I am pleased to announce an interdisciplinary seminar on Theatre and Sport, in conjunction with the London Theatre Seminar. Our speakers will be Dr Solomon Lennox of Northumbria University, and Dr Claire Warden of De Monfort University, and the seminar will investigate the theatrical/sportive stage of the boxing and wrestling ring.

It takes place 1 March 2018 in the University of London Senate House (Room G35). Start time is 6:30 PM. The seminar will close at 8:30, to reconvene in a local pub. Wine and refreshments will be served.

Theatre and Sport Seminar: Staging the Boxing and Wrestling Ring

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The Royale, by Marco Ramirez. The Old Globe, San Diego

Towards a Heterotopology of the Boxing Ring on the Contemporary Stage

Boxing rings have the potential to be heterotopias, wherein specific and peculiar heterochronic performance practice takes place. Boxing rings as counter-sites are capable of juxtaposing in the single real place several spaces. They are part crisis heterotopia and part heterotopia of deviation; spaces of the illusory and spaces that are other. Boxing rings are paradoxical spaces. They close in on their boxer-occupants to produce feelings of isolation and loneliness, whilst simultaneously providing temporal, sensorial, and spatial openings, which disturb isolating boundaries by producing networks of connection. This paper provides a heterotopology of the boxing ring on the contemporary stage and grapples with the paradoxical nature of boxing rings as heterotopias. The main arguments are framed through a reading of the ring activity of two professional fighters, Naseem Hamed and Sugar Ray Leonard. This is followed by an examination of Marco Ramirez’s The Royale and Kemp Powers’ One Night in Miami in order to produce a heterotopology of the boxing ring on the contemporary stage.

Solomon Lennox is Lecturer in Performing Arts at Northumbria University. His research sits within the field of performance studies, particularly performance ethnography, and explores the relationship between physical performance practices (such as training and competing in combat sports) and narrative identity. As a freelance contemporary practitioner, Solomon works with butoh, psychophysical acing approaches, and martial arts-based movement. Solomon has recently worked with Burn the Curtain, a site-specific theatre company that creates immersive performance events. Solomon is the Treasurer of the Standing Conference of University Drama Departments (SCUDD). His research has been supported by the HEA, and he has published in the journals, Theatre Dance and Performance Training, and Sport in Society. Solomon has also produced a chapter for the edited collection, Performance and the Medical Body.

‘Rest in peace’: performing silence in professional wrestling

The ‘squared circle’ of professional wrestling is a space, in Nicholas Sammond’s words, of ‘blood, sweat and spit’. Contemporary professional wrestling is a noisy, visceral performance form full of shouting antagonism, booming pyrotechnics and crashing bodies. Undeniably it is, in Roland Barthes’s famous phrase, a ‘spectacle of excess’.

However, in honour of The Undertaker’s recent Wrestlemania retirement, this paper takes a different tack. While it acknowledges professional wrestling’s raucous, glitzy spectacle, it seeks to uncover another contradictory facet, claiming professional wrestling as a mode that increasingly plays with the notion of silence. As part of the US-based behemoth the WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment), The Undertaker’s dead man persona has always used silence in interesting ways. But, I suggest, silence is a recurring motif, especially in the modern product. It can be an awkward barrier to successful performance, a means of ‘voicing’ fan displeasure, or, indeed, a key part of a storyline, increasing tension or allowing a stronger focus on the physical action.

This paper explores ideas from Martin Heidegger, Mikhail Bakhtin and Judith Butler, alongside specific moments in professional wrestling history to make a case for the importance of silence. Ultimately silence, once an obstacle to the success of a professional wrestling show, has become a powerful method of creating character, establishing narratives or encouraging ‘heat’. It is also now a potent way of disturbing the contemporary Twitter-led, neon-t-shirt-dominated clatter of modern pro-wrestling.

Claire Warden is Reader in Drama at De Montfort University. Her research interests include modernism, theatre history, performance practice and sport. She is the author of ‘British Avant-Garde Theatre’ (2012), ‘Modernist and Avant-Garde Performance: an introduction’ (2015), and ‘Migrating Modernist Performance: British Theatrical Travels through Russia’ (2016, funded by the British Academy). She is also co-editor of the 2016 ‘Performance and Professional Wrestling’ and the academic lead for the public engagement project ‘Wrestling Resurgence’.