The Body as Ink: A Semiotic Approach to Writing the Theatrical Space with Athol Fugard and the Serpent Players
The study of theatre is often divided between the analysis of its two fundamental elements: text and body, or to use Fugard’s words, “word and action” (Statements ii). But although traditional approaches of theatre study tend to subordinate the body to the text, it is important to remember that theatre’s ‘living’ quality lies in the “constant process of re-creation through transformation which revives old texts in new performances” (Alter 115). Verbal signs are constantly being transformed into performance through the interpretative process, continually undergoing a double shift in function, “from signs to referent, and from referent to new signs” (Alter 119). It is thus the text that should be subordinated to the body, since only through the body’s performance on stage can a new semantic order emerge. In the introduction of his collection of plays Statements, Fugard writes, “I have always regarded the completed text as being only half-way to my ultimate objective –the living performance and its particular definition of space and silence” (Statements i).