Play and Performative Culture

  • John Orr
Part of the Edinburgh Studies in Culture and Society book series (ESCS)


In the theatre, identity is a construct of performance, the stage an arena of illusion. Often the word ‘persona’ seems more precise than the word ‘character’ with its echoes of the complete and observed ‘person’. Indeed if we continue to call players characters it is precisely because we have fallen prey to their vibrant powers of illusion. They embody the passing illusion of a self-contained life. For all characters are actors who perform, who don metaphorical masks, whose job is usually to realise the persona of someone else’s invention. The emerging identity of that persona is a balancing act between the actor’s self, the character that is performed and what might be accepted by the audience as reality in the world beyond the stage. Such a world is always important. The arena of illusion must make reference to a Beyond that is both more real and yet more remote. Once it comes into performance, this world of the Beyond is also trapped by performance, enslaved and wrenched out of its proper habitus. In capturing the Otherness of the world beyond, performance expresses its own nature simultaneously with that part of the world it has briefly captured. The force of dramatic impact upon the spectator usually leads to one conclusion. It is the performance not the world which at that moment is the more real.


Familiar Object Infinite Regress Consumer Culture Theatre Echo Consumer Society 
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Copyright information

© John Orr 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • John Orr
    • 1
  1. 1.University of EdinburghUK

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