Blackadder does an excellent job of describing and analyzing several important theater scandals that took place in Europe in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Rather than dwelling on play plots and characters, critical analysis of plays, or the playwrights and their intentions (he assumes familiarity with the plays and the events discussed), the author describes and analyzes actual audience behavior and the possible reasons for such behavior. By concentrating on the audience reaction and its performance, instead of the theater and its practitioners, he increases understanding of the productions as theatrical events....Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty and professionals.
In his fascinating and well-researched book, ^IPerforming Opposition: Modern Theater and the Scandalized Audience^R, Neil Blackadder draws on a variety of methodological approaches (theories of spectatorship, psychoanalysis, cultural studies, new historicism, etc.) to analyze in detail some of the most notorious theater scandals that occurred between the 1880s and the 1930s in France, Ireland, Germany, and the United States. The author's major aim is to demonstrate that the audience protests that accompanied many early performances of plays by Gerhart Hauptmann, Alfred Jarry, J.M. Synge, Sean O'Casey, and Bertolt Brecht constituted acts of resistance against the predominant trend towards more passive forms of spectatorship at the time.
In this superb study of theatre scandals, Neil Blackadder looks at examples of the interaction between stage and spectators between the 1880s and the 1930s arguing that the 'unprecented, short-lived, and probably unrepeatable circumstances' of this era encouraged 'works which directly challenged their audiences, and spectators who defied predominant norms of behavior in order to express their opinion'....Scrupulously researched, persuasively argued and clearly written, Blackadder's study of audience behavior says a lot both about the theatre culture in an era of rapid social change and about exactly what words or actions stimulated audiences to perform a live public protest during a performance, as opposed to protesting after the event. Students and academics will find this account immensely useful and stimulating.
[B]lackadder provides us with a thorough reading of the events themselves, based on extensive use of firsthand accounts, reviews, court decisions, and more, as well as with a useful contextualization of the protests within the increasingly detailed-and important-history of theatre audiences.
[A] major new contribution....a marvellous book....this book recommends itself as a powerful new addition to the small corpus of books which seek to recover a history of audiences, and audiencing....enjoy, and learn from, this truly excellent book.
In ^IPerforming Opposition^R, through a sequence of case studies from Hauptmann's ^IBefore Sunrise^R in 1889 up to Brecht's ^IA Man's a Man^R in 1931, Neil Blackadder....shows the role of the spectator to be no less self-consciously performative than that of the actor onstage. In his scrupulous examination of a wealth of first-hand evidence his treatment is as engaged as it is even-handed. Consistently specific and empirical in his approach, he gives our understanding of audience behavior a focus that reception theorists seldom offer.
This fresh and intriguing study makes a significant contribution both to theatre history and to modernist studies. Blackadder provides fresh insight into some of the most riotous performances that heralded the rise of modern theatre. But even more importantly, he demonstrates how spectators may perform as active participants in the theatre event, as players whose role may be to energetically resist the performance onstage or to energetically support it. Blackadder exposes the now familiar and comfortable role of passive observer as only one, historically conditioned, role an audience may play.