2005-11-06 05:57 am (UTC)
A brief hello from the upside down bit o'the world - then a not so brief attempt at an answer
From an existentialist pov - impossible to work without - a production's meaning and worth are entirely in the hands of the audience.
In terms of literary/artistic style - well, it works for Peter Brook, Julie Taymor, and a host of other directors. It is, in fact, an incredibly useful means of reminding audiences (in what is often thought of as a Brechtian manner, but ain't necessarily so) that what they are watching is artificial, is theatrical. Why a director or group might want to do that is a whole other discussion, but briefly, it might be a nod towards Francois Lyotard's "definition"* of postmodernity as characterised by "an incredulity towards metanarratives" or, as I see it, a reluctance to take anything at face value, and a recognition of the potential depth of meaning in anything and everything a theatrical production can and does present.
Which means we might as well be talking semiotics, aka the language of signs - a pretty core strand of postmodernist media interpretation/theory. And certainly not without its practical uses. When it works practically, the term symbolism equally effectively applies. Who hasn't used symbolism, at some time, whether simple or complex, to great practical, theatrical effect.
If you want to head back to postmodernist terms - simulacra/simulacron, Baudrillard's babies. Objective reality no longer exists/is unreachable. Certainly true of theatrical production, hence the slow dying of Ibsen/Chekov style "realism"/"naturalism". They will always be "isms", not real, not natural. Better and more practical to acknowledge such "limits", and make them strengths by, as Baudrillard suggests society does, play with reconextualisation of recognisable symbols and signs.
Of some concern, though, is the Derrida notion that "truth is eternally deferred." Well, that's a problem. I'm not sure, myself, that it's necessarily "deferred". But it is brief, fleeting, and fragmentary. But hey, since theatre is too, where's the problem? What's true today, for this group of people, may not (and is in fact highly unlikely to) be true tomorrow, or for that group. So? No production lasts forever. And if we get it all right the first time, what's the point in moving on to something else? Okay, so we do, if possible, want our work to resonate through the ages. Works for Shakespeare. But interestingly, much of Shakespeare's work, actually is quite dated and makes reference to things very much contemporary to his own time, eg political "in-jokes" that simply don't work, or don't transfer to the 21st century.
But his themes do. And his characters do. His plots (mostly) do. There's something in them for everyone. And there's the practical beauty of Post-modernism - it allows for more than one valid pov. It's also one of the biggest sticking points for its detractors, but said detractors are often stuck in unneccessary value judgements, along the lines of one thing MUST be better than another. This is truer than that. To which I can only reply "Well, for thou, maybe, son, but what about the rest of us?"
So in "essence" my answer would be "nup"/"not bloody likely"/"au effing contraire", but I figure I should take the longer and hopefully more polite route to say so. Postmodernism is, to my mind, a useful practical approach to crucial aspects of theatre, regardless of the style of production.
Hope all this helps - happy to discuss further.
*I inverted comma'd my use of the word definition here for two reasons:
1 this is post-modernism we're discussing here, definitions are, by 'definition' unfixed/unfixable. Lyotard may have changed his mind by now.
2 This is even more true as a result of the fact I'm quoting Wikipedia here, which "means" not only may Lyotard have changed his mind, he may not even ever have existed.
had enough irony yet? ;)