Thinking Limping: Richard Maxwell's 'Neutral Hero' and the Tragic Impediment of Contemporary Theatre

Adrian Kear

Research output: Contribution to journalSpecial Issuepeer-review

1 Citation (SciVal)


In a recent interview for Mouvement, the theatre-maker Richard Maxwell notes that: ‘In theatre, we are faced by a paradox. There is the reality of the story and the reality of the place where the play unfolds. It operates within this paradox. Between these two elements … This paradox is present in everything I do’ (2011: 21). Maxwell's words here seem to signal an investment in both the recognition of the materiality of the stage environment as a specific location—whose specificity resides precisely in the audience relation—and an awareness of the ways in which what takes place there—representation in one form or another, however presentational it may appear—constructs an ‘elsewhere’ in the landscape of the spectator's imagination at the very least.

This paper investigates the ways in which Neutral Hero seeks to combine an aesthetic of rigorous material subtraction in which the locus of the stage is inhabited as nothing other than the place it is with a dramaturgical ethic of ‘emancipated’ spectatorship that enables it to invoke an exhibitive and relational understanding of ontology and identity. It examines how, in Neutral Hero, the ‘dramatic’ is constructed and eschewed, arguing that it is in the materiality of the exchange of speech—rather than simply the embodied presence of the performer on stage—that the specificity of the theatre as location resides, in that ‘the voice is always for the ear, it is always relational’ (Cavarero 2005: 169). At the same time, it explores how the prosodic foot is always to be found in the actor's mouth—the Oedipal foot grounding the contemporary in the archaic form of tragedy—acting as a dramatic impediment to the movement of the theatrical.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)22-29
JournalPerformance Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 01 Apr 2012


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