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Turing Test: doo-cot Theatre Company's Frankenstein: The Final Blasphemy and the ‘limits of the (post) human’

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Frankenstein: The Final Blasphemy, which toured in spring 2000, was devised and performed by the Manchester-based doo-cot theatre company and directed by Emilyn Claid. In existence since 1991, doocot became known as a lesbian feminist puppet company, although their work might be more accurately suggested by the term ‘queer animation’.

Blasphemy used a ‘box set’ composed of white screens on a metal frame. There were two puppets in this show. One was modelled on Frankenstein's ‘creature’, being a ‘naked’, free standing, humanoid, about seven foot tall and covered in roughly sown ‘skin’. This puppet was manipulated mainly via its arms and head, although it was also walked about the space. The other puppet was a smaller, hand held creature, reminiscent of a skinless turkey, seemingly made out of lungs and intestines. These puppets were manipulated by Neagh Watson, referred to in the programme as both ‘the performer’ and the ‘monster creator’, and since she performed something like the role of Victor Frankenstein as well as animating the monster puppet, she did in a sense play both monster and creator. The second performer, Rachael Field, described as ‘the hybrid’ in the programme, played various roles, including a ‘scientist’ accompanied by a live white rat, but for the most part remained off stage, operating digital technology.

Blasphemy loosely followed the trajectory of Hollywood versions of the Frankenstein story, starting with the ‘creature’ being brought to life and ending with images of burning. However, this narrative functioned mainly as a foundation for the elaboration of contiguous imagery, delivered by means of pre-recorded video, live relay and digital computer generated/manipulated images projected onto the set, the puppets and performers’ bodies. These included representations of DNA sequences, footage relating to the processes of cloning, drawings from medical text books, images from Hollywood versions of Frankenstein, ‘home’ video footage referencing those films, and sequences showing animals and human bodies being dissected.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3726/978-3-0353-0375-9_6

Publication date: January 1, 2005

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    The essays in this volume explore the borderland between ecology and the arts. Informed by psychoanalysis and cultural materialism, contributors to the first part, 'Spectacle: Landscape and Subjectivity', look at ways in which particular social and scientific experiments, theatre and film productions and photography either reinforce or contest our ideas about nature and human-human or human-animal relations and identities. The second part, 'World: Hermeneutic Language and Social Ecology', investigates political protest, social practice art, acoustic ecology, dance theatre, family therapy and ritual in terms of social philosophy. Contributors to the third part, 'Environment: Immersiveness and Interactivity', explore architecture and sculpture, site-specific and mediatised dance and paratheatre through radical theories of urban and virtual space and time, or else phenomenological philosophy. The final part, 'Void: Death, Life and the Sublime', indicates the possibilities in dance, architecture and animal behaviour of a shift to an existential ontology in which nature has 'the capacity to perform itself'.
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