chapter  7
9 Pages

Towards a theatrical jurisprudence

WithMarett Leiboff

Hans-Thies Lehmann makes the startling claim, for law at least, that theatre is obliged to hold law to account:

The theatre affords the exemplary site, to paraphrase Stephen Greenblatt, for subjecting to interrogation the social energies that circulate – instead of reinforcing them with image-laden storytelling. Therefore, the theatre has the task of presenting revenge within the law, the failure of the law, what proves unjustifiable in its foundations, and the exclusions and acts of deception that constitute it – over and over, for such work can never be done once and for all. It is to be repeated, remembered and performed anew day by day and moment by moment. 1

(My emphases) His observations speak in much the same terms as the Grotowskian practices of transgression, through confrontation. Confrontation, it’s recalled, brings together the deep bonds of myth and archetype that have been lost, in the absence of a common belief system, through which actor and spectator share bodily in either holding or challenging ‘some universal truth’. 2 These truths are simply those things bound up in the human condition and the stories that need to be retold, because they matter. The challenge is how to bring this to the core of being, rather than as bare display. This is beyond difficult, but when it’s realised, it’s transformative. As Lehmann rightly observes, as a mark of antitheatrical legality bound up in law’s dramatic pretence: ‘Theatre does not concern the law itself so much as what is ‘wrapped up’ and ‘bound’ in or by it; this general truth holds for theatrical tradition and tragic drama since the Renaissance’. 3 Read literally, Lehmann’s charge is that law only thinks of theatre as a practice demanding control, such as its display. But what he’s also pointed to is that law, and those in whom 135law is entrusted, treat law as rules on display, which have lost their connection with life.