Date of Award

2015

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

School

School of Communications and Arts

Faculty

Faculty of Education and Arts

First Advisor

Associate Professor Susan Ash/

Second Advisor

Doctor Richard Rossiter

Abstract

Fowl Feathered Fox: Monsters, Pipers, Families and Flocks is a doctoral work consisting of a full-length stage play and an exegesis. An introduction outlines the scope of the doctoral work, while a concluding chapter reflects on research findings and considers staging issues and implications. Appendices include images incorporated into the play’s action as well as photographed excerpts from a series of visual diaries used to document the play’s evolution. The play, Fowl Feathered Fox, explores the nature of delusion, deception and the tragedy of The Beast Within. Borrowing as it does from the traditions of revenge tragedy, comedy and horror, the style of Fowl Feathered Fox is both sensual and sensationalistic. Indeed, by virtue of overstepping traditional ideological, stage and venue boundaries to tap into an audience’s faculties of taste, physical sensation and smell, I aim to confront, seduce and repel on every possible sensory level. Here, in keeping with the conventions of Renaissance revenge tragedies as well as contemporary re-imaginings of the genre in popular culture, a tragic protagonist is forced to behave as a detective in order to put an end to a terrible, taboo curse. As a black comedy however, Fowl Feathered Fox makes light of taboo topics, as the darkness of the subject matter is buoyed by meta-theatrical gags, ironic humour, word-play and brief forays into interpretive dance. In the tradition of horror film and fiction, my eponymous ‘fowl feathered fox’ is a specifically Australian re-imagining of the archetypal shapeshifter, blending the qualities of the wolf in sheep’s clothing, the false prophet, the Pied Piper and the werewolf. Surrealism, with its roots in psychoanalysis, underscores the play’s visual aesthetic: this stage is littered with fearful, surgically invasive and aggressively sexual forms, objects and images. The exegesis, Monsters, Pipers, Families and Flocks, interrogates various mythic, historical and fictional examples of charismatic cult leadership, locating patterns in the paradigmatic nexus shared by monsters, cults and families. A trio of exegetical essays considers the tragic nature of lycanthropy, Nietzsche’s conception of the Apollonian/ Dionysian dichotomy, the socio-cultural dynamics of charismatic cult leadership and the frightening, fascinating phenomenon of pseudologia fantastica. The first exegetical essay explores the lycanthropic and messianic qualities of two real-life malevolent cult leaders: Rock Theriault (Canada) and William Kamm (Australia). The second exegetical essay interrogates the enthralling, intoxicating qualities of the Pied Piper of Hamelin and Greek demi-god Dionysus, finding parallels in tragic revenge narratives wrought by infamous American cult leaders such as Charles Manson and David Berg. Finally, the third exegetical essay examines monstrous, messianic mothers from Greek myth, horror fiction and memoir: specifically, the goddess Demeter, Margaret White from Brian de Palma’s Carrie (1976) and notorious Australian cult leader, Anne Hamilton-Byrne.

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