Crash, theatre audiences, and the idea of ‘liveness’

Martin Barker

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In 1996 David Cronenberg’s film of J.G. Ballard’s Crash led to a huge controversy in Britain, much of which turned on claims of what the film might do to its audience, claims which were the subject of a major ESRC-funded study. In 2001, in Aberystwyth, David Rabey mounted a stage adaptation of Ballard’s book. This essay presents the first findings of an AHRB-funded research project into audience responses to the stage adaptation. One theme in particular is explored: the complicated meanings of ‘liveness’ to audiences, and how they conceived the differences between stage and screen. This, it is argued, connects with a deep-going assumption about the superiority of stage over screen. The essay examines the tensions within this assumption by their relations with Philip Auslander’s Liveness.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)21-39
JournalStudies in Theatre and Performance
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2003


  • Cronenberg
  • Ballard
  • audience response
  • stage versus screen
  • Philip Auslander
  • stage adaptation


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