Thou art a strange fellow: Dissonance and Discordance in Intercultural Shakespeares

Marcus Tan

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)


    Any performance of the intercultural necessarily, and always, advances the question of the cultural since it involves the inter-action and interplay of unique and particular cultural performance styles and modes. Intercultural theatre, according to Pavis, is a hybrid theatrical form “drawing upon performance traditions traceable to distinct cultural areas. The hybridization is very often such that the original forms can no longer be distinguished.” The result of this collaboration of forms is, however, often not a ‘hybrid’ where cultural texts work cohesively and in unison to produce a harmonious mise en scene. Instead, intercultural performances are performances at the interstices and at the intersections of cultures. They raise problems of authorship, authority and performance unities and expose a sense of cultural foreignness. Consequently, intercultural performance can be said to be meta-theatre that queries the construction of culture since it places alongside performance traditions that confront.

    Music, as performative unit, is a significant line of action by which the intercultural spectacle is constructed. Integral to Western theatre, and certainly more so in traditional Asian performance forms, the deliberate ‘fusion’ and ‘blending’ of musical styles in intercultural performances underscore not a harmony of diverse sounds but the possible dissonance and discordance already performed by the visual and verbal texts. The paper thus seeks to examine, in particular, the musical elements in intercultural performances such as Ong Keng Sen’s Lear (Theatreworks, 1999) and explore the ways in which music could possibly intensify the confrontation of performative texts resulting in a disruption of performance unities. When watching and listening to Lear, the question of the ‘local’ thus arises not merely with identification and alienation from what is seen but also what is familiar and foreign to one’s ears.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationShakespeare’s World / World Shakespeares:
    Subtitle of host publicationThe Selected Proceedings of the International Shakespeare Association World Congress Brisbane, 2006
    Place of PublicationNewark
    PublisherUniversity of Delaware Press
    Number of pages10
    ISBN (Print)0874139899
    Publication statusPublished - Aug 2008


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