Lara Stevens, Anti-war theatre after Brecht: Digital aesthetics in the 21st Century [Book review]

Document Type

Book Review

Publication Title

Australasian Drama Studies


Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA)


Marshall, J. (2018). Lara Stevens, Anti-war theatre after Brecht: Digital aesthetics in the 21st Century [Book review]. Australasian Drama Studies (77), 256-264.



Echoing Oilman's concision, Stevens boils down the political dimension of Brechtian aesthetics to dialectical dramaturgy, which, in turn, highlights the dialectical contradictions of contemporary social structures and discourse, coupled with the historicisation of events (specific historical conditions produced a particular outcome, but this outcome was not inevitable and the future could have turned out differently), defamiliarisation or ostranie, and Brecht's famous 'Not/ But' formulation. [...]the 'unparagraphed block[s] of text without stage directions or designated characters' which Stevens identifies in Jelinek's Bambiland make this script postdramatic, as does Christoph Schlingensief's 2004 production (172, 193-5). Stevens states that Brecht pre-empted in his writings 'the significant role that petroleum plays in the economic, political and social relations of the latter half of the twentieth century' (28) - a claim which sits uneasily with the vital role competition for sources of, and routes to, petroleum played in such varied decisions as Japan's push into the Pacific and Manchuria during World War II, or the unsuccessful assault on the Caucasus and Stalingrad underpinning Nazi strategy. Each paired speech brings on new levels of opposition, or as Stevens puts it, 'the adults vacillate between disclosure and self-censorship' such that the metric beats of the text become 'increasingly truncated' as 'the debate subtly begins to favour the more dogmatic and dominant voice(s)', finally leading to 'a cascading monologue of violent imagery, strung together in long sentences'; an 'enjambment that leaves the speaker at a loss for words' (146-54).

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