Emptiness as material for devised theatre performance

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The article examines the ways in which failure operated in the devising process with a colleague with learning disabilities. Themes of collaboration, co-creativity and power relations are set within the account of a process between the author and a research participant with learning and physical disabilities. The postdramatic device of failure within theatrical performance is set against the predicament that a person with learning disabilities faced as he hoped to ‘pass’ as non-disabled and as he attempted to make a statement about himself by appearing in his self-authored piece of theatre and discovered that he might fail at this task. The article tracks the process via different theoretical lenses, from linguistics to trauma and theatre and concludes by finding that knowledge of social constructions of learning disability as ineluctable, and understanding the instability of disability, cannot erase the material reality and effects of disability. Instead, the article considers how these effects were incorporated and became the material for theatrical performance. The author concludes that the collaborative relationship between authors with learning disabilities and facilitators/dramaturgs without learning disabilities exposes both positions to their own vulnerabilities, assumptions and needs. How the relationships are navigated is therefore of crucial importance.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4-19
JournalResearch in Drama Education: The Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 06 Nov 2017


  • disability, trauma, devised theatre


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