“What Is this Place...?”: Howard Barker’s Spatial Scenography

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This article seeks to identify some key scenographic principles that govern contemporary British playwright Howard Barker’s stage spaces. The influence of Barker’s dramatic work is widely recognized and has been the subject of sustained academic study for a number of decades. Despite Barker’s scenographic engagement with his own playwriting since the late 1990 s, the corresponding academic engagement with this aspect of his work remains scant. This article therefore offers the first sustained consideration of Barker’s spatial scenography, engaging in a detailed analysis of select examples of Barker’s drama from the late 1990 s to mid-2000s. It also draws upon archival materials of productions by The Wrestling School company to compare the implicit scenography as evident in the play text to its realization in production. The analysis approaches Barker’s spatial scenography through the lens of aesthetic discourse, with particular focus on the notion of the postmodern sublime as postulated by Lyotard and Johnson, among others, in order to discuss the subject matter in a suitably non-reductive, yet critical manner.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)249-264
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Contemporary Drama in English
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 14 Nov 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Howard Barker
  • Scenography
  • both/and
  • grades of likeness
  • placelessness
  • space


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