Theatre Research International


Class and Performance in the Age of Global Capitalism



This article addresses the relative absence of class-based analysis in theatre and performance studies, and suggests the reconfiguration of class as performance rather than as it is traditionally conceived as an identity predicated solely on economic stratification. It engages with the occlusion of class by the ascendancy of identity politics based on race, gender and sexuality and its attendant theoretical counterparts in deconstruction and post-structuralism, which became axiomatic as they displaced earlier methodologies to become hegemonic in the arts and humanities. The article proceeds to an assessment of the development of sociological approaches to theatre, particularly the legacy of Raymond Williams and Pierre Bourdieu. The argument concludes with the application of an approach which reconfigures class as performance to the production of Declan Hughes's play Shiver of 2003, which dramatizes the consequences of the bubble of the late 1990s for ambitious members of the Irish middle class.

(Online publication January 26 2012)

paul murphy ( lectures in Drama at the School of Creative Arts, Queen's University Belfast. He is former President of the Irish Society for Theatre Research and his publications include Hegemony and Fantasy in Irish Drama, 1899–1949 (Palgrave Macmillan) and (with Melissa Sihra) The Dreaming Body: Contemporary Irish Theatre (Oxford: Colin Smythe).