Willful Distraction: Katie Mitchell, Auteurism and the Canon

Cornford, Tom (2018) Willful Distraction: Katie Mitchell, Auteurism and the Canon. In: The Theatre of Katie Mitchell. 4x45 . Routledge, Abingdon, pp. 72-92. ISBN 9781138600058


This lecture/essay uses Sara Ahmed's conception of 'willfulness' to consider the repeated accusations, levelled by critics against director Katie Mitchell, of 'auteurism' and productions whose effect is 'distracting'. It argues, via a close analysis of Mitchell's productions of three canonical works for the stage - Donizetti's opera Lucia di Lammermoor, Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard and Strindberg's Miss Julie, that Mitchell's project is deliberately and productively to distract from the political agenda that underpins these works' canonical status. In these stagings, Mitchell distracts - that is, draws attention away, both literally and figuratively - from narratives that sustain patriarchal and class oppression, in order to expose and counteract their interlocking functions. The essay concludes with a consideration, by contrast, of Mitchell's tacit acceptance of the hegemonic position of whiteness in the contemporary European theatre, and argues for a similar project to distract from its political agenda.


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