Unseen Theatres

12:00, Sunday 9 May 2021 (30 minutes)

Martin Welton, Queen Mary University of London, UK

This paper will consider the role and experience of seeing in theatrical events that displace the centrality of visual appearances in their design, performance, and reception. Since antiquity, theatre has been commonly understood as ‘the place of seeing’. However, many recent performances have sought to deflect or reduce the primacy of sight, by giving increased attention to scenographic and dramaturgical contexts that afford auditory, haptic or kinaesthetic engagements. In this paper, I will give particular discussion to Flight by Darkfield, part of a trilogy of performances staged in shipping containers. Taking their seats in what appears to be the cabin of a passenger jet, the audience are plunged into complete darkness, and, through the use of hydraulics and spatial audio, seemingly moved through a surreal and nightmarish crash. While seeing might otherwise go without saying, by foregrounding the un-seen as both act and object, such performances readdress how we name and understand it.

Queen Mary University of London