ABSTRACT

An enduring premise in performance studies is that the human actor is central to the process of dramatic signifi cation.1 Although it is possible to cite alternative approaches (such as Gordon Craig’s notion of the übermarionette), the actor in live theatre (or trans-media extensions of it) still remains the crux of a complex process of signifi cation. As one observer bluntly puts it, “Theatre could be deprived of everything but the actor. The actor is the constant unit of theatre language capable of performing various important functions.”2 In the case of narrative cinema, the centrality of the actor remains a stubborn fact, even though the actor’s image as it is presented to audiences is a composite of cinematic practices and might therefore be considered as one input, of variable importance, into an ensemble of collaborative processes. Because of the complexity of performance work, it is always possible when analyzing a particular text to privilege other aspects of the “arts of making” instead-staging, the plot, genre, art direction and so on. Indeed it is possible (and proponents would say productive) to analyze fi lm, taking for granted or only mentioning in passing the substance of the actors’ performance, focusing instead on the total performance of a particular fi lm or body of fi lms as a narrative system. Film as an artwork is not, of course, cinema as an institution, and it is here that the extrafi lmic (and for that matter pro-fi lmic) context supervenes into the process of signifi cation.