Law Text Culture
Volume 14, 2010

Law’s Theatrical Presence frame, rhetoric, image, body, appearance

Guest editors: Marett Leiboff and Sophie Nield

This issue of Law Text Culture seeks to explore law through the lens of theatrical and performance theory and to read theatre through the paradigm of law. The ‘theatrical’ of which we speak is not that of words or playtexts, drama or literature, nor is it solely the ‘performative’ as a universal referent to any form of enacted public practice. The field of performance studies has certainly expanded in past decades into social and political analysis, but at the expense of the potentially useful theatrical frame. The revitalised field of theatricality, rather than pivoting around acting, costumes, props and stages, allows us to foreground ideas of frame, the body, appearance, rhetoric, and image as key intersections for understanding the work of the law in producing, shaping and staging justice.

The line between reality (truth, perhaps) and its representation is an energised question in theatre and performance studies currently, and one of the key theoretical perspectives being drawn on is Agamben’s modelling of jurisprudence in relation to the current legal states of exception, public resistance and terror. The relationship of the law and the theatre as twin sites of appearance and representation is, we hope, provocative: the ‘frame’ of the theatre and the ‘being framed’ of the law may speak to each other in useful ways.

Law and theatre more infamously intersect where law is used to regulate and repress. Here, it is law that frames actions, bodies, images and events, through the regulation of events, especially those involved in resistance. How law then responds to these actions is a prime site of contention, in particular where these events are filmed and recorded. A personal decision to frame, film, record and display lives online provides a challenge to law, where the boundary between action as real and action as constructed becomes blurred and confused in the online world. Can delineating actions as ‘theatre’ perhaps be a manoeuvre through which to render some sites as ‘real’ rather than commercial, if issues of copyright infringement or privacy needed to be addressed? Theatre as a practice and as a concept may, we hope, be useful here to the law in providing a means by which boundaries can be set where everyone and everything is engaged in performance.

The places in which courts and tribunals sit are ‘theatrical’: spaces to watch and be watched, where ritual and rhetoric may be used to impress judge and jury; where probable and improbable narratives of events are constructed out of speech acts and stylised dialogue. Theatre theory may, we propose, here be used to uncover the limitations of these narratives. We invite contributions exploring how the work of theatre theory - Brecht and Meyerhold, Grotowski and Artaud, Piscator and Schechner, theatre anthropology and Dario Fo, to name a few - might be drawn upon as a ‘theatrical jurisprudence’.

There are also several real-world contexts in which law and theatrical practice are already working in tandem: the recent spate of ‘tribunal’ plays in the UK which often temporally overlap the already theatricalised legal processes which they seek to reproduce; the involvement of performance scholars in the management of restorative justice; the controversial use of verbatim ‘testimony’ of displaced persons, refugees and victims of war in theatre productions.

In order to explore these, and other, questions, we seek scholarly articles, artworks, reviews, and creative writing from legal and theatre studies scholars and practitioners on topics including, but not limited to:

Performance and restorative justice in indigenous contexts
'Tribunal theatre' and the restaging of public inquiries and war crimes tribunals
Theatricality and politics
Theatrical/legal appearance and representation
Legal orators and rhetoricians
Indigenous law and practice, performance and story telling
Theatre theory as jurisprudence
Theatrical licensing and censorship
Histories of theatrical court cases
The use of theatre in teaching law
Theatre techniques in dispute resolution
All scholarly articles will be subject to independent peer review, while all other submissions (artworks, reviews and creative writing) will be considered by the guest editors in consultation with the Managing Editor of Law Text Culture.

Abstracts/expressions of interest: 30 June 2009

London October 2009
Wollongong December 2009

Deadline for draft articles February 2010
Publication December 2010

For information please contact guest editors:

Marett Leiboff Sophie Nield
marett@uow.edu.au sophie.nield@rhul.ac.uk
Faculty of Law, University of Wollongong
Northfields Avenue
WOLLONGONG NSW 2522 Department of Drama and Theatre
Royal Holloway
University of London