The main objective of my article is to investigate the ways in which contemporary Anglophone drama and theatre actively employ diegetic and narrative forms, setting them in conflict with the mimetic action. The mode of telling seems to be at odds with the conviction not only about the mimetic nature of performance and theatre but also about the growing visuality of contemporary theatre. Many contemporary performances and dramatic texts expose the tensions between the reduction of visual representations and the expansion of the narrative space. This space offers various possibilities of exploring the distance between the performers and spectators, tensions between narrative time and place and the present time of performance, the real and the imagined/inauthentic/fake, traumatic memory and imagination. The active foregrounding of the diegetic elements of performance will be exemplified with reference to several contemporary plays and performances: my focus will be on the uses of epic forms in what can be called post-epic theatre, illustrated by Kieran Hurley’s Rantin (2013); the foregrounding of the diegetic and the undecidability of the fictional and the real, instantiated by Forced Entertainment’s performances (Showtime, 1996) and Martin McDonagh’s The Pillowman (2003); and the narrative density and traumatic aporia of Pornography (2007) by Simon Stephens.


diegesis, mimesis, narration, theatre


Brecht, Bertolt. “Short Description of a New Technique of Acting which Produces an Alienation Effect.” Trans. John Willett. The Twentieth Century Performance Reader. Ed. Michael Huxley and Noel Witts. London: Routledge, 1997. 99–111. Print.

Diamond, Elin. Unmaking Mimesis. London: Routledge, 1997. Print.

Elam, Keir. The Semiotics of Theatre and Drama. London: Routledge, 2002. Print.

Forced Entertainment. Showtime. Performance script. 1996. Print.

Forced Entertainment. Showtime. 1996. Video recording.

Freud, Sigmund. “Remembering, Repeating and Working-through: Further Recommendations on the Technique of Psycho-analysis II.” The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, vol. XII. Ed. and trans. James Strachey. London: Hogarth, 1950. 147–56. Print.

Garber, Marjorie. “Dress Codes, or the Theatricality of Difference.” The Routledge Reader in Gender and Performance. Ed. Lizbeth Goodman and Jane de Gay. London: Routledge, 2003. 176–81. Print.

Hurley, Kieran. Rantin. Contemporary Scottish Plays. Ed. Trish Reid. London: Bloomsbury, 2014. 305–54. Print.

Lehmann, Hans-Thies. Postdramatic Theatre. London: Routledge, 2006. Print.

Lodge, David. “Mimesis and Diegesis in Modern Fiction.” The Post-Modern Reader. Ed. Charles Jencks. London: Academic Editions, 1991. 181–95. Print.

McDonagh, Martin. The Pillowman. London: Faber, 2003. Print.

McGrath, John. The Cheviot, the Stag and the Black, Black Oil. London: Methuen, 1981. Print.

Mulvey, Laura. “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema.” Contemporary Literary Criticism: Literary and Cultural Studies. Ed. Robert Con Davis and Ronald Schleifer. New York: Longman, 1998. 448–56. Print.

Pavis, Patrice. Słownik terminów teatralnych. Wrocław: Zakład Narodowy im. Ossolińskich, 1998. Print.

Shepherd, Simon, and Mick Wallis. Drama/Theatre/Performance. London: Routledge, 2004. Print.

Sierz, Aleks. Introduction. Twenty-First Century British Plays. Ed. Aleks Sierz. London: Bloomsbury, 2010. vii-xvii. Print.

Stephens, Simon. Pornography. Twenty-First Century British Plays. Ed. Aleks Sierz. London: Bloomsbury, 2010. 373–442. Print.

Wald, Christina. Hysteria, Trauma and Melancholia: Performative Maladies in Contemporary Anglophone Drama. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007. Print.

First Page


Last Page