What do we watch when we watch war? Who manages public perceptions of war and how? Watching War on the Twenty-First-Century Stage: Spectacles of Conflict is the first publication to examine how theatre in the UK has staged, debated and challenged the ways in which spectacle is habitually weaponized in times of war. The 'battle for hearts and minds' and the 'war of images' are fields of combat that can be as powerful as armed conflict. And today, spectacle and conflict – the two concepts that frame the book – have joined forces via audio-visual technologies in ways that are more powerful than ever.
Clare Finburgh's original and interdisciplinary interrogation provides a richly provocative account of the structuring role that spectacle plays in warfare, engaging with the works of philosopher Guy Debord, cultural theorist Jean Baudrillard, visual studies specialist Marie-José Mondzain, and performance scholar Hans-Thies Lehmann. She offers coherence to a large and expanding field of theatrical war representation by analysing in careful detail a spectrum of works as diverse as expressionist drama, documentary theatre, comedy, musical satire and dance theatre. She demonstrates how features unique to the theatrical art, namely the construction of a fiction in the presence of the audience, can present possibilities for a more informed engagement with how spectacles of war are produced and circulated.
If we watch with more resistance, we may contribute in significant ways to the demilitarization of images. And what if this were the first step towards a literal demilitarization?