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Ekphrasis

NOTES TOWARD A THESIS ON THEATRE AND MEMORY

Michael PAGE


Abstract:

This essay initiates an enquiry into theatre as an action of memory. From a consideration of Foucault’s concept of heterotopic spaces it moves to a review of the imaginary spaces of classical mnemonic techniques and theories, and thence to their incorporation into the mystery and morality plays of the Middle Ages. From there it goes on to engage with the imaginary spaces of the Renaissance, known as Memory Theatres, as well as the physical space of the actual theatres of the Elizabethan period. It then seeks to discover some ways in which these conceptions of space and memory are reinvented in 20th century and contemporary European theatre in the work of Beckett and Kantor, and finally in the reappearance of memory through the image in the work of contemporary eastern European playwrights and directors. Here the discussion focuses particularly on some recent productions at the Hungarian National Theatre in Cluj, which to this writer strongly suggest that the work of some contemporary Romanian and Hungarian directors implicitly acknowledges that theatre is, in some of its forms at least, a reification of memory images in space.

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