Accusing the Audience: Dislocated Voice and Image in Lemaz Productions Ashes to Ashes

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review


This paper draws upon current work being done on the ethics of spectatorship and on witnessing, on Kelly Oliver’s critical exploration of the “pathology of oppression” and Baz Kershaw’s work on “pathologies of hope”, to identify performance strategies that challenge the morality of bearing witness to violence and repression. In doing so, it contributes to work being done on the performance of violence, both nationally and internationally. Since it uses a recent Canadian performance of Harold Pinter’s Ashes to Ashes by Lemaz Productions to illustrate its argument, it also addresses the potential adaptation of his plays to address and reflect upon a contemporary human rights issues and abuses. The production in question was directed by Vahid Rahbani, an Iranian director who used the published dramatic text as one element in a longer performance piece dedicated to Zahra Kazemi, the Iranian-Canadian photojournalist who died in custody in Iran in 2003. The play is a dialogue between a man and his unfaithful wife. It incorporates, as a recurring motif, oblique references to the Holocaust; as the play progresses, the sense of threat builds to the final monologue, which tells a tale that is familiar from accounts of genocide. The production used photography, projections and physical objects to evoke an experience of witnessing violence, while disempowering the audience and thereby limiting its ability to intervene. In this way the performance arguably creates a post-conflict theatre in the diasporic space of Toronto, alienating the audience through a range of performance methods from the safety of the ‘actual’ space of Toronto’s streets, to the threatening ‘Other’, fictional space accessed via the theatre interior. In doing so, the performance creates an affective reception experience while raising questions about the ethics of spectatorship and the dividing line between witnessing and complicity.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationUnknown Host Publication
PublisherPerformance Studies international
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 22 Aug 2008
EventInterregnum: Annual Conference of Performance Studies International - University of Copenhagen, Denmark
Duration: 22 Aug 2008 → …


ConferenceInterregnum: Annual Conference of Performance Studies International
Period22/08/08 → …


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