|The Town Hall Affair|
The question has been at the heart of three very remarkable productions I've seen over the last few weeks. In The Town Hall Affair, the Wooster Group reproduce the famous 1971 “Dialogue on Women’s Liberation”, chaired by the pugnacious novelist Norman Mailer. Or rather, they reproduce the documentary film called Town Bloody Hall, produced by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus, and released in 1979. In the play, excerpts from this film (and from Mailer's own vanity movie, starring himself as a film director running for President) are played on screen, while the actors synchronise the dialogue, right down to the ers, ums and coughs. The effect is at once very funny and deeply disconcerting. It points up that, just as Mailer, Germaine Greer and Jill Johnston battled for control of the evening through the use (or subversion) of the conventional structures of a panel discussion (and the production redresses the balance by allowing Johnston the last word that Mailer had not admitted); so the filmed record, just by being a mediated record, has itself become the narrative. By reproducing the dialogue of the film, the Wooster Group dispute its absolute authority. As Theodor Adorno argued, in mimesis there is a kind of doubling - a hint that the "reality" of the "real" (or here, of the accepted narrative, which is perhaps the closest we can come to the "real") is not absolute. By exposing the performed nature of the "real", they suggest the potential for alternatives - other ways of doing things.
|Lady Eats Apple|