Theatre Research International


Performance as Philosophy: Responding to the Problem of ‘Application’



This article begins from the premise that a ‘critical turning point’ has been reached in terms of the relationship between performance and philosophy. Theatre and performance scholars are becoming increasingly engaged in philosophical discourse and there are growing amounts of work that take philosophy – from the work of Plato to Heidegger and Deleuze – as their guiding methodology for performance analysis. However, this article argues that we need to go further in questioning how we use philosophy in relation to performance, and that theatre and performance scholarship should attempt to go beyond merely applying philosophical concepts to performance ‘examples’. One way to do this, the article suggests, is by questioning the very distinction between performance and philosophy, for instance by exploring the idea of performance as philosophy. The article concludes by drawing from the work of figures such as Allan Kaprow, Henri Bergson, François Laruelle and John Mullarkey to argue that philosophers and performance scholars alike might extend their conception of what counts as thinking to include not only activities like performance, but embodied experiences and material processes of all kinds.

(Online publication January 26 2012)

laura cull ( is Lecturer in Performing Arts at Northumbria University in Newcastle upon Tyne, UK. She is editor of Deleuze and Performance (2009), and has chapters on Deleuze in the recent collections Deleuze and Ethics (2011) and Contemporary French Theatre and Performance (2010). Laura is chair of the Performance and Philosophy working group in Performance Studies International and is co-editor, with Karoline Gritzner, of a special issue of Performance Research, ‘On Philosophy and Participation’ (December 2011). She is currently working on a monograph for Palgrave Macmillan entitled Theatres of Immanence: Deleuze and the Ethics of Performance (forthcoming 2012).