Review of ‘Dramaturgy and Architecture’, Juliet Rufford, ‘Modern Drama’ (2016) Vol. 59: Issue. 4: Pages. 519-522


‘The book’s six chapters are built around performance case studies that have been selected because of their “clearly identifiable relationship to architecture as a discipline and practice” (18). The case studies take us from 1890s Norway and the “cloud-castles” of Henrik Ibsen’s play The Master Builder; through the “dreams of order” and moments of “carnivalesque subversion” in early twentieth-century Garden City performances (59); to the “theatrical architectures” and architectural sets of 1920s Russian Constructivism (84); the orchestration of body, space and experience in the Bauhaus choreography of Oskar Schlemmer; the urban-activist tactics of the Lettrist International and the Situationist International; and, finally, to 1980s Wales, and the “collision” of as-found architectures with industrial-scale interventions in Clifford McLucas’s work with Brith Gof (187). Each chapter offers a fully contextualised and impressively interdisciplinary reading of how these artistic experiments “posit heterotopic, dystopic, or utopic architectures and multiple ways of living them” before considering a current “continuity” – that is, a contemporary project that develops and/or problematises the older approach to dramaturgy and architecture (197). Raised in Turner’s introduction, key questions about the relationship between dramatic and postdramatic theatres, about theatre’s function in the world, and about the particular purchase that dramaturgy and architecture might have on utopian thought surface in a number of European and non-European contexts. These questions are explored in relation to projects that straddle amateur dramatics and democracy; performance pedagogy, social ideology and the modelling of ‘ideal’ space; one-to-one performance and the individual’s position within the city; and, pedestrian performance as architecture school-style exercise or “charrette” (194).’

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