The essay following the new documentary turn in performing arts. Tracing the essay in contemporary theatre and performance practices

Begin - Einde 
2018 - 2022 (lopend)
Vakgroep Kunst-, Muziek- en Theaterwetenschappen



Within the current field of contemporary documentary theatre, the form of the essay is rising to prominence. The nature and the purpose of the essay inspires a number of contemporary artists with a strong documentary approach in their artistic practice. The interest in the essay coincides with a ‘new documentary turn’ in performing arts (Forsyth & Megson 2009; Martin 2013; Irmer 2006). It is a tendency where ‘more complex and hybrid forms of representation’ emerge and pose problems about ‘the status of the image’, ‘the relation with the world beyond the imagination of artists’ and ‘continuously provoke debates concerning the production, representation and status of knowledge, truth and reality’ (Le Roy & Vanderbeeken 2016).

Literary and film studies widely covered, studied and commentated the essay. Despite the fact that the essayistic characteristics are detected in the new documentary turn, theatre and performance studies are lagging behind. The essay remains an uncovered and unexplored subject within performing arts theory.

In order to fill this theoretical gap in theatre and performance studies, the main goal of this research is an in-depth performance analysis on how and in whatkind of forms the essay appears in performances following the new documentary turn. By deriving concepts from essay theory in literature and essay film studies the research wants to capture a rich and vibrant artistic trend within the performing arts field that echoes the nature and the purpose of the essay in its various forms. As main hypothesis, this doctoral research claims that the essay offers a new paradigm to study current documentary practices within the new documentary turn.



Martin, Carol. (2013). Theatre of the real. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Forsyth, Alison, and Christopher Megson. (2011). Get Real : Documentary Theatre Past and Present. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan

Le Roy, Frederik, & Robrecht Vanderbeeke. (2016). “The Documentary Real: Thinking Documentary Aesthetics.” In Foundations of Science

Irmer, T. (2006). ‘A search for new realities. Documentary theatre in Germany’. TDR, 50(3), 16-28