Spirit to Ashes, Performance to Dust: Derrida, Theatre de Complicite, and reopening the Question of a 'Holy Theatre'

K. Gritzner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article explores ways of thinking about spirituality in relation to theatrical performance. It considers an existing European tradition of associating spirituality with theatre and performance in the work of Antonin Artaud, Jerzy Grotowski, and Peter Brook, but argues against conventional metaphysical considerations of spirit that are normally deployed in the discourse of a “holy theatre”. A materialist view of spirit, originating with the work of Heidegger and Derrida, does not ignore or reject the value of spirit as with other materialist philosophies, but refuses to allow spirit to remain a metaphysical category and part of a traditional onto-theological logic. The article suggests that it is possible to develop an understanding of spirit as an immaterial category that is not incompatible with its material other. In what follows an aesthetic understanding of spirit is put forward, which has implications for the ontological and epistemological concerns of the performance event for both performers and audience. This argument for a Derridean conception of spirit is supported and illustrated with examples drawn from the recent work of Theatre de Complicite, as a way of “deconstructing” and resituating the tradition of a “holy theatre” in the context of post-metaphysical philosophy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)85-110
Number of pages25
JournalPerformance and Spirituality
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 28 Feb 2011


  • spirit
  • holy theatre
  • deconstruction
  • Heidegger
  • Derrida
  • Theatre de Complicite


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