Performing Evaluation in the Theatre of Claire Dowie

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In William Labov’s (1967) six-part analysis, he draws attention to the process of evaluation as a key structural component of narrative. Evaluation refers to those parts of the narrative through which the narrator assigns significance to the events of the narration. In this paper, I analyse how this process of evaluation is both an element of the verbal account of the fictional world of the story and, crucially, an important feature of the performance, using examples from the work of writer and performer, Claire Dowie. Dowie has coined the term ‘stand-up theatre’ to describe her particular form of narrative drama in plays for the solo performer such as Adult Child/Dead Child (1987), Drag Act (1993)and Leaking from Every Orifice (1993). The paper compares and contrasts the performance of evaluation in her piece for a single actor Why is John Lennon Wearing a Skirt? (1990) and her two-hander, Death and Dancing (1992). The argument of the paper is that the physical presence of the performer has to be considered as a fundamental structural component of the narrative in performance. Moreover, the deployment by Dowie of the performer’s ‘vocabulary of gesture’ ensures that the ideological force of the work is carried in large part through this performance of physical evaluation.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationNarrative in Drama. Contemporary Drama in English,
EditorsMerle Toennies, Christina Flotmann
PublisherWissenschaftlicher Verlag Trier
ISBN (Print)9783868213157
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2011


  • stand-up theatre
  • Claire Dowie
  • gesture in performance
  • evaluation


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