Chasing the Ellipses: Staging Howard Barker’s The Forty (Few Words)

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In this article, the author presents a reflection on the practice of directing the first performances of a Barker text, The Forty (Few Words), for performance by final year undergraduates. He includes exclusive interview material with Barker, from a dialogue undertaken after a public performance of the production, and acknowledges the importance of the informing principles of Marshall in working towards an appropriate, consecutive staging of 40 short plays. The author develops the recent important observations of Thomas Freeland on the elliptical qualities of Barker's work, which have previously been noted as a principal characteristic. The author concludes with correspondence material from Barker; by looking forward to ways in which future production work on The Forty might provide important training opportunities for directors, performers and scenographers, as well as unique theatrical events; and by anticipating the prospect of this first production of the text, in an academic context, informing future professional practice.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)285-304
Number of pages20
JournalStudies in Theatre and Performance
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2012


  • Ellipsis
  • Gesture
  • Howard barker
  • Lorna marshall
  • Stylization
  • The forty (few words)
  • Thomas freeland


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