Research Online


Goldsmiths - University of London

Theatricalizing Dissent: An Examination of the Methodology and Efficacy of Performance in Contemporary Political Protest

Rees, Sian. 2018. Theatricalizing Dissent: An Examination of the Methodology and Efficacy of Performance in Contemporary Political Protest. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

No full text available
[img] Text (Theatricalizing Dissent: An Examination of the Methodology and Efficacy of Performance in Contemporary Political Protest)
THE_thesis_ReesS_2018.pdf - Accepted Version
Permissions: Administrator Access Only until 31 May 2021.
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives.

Download (11MB)

Abstract or Description

Activists and artists are consciously bringing theatre to the forefront of contemporary protest interventions. This thesis examines the efficacy of performative modes in acts of theatrical dissent.

My research is based on case studies from the UK, Paris, Belgium, and the United States which staged interventions, often experimenting with different democratic models of relationships and often prefiguratively, and which campaigned on social, economic, and political issues: against austerity, climate injustice, and consumerism. They employed diverse performative modes: Rough Music, Guerrilla Performance, Play and Gaming, and the creation of a Temporary Autonomous Zone. The Practice as Research component provided the perspective of an insider through my participation in theatrical dissent organized by artists and activists, and through my own work, HOUND (2016), which incorporated a variety of performative modes previously identified as efficacious.

Activists seek to expose, through their own performances, the performances of power and legitimacy staged by corporations and governments; and to advocate the necessity for change. Some elements of these modes may militate against political efficacy, whilst others contribute towards it by working to avoid a crude and heavy-handed didacticism by encouraging spectators to collaborate in the performance. I identify and analyze the elements of performance modes which may be conducive in supporting and sustaining activists; and those which may ignite an interest in a cause in spectators. To be a dissenter, to some extent, is to be an outsider, one who questions society’s norms and mores. I argue that theatrical devices (such as ‘making strange’ the everyday), provide the necessary distancing for audiences and participants alike to question the ‘normal’. This is the first step in an exploration of dissent provided by theatre’s ability, when staged as dissent, to create new political realities.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):


Theatre, Performance, Dissent, Theatrical Dissent, Protest, Contemporary Protest, Austerity, Creative Activism, Protest Performance, Artistic Activism, Climate Justice, Democracy, Ecology, Guerrilla Performance, Interventions, Rough Music, Play as Resistance, Play and Gaming, Temporary Autonomous Zone, BP or Not BP, Liberate Tate, Art Not Oil, Coney, Laboratory of Insurrectionary Imagination, Burning Man, Occupy, Occupy London, Practice as Research

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Theatre and Performance (TAP)


31 May 2018

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

09 Jul 2018 09:03

Last Modified:

11 Jul 2018 16:32


View statistics for this item...

Edit Record Edit Record (login required)