Miasmas in the theatre: Encountering carceral atmospherics in Pests (2014)

McPhee, Molly. 2020. Miasmas in the theatre: Encountering carceral atmospherics in Pests (2014). Ambiances: Environnement sensible, architecture et espace urbain, 6, ISSN 2266-839X [Article]

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Abstract or Description

In Vivienne Franzmann’s Pests (Clean Break, 2014), two rat-women scamper around a putrefied “nest” of rotting mattresses. Written following residencies in women’s prisons, Franzmann intended Pests to raise awareness on what imprisoned women frequently report as part of their lived experience: poverty; domestic violence and sexual assault; and childhoods spent in care. “It is brutal, but it is authentic,” she says (Gentleman, 2014). The aftermath of prison becomes, in the carceral imaginary of Pests, intertwined with waste, disease and animality. In this, I suggest, it performs a miasma of dispossession and social exclusion. In this article I explore Pests as an example of what I call miasmatic performance. I investigate the aesthetics and politics of carceral atmospherics produced by this theatre, thinking through how they both elicit, and simultaneously confound, a collective desire to attribute a clear function to prison in society.

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carcerality, atmosphere, prison theatre, decomposition

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Theatre and Performance (TAP)


24 December 2020Published

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Date Deposited:

22 Jun 2023 08:37

Last Modified:

22 Jun 2023 08:37

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.



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