Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Clowns and Strippers

"The presence of the actor upon the stage is unremarkable: they are the expected. The emphasis on quality of performance, the celebrity achieved by certain of their number, the identification of a performer with a particular interpretation of a familiar role: all of these merely obscure the fundamental predictability of the very presence of a person who, ultimately, is pretending to be someone else.

Against this stands a holy dualism, a Moon Goddess and Horned God who preside over the carnival. Their presence is disruptive. They stand in opposition to each other, representing different energies and different cosmologies, yet their end is the same. They expose the pretense of the theatre, simultaneously revealing the dramaturgy and connecting the events of the play to immediate, physical reality. 

In the person of the stripper, performance and identity are conflated: the plethora of enthographical studies which willingly ask the stripper about her sexual habits follow the same ignorant pattern as the moralists who confuse the performance of sexual desire with a deviant character. 

Meanwhile, the clown shatters the epic grandeur of the play, jumping between ignorance and meta-knowledge (they were the first to break the fourth wall), exposing the theatrical, attacking the haughty and reflecting the audience's gaze back upon them. 

In their diverse ways - the clown exposing the artificiality of the events on stage, and the stripper's muddling of authenticity and dramaturgy - the double divine undermines the pretensions of performance. It becomes, in their hands, either painfully immediate or ridiculous. It is no accident that both laughter and desire are possible to fake, but difficult to prevent. 

This is recognised even in the burlesque, in which the unfortunately gendered division of labour matched strippers and comedians paid ritual respect to bi-theism."

The Fifth Epistle of Criticulous to the Reviewers (1845)

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