Latest journal: Volume 25, Issue 2

This issue is available on Taylor & Francis Online:

25.2 cover - Sophie Cleary, Charlotte De Bruyne, Valentijn Dhaenens, and Angelo Tijssens in Ontroerend Goed's Fight Night (2013). Photography by Reinout Hiel, courtesy of Ontroerend Goed.

Cover image: Sophie Cleary, Charlotte De Bruyne, Valentijn Dhaenens, and Angelo Tijssens in Ontroerend Goed’s Fight Night (2013). Photography by Reinout Hiel, courtesy of Ontroerend Goed.

From the editorial by Stephen Bottoms:

Theatre is an affair of the State. I would say that, being at ease with princes and having been founded in the regime of democracy on the agora, theatre is now indecisive, or hurting – not because of the reign of television, as people pretend, but due to the essential lack of politics in which the electoral process is resolved.

– Alain Badiou, Rhapsody for the Theatre, trans. by Bruno Bosteels (London: Verso, 2013), p. 15.

This edition of Contemporary Theatre Review is timed to coincide with the UK General Election of May 2015. It deals in part with theatre about electoral politics, but also seeks to take seriously the analogical relationship proposed by Badiou (of which more shortly) by treating electoral politics as a kind of theatre. As Stephen Coleman observes in his framing essay, ‘Elections as Storytelling Contests’, there are essentially three groups of performers involved in a contemporary democratic election – the politicians seeking our votes, the media commentators who seek to ‘referee’ the politicians and editorialise their narratives for popular consumption, and finally the electors themselves. Customarily positioned simply as ‘passive’ spectators to the drama of politics, voters are called upon at election times to become participants – to act, albeit on a tightly circumscribed platform – in order that the existing political dispensation can continue to affirm its underlying legitimacy.

It might thus be simplest to position this edition in terms of a performance studies paradigm – one which extends theatrical metaphors in order to analyse other dimensions of life (in this case, elections) ‘as’ performance. All too often, however, performance studies thinking betrays the promise of its own interdisciplinarity, by simply providing license for theatre-trained scholars to wander roughshod into adjacent disciplinary territory, without consulting the existing inhabitants. This edition attempts something different, insofar as it extends directly from a collaborative research process initiated by a social scientist – the aforementioned Stephen Coleman, who is Professor of Political Communication at the University of Leeds. A former psephologist, Coleman’s disaffection with opinion polling is rooted in the awareness that polls provide only statistical data in response to pre-set questions. They do not tell us why people feel as they do about those questions. Nor, just as importantly, do they interrogate the terms of the questions themselves – questions which are usually designed to furnish the political classes with raw data, ‘intelligence’ on which to base their strategies, more than they are to render the electorate intelligible.

[read more]

Special Issue: Electoral Theatre

Guest editors: Stephen Bottoms and Brenda Hollweg


Notes on Contributors
pages 159-160

Editorial: Electoral Theatre
Stephen Bottoms
pages 161-165


Elections as Storytelling Contests
Stephen Coleman
pages 166-176

Political Sensibilities, Affect, and the Performative Space of Voting
Brenda Hollweg
pages 177-189

Staging the Democratic Deficit: Or, Three Uses of the Interview
Steve Bottoms
pages 190-204

Hailing the Citizen: A Note on Politics and Audio–Visual Form
John Corner
pages 205-215

Beyond the Zero-Sum Game: Participation and the Optics of Opting
James Frieze
pages 216-229

Affective Geographies of the Ballot Box
Helen Nicholson
pages 230-241


Early Days: Reflections on the Performance of a Referendum
Laura Bissell & David Overend
pages 242-250

John, Antonio and Nancy
Tim Crouch
pages 251-254

Of Spin Doctors, Whips, and Choristers: An Interview with Vincent Franklin
Stephen Bottoms
pages 255-260


Performance in the Blockades of Neoliberalism: Thinking the Political Anew, by Maurya Wickstrom
Broderick D. V. Chow
pages 261-262

DMZ Crossing: Performing Emotional Citizenship along the Korean Border, by Suk-Young Kim
Jungmin Song
pages 262-263

A State of Play: British Politics on Screen, Stage and Page, from Anthony Trollope to The Thick of It, by Steven Fielding
John Bull
pages 263-265

To Bodies Gone: The Theatre of Peter Gill, by Barney Norris
Colin Chambers
pages 265-266

Affective Performance and Cognitive Science: Body, Brain and Being, edited by Nicola Shaughnessy
Phillip Zarrilli
pages 266-268

Not Magic but Work: An Ethnographic Account of a Rehearsal Process, by Gay McAuley
Alex Mermikides
pages 268-269

Always More Than One: Individuation’s Dance, by Erin Manning
Arabella Stanger
pages 269-270

The Ghosts of the Avant-garde(s): Exorcising Experimental Theater and Performance, by James M. Harding
Jacob Gallagher-Ross
pages 270-272

pages 273-291

pages 292-294

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