the chapter finally moves on to exploring its main thesis—holed theatre as a response to globalization. Drawing attention to globalization’s championing of individualism and objecthood, Rodríguez argues that instances of undone time, space, character and narrative—which define holed theatre—in Greig’s theatre pursue a critique of globalization’s ills.
Verónica Rodríguez

Chapter 3. From Ethics to the Politics of Aesthethics

The chapter begins by exploring some of the shortcomings of Levinasian ethics by highlighting its suspicion of aesthetics, the emphasis it places on pre-ontological ethics, the required proximity of the “face” of the Other and the limitations attached to the obliteration of the Self. As the chapter discusses these shortcomings, it progressively introduces Greig’s theatre engagement with ethics. Subsequently, Rodríguez offers a discussion of ethics and aesthetics by reference to Nicolas Bourriaud’s notion of relational aesthetics as well as Clare Bishop’s critique of the term, alongside her suspicion of the ethical turn, shared with philosophers Jacques Rancière and Slavoj Žižek. Aesthethics, a term Rodríguez borrows from Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe, is then used to describe Greig’s theatre’s interrelation with “reality” and what Rodríguez calls the wounded aesthetic strategies of Greig’s theatre. The potential impact of those strategies is what Rodríguez terms the politics of aesthethics of Greig’s holed theatre.
Verónica Rodríguez

Chapter 4. Affect and the Holed Spectator: Ecology of Transfers

The chapter initially traces the different ways in which we can look at the topic of David Greig’s theatre and spectatorship including Greig’s Brechtian engagement, Greig’s interest in involving actors and local so-called real people in shows, Greig’s ideas on the connection between the work produced and the expected audience of that work, Greig’s special attachment to Scottish audiences, his interest in young audiences and his experiments in social media. Using affect theory, the chapter defines the term holed spectator and situates this figure in an ecology of transfers which includes the playwright, the plays, the staging of the plays and the world itself, unveiling a dance across holed entities. Greig understands this dance as a set of transfers between zāhir (the concrete) and bātin (the inconcrete), which might eventually illuminate the inexistent as part of the real.
Verónica Rodríguez

Chapter 5. Europe: Globalization’s Inferiors

The chapter looks at David Greig’s Europe (Traverse, 1994), which is argued to visualise the lives (and deaths) of globalization’s inferiors, described by Zygmunt Bauman as those on the move (who seek dignity) and the locals. Defining confounding as the uncertain sensation produced as a result of the unmarking of contours of categories, elements, concepts, etc., the chapter argues that Europe uses (at least) two kinds of confounding simultaneously: a confounding of elements (time and setting, chorus, narrative and images) and a confounding of concepts (Europe, identity, perpetrators and victims, and home, borders and exile). This multi-layered architecture of confounding discloses those concepts and elements as holed and reveals an idea of Europe as aporia and as a work in progress.
Verónica Rodríguez

Chapter 6. The Architect: Blowing up Architectures of Power

Verticality, the concept that underlies the chapter’s analysis of The Architect (Traverse, 1996) is explored in this chapter from three angles. Firstly, verticality is related to the “rigidity” of city spaces, which “elegantly” execute separation, exclusion and invisibility. Secondly, verticality is addressed in relation to a kind of subject position that denotes individuality, apparent self-sufficiency and enclosure. Thirdly, verticality is also analysed in connection with the play’s formal features and its treatment of space. The main argument is that the play undoes all these senses of verticality in order to arguably blow up—tear holes in—constricted architectures of power, a process that culminates at the end of the play with the incident whereby Leo commits suicide inside one of Eden Court’s flats—actually Sheena’s—as it is detonated by the local authorities.
Verónica Rodríguez

Chapter 7. The Cosmonaut’s Last Message to the Woman He Once Loved in the Former Soviet Union: “All This Fucking Beautiful Stuff”

The chapter initially unveils the intricacies of The Cosmonaut’s Last Message to the Woman He Once Loved in the Former Soviet Union’s (Ustinov Studio, 1999) intriguing title by way of introduction. Unpacking the two conceits this play departs from (it had to bounce from space to Earth like a satellite signal and include all the places the playwright had been to recently), whereby both a dialectic between above and below and a sense of across emerge (verticality and horizontality), the chapter argues that while the play conveys this perpendicular axis, it also drills holes in its twofold rigid dialectical structure. The play gradually undoes its inbuilt spatial patterns in order to suggest the need for more interconnected ways of “being-with” (Nancy), which culminates in the space module’s explosion. The chapter concludes that apparently distinct spatial realms are collapsed “globally” into one, providing a poetic glimpse of “All this fucking beautiful stuff”.
Verónica Rodríguez

Chapter 8. San Diego: Stitching Up the Globe

The chapter introduces some of San Diego’s (2003, Royal Lyceum Edinburgh) most relevant themes including the aerial age, global mobilities, precarity and disease and briefly unpacks the signifier “San Diego”. It then argues that what really captures David Greig’s imagination in San Diego, which crucially includes the author’s alter ego as character, is the idea that the entire globe is “our town”, and that is the concept he attempts to make “real” in San Diego, both by questioning who is included or not in the “our” and what that “town” comprises. The chapter’s argument is that San Diego painfully and beautifully stitches up the globe through a series of aesthetic strategies that illuminate the globe dwellers’ lives as thoroughly interconnected. Stitching-up formally articulates the idea that “our town” is indeed the whole globe as one single space.
Verónica Rodríguez

Chapter 9. The American Pilot: A Precarious Restoration to “the Real”

The American Pilot (The Other Place, 2005) brings together an injured American Pilot and the inhabitants of an area perhaps in Afghanistan mired in conflict in order to critique the monopoly of the sky, of stories, of meaning, of images, in sum, of power, by the US and ethically confer a portion of those “qualities” to the derealised subjects of globalization. The chapter argues that the play confronts the spectator with an “animated” presence that highlights meaning and existence (undoing of entrapment), audibility (monologues) and visibility (entire cast on stage throughout). By interrogating the villagers’ entrapment (through disturbing American hegemony via a number of counterbalancing strategies) and by aesthethically undermining their state of “unreality” (through a resistant treatment of structure and actors on stage), The American Pilot cracks open the social circuit of affect and restores precariously, theatrically and momentarily the villagers to “the real”.
Verónica Rodríguez

Chapter 10. Damascus: Trouma

The chapter applies the notion of trouma (combination of hole in French—trou—and trauma), borrowed from Jacques Lacan via Hal Foster’s The Return of the Real: Art and Theory at the End of the Century (1996) to the playwright/Paul, Zakaria, Elena and the stage direction “news images of the current situation” in order to examine how trous, connected to the traumatic under globalization, render time, location and characters collapse into a sense of holed world, of “here” in Damascus (Traverse, 2007). I use trouma because when one looks at trauma, the multifarious concept reveals a traversed dimension, because trauma is indeed defined by a holed experience or an experience that metaphorically tears a hole (or holes) and to call attention to the traumatic across art and life.
Verónica Rodríguez

Chapter 11. Fragile: Sharing Doing and Spatial Transcorporeality

Fragile (Southwark Playhouse, 2011), part of the project Theatre Uncut, is a short protest play about (threats of) suicide by young men as a form of protest in the context of “austerity Britain” (2010–) and the Arab Spring (2010–2012). In this duologue, while Jack is performed by an actor, Caroline is performed by the audience, who is asked to read her lines on a PowerPoint projection since the cuts to public spending have made it impossible to hire a second actor. In this way, an entrenched characteristic of the contemporary globalised world, which the play deals with thematically—precarity—takes over the play’s form, connecting both. The chapter argues that Greig interweaves these political events in order to put forward a sense of global fragility, which Fragile masterfully illustrates through what Rodríguez calls “sharing doing” and “spatial transcorporeality”.
Verónica Rodríguez

Chapter 12. The Events: Confounding Spacecraft—Here

The chapter’s argument is that several elements in The Events—primarily characters, space-time and story/structure—are both carefully laid out as bounded categories and undone to produce complex confounding—hence the reference in this chapter’s title to a confounding “spacecraft” (a word used in The Events). “Bounded categories” refer to dramatic structures that are enclosed, rounded or contained. “Confounding” is the result of the undoing of the contours of categories. When these categories appear as holed, they are responding to globalization’s individualisation imperative. This confounded atmosphere is intensified by a profound dialectical interplay. Ultimately, a compelling sense of “here” emerges that might be ethically transferred on to the confounded spectator and perhaps the world.
Verónica Rodríguez

Chapter 13. Conclusion: World-Forming Theatre

After offering the most comprehensive description of holed theatre in this book, this chapter looks at some of the mutating continuities throughout the plays analysed in the book, such as the ideas of undoing architectures, the role of outsiders and “outsidedness” and the status of women across Greig’s work. The chapter looks at the small acts of utopian reconstitution posited in Greig’s work as precarious recompositions and plays as an attempt to conjure “here” in the shamanic sense, theatre as a traversed world, and the world as a place where we are “unchosen multiple together” (Judith Butler and Jean-Luc Nancy). Greig’s theatre is holed; it is a theatre that happens in this and no other world, a world that we have the responsibility to shape.
Verónica Rodríguez


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