‘Burn the witch’: Decadence and the occult in contemporary feminist performance

Alston, Adam. 2021. ‘Burn the witch’: Decadence and the occult in contemporary feminist performance. Theatre Research International, 46(3), pp. 285-302. ISSN 0307-8833 [Article]

[img] Text
Adam Alston, Burn the Witch - institutional repository.pdf - Accepted Version
Permissions: Administrator Access Only
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives.

Download (886kB)
burn-the-witch-decadence-and-the-occult-in-contemporary-feminist-performance.pdf - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution.

Download (362kB) | Preview

Abstract or Description

This article introduces and theorises ‘decadence’ as a key feature of Lauren Barri Holstein’s performance Notorious (2017). The decadence of Holstein’s work is approached in light of two main considerations: the spectacular presentation of witchcraft as an occult practice, and what Holstein ‘does’ with the staging of witches and witchcraft. Situated in light of performances associated with the neo-occult revival (Ivy Monteiro and Jex Blackmore), and a recent strand of feminist performance that revels in an aesthetics of trash, mess and excess (Ann Liv Young and Lucy McCormick), the article offers a close critical analysis of Notorious as a work that addresses and seeks to subvert gendered inequalities and exclusions in twenty-first century capitalism. I argue that Holstein’s over-identification with exertion and exhaustion as much as the subversive potentialities of witchcraft result in a decadent aesthetic, that her staging of the witch as a persecuted but powerful emblem of the occult sheds valuable light on the aesthetics and politics of decadence in performance, and that the subversive qualities of decadence emerge particularly strongly in its ‘doing’ as an embodied and enacted practice.

Item Type:


Identification Number (DOI):


Additional Information:

This article will be published in a revised form in Theatre Research International https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/theatre-research-international. This version is published under a Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND. No commercial re-distribution or re-use allowed. Derivative works cannot be distributed. © copyright holder.

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Theatre and Performance (TAP)


12 August 2020Accepted
1 November 2021Published Online

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

17 Aug 2020 09:37

Last Modified:

22 Nov 2021 13:28

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.



View statistics for this item...

Edit Record Edit Record (login required)