Zeros and Os: Silence, Absence and Erasure in an Intercultural O-thello

Marcus Tan

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    The performative function of sound and music has received little attention in performance theory and criticism and certainly much less so in studies of intercultural theatre. Such an absence is noteworthy particularly since interculturalism is an appropriative Western theatrical form that absorbs Eastern sources to re-create the targeted Western mise en scene. Consequently, a careful consideration of the employment of sound and music are imperative for sound and music form the vertebrae of Asian traditional performance practices. In acoustemological and ethnomusicological studies, sound and music demarcate cultural boundaries and locate cultures by an auditory (dis)recognition. In the light of this need for a more considered understanding of the performative function of sound and music in intercultural performance, this paper seeks to examine the soundscapes of an intercultural production of Shakespeare’s Othello – Desdemona. Directed by Singaporean Ong Keng Sen, Desdemona was a re-scripting of Shakespeare’s text and a self-conscious performance an identity politics. Staged with a multi-ethnic, multi-national cast, Desdemona employed various Asian performance traditions such as Sanskrit Kutiyattam, Myanmarese puppetry, and Korean p’ansori to create the intercultural spectacle. The spectacle was not only a visual aesthetic but an aural one as well. By examining the soundscapes of fractured silences and eruptive cultural sounds the paper hopes to establish the ways in which Desdemona performs absences and erasures of ‘Asia’ in a simultaneous act of performing an Asian Shakespeare.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)106-119
    Number of pages13
    JournalTrinity College Dublin Journal of Postgraduate Research
    Publication statusPublished - 2009

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