Postdramatic theatre & Australia: a 'new' theatre discourse
The penultimate year of the twentieth century marked the publication of two highly significant books contributing to the development of local and international theatre history and theory. In 1999 Currency Press, in association with RealTime, published Performing the unNameable, the first anthology of Australian performance texts to appear in Australia, and Verlag der Autoren published Hans-Thies Lehmann's landmark contribution to the understanding of 'new' forms of theatre, Postdramatisches Theater. The long-awaited English translation of Lehmann's book by Karen Jiirs-Munby, Post dramatic Theatre, appeared in early 2006. Prior to its availability to an Anglophone readership, Lehmann's monograph had emerged as a groundbreaking reference in debate and discussion in an international context, and it has had an immediate impact in Australia. At the annual conference of the Australasian Association for Theatre, Drama and Performance Studies (ADSA), held just a few months after the release of the English edition, a number of papers referred to Lehmann's term. Denise Varney, for example, specifically explored the effectiveness of performances she positioned at opposite ends of a spectrum - which she described as the dramatic/post-dramatic theatre divide - to question the political viability of post-dramatic theatre form. Like Australia, the international theatre scene has been characterised by the need for a discourse that adequately accounts for recent directions in theatre practice and the relationship of these forms to drama. What Lehmann offers is a comprehensive theory of new forms of theatre that have arguably suffered not simply from derisory language typically embodied in a series of antonyms, but the economic consequences that result from this 'anti' or oppositional positioning and the inability to articulate the shift from a text-based dramaturgy to a dramaturgy of image and sound.
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