Realism, as this useful comparative study reminds us, is the most problematical and paradoxical of dramatic styles. As an aesthetic, theatrical or even political programme, it is inherently unattainable: the representational codes of performance ensure that the more 'real ' it appears, the more artificial it must necessarily be. As a marker of a particular moment in Modernism, capital-R Realism usefully describes a late-nineteenth- century body of discourses which attempted to shift theatre socially from popular to bourgeois artistic custody: 'realistic' meant (and still means) verisimilitude, that it looks more 'like us'. Historically, the term as a descriptor shifts with each generation: the 'realist' production and performance effects of one performance moment inevitably appear 'stagey' and 'unreal' to another whose cultural, moral and aesthetic codes have meantime inevitably mutated.
Review of Transgressive Itineraries: Postcolonial Hybridizations of Dramatic Realism, by Marc Maufort.
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