Duggan, P. (2011) ”You will still write, won’t you?”: on the ethics of the Paper Birds' performance, Others. Paper presented to: Theatre and Performance Research Association (TaPRA) Conference 2011, Kingston University, London, 07-09 September 2011.
This paper interrogates The Paper Birds’ recent production Others to explore the political and ethical implications of embodying the (verbatim) texts of others. Built from a six-month exchange of letters between the company and a prisoner, a celebrity (a very non-committal Heather Mills, evidently) and an Iranian artist, Others fuses live music with verbatim and physical theatre texts to movingly and intelligently investigate the ‘otherness’ of women from vastly divergent cultural contexts. With equal measures of humour and unflinching honesty the performance deconstructs these voices not only to highlight their particular concerns and problems but also to interrogate wider concerns about ‘others’ with whom we have conscious and unconscious contact. The paper braids two central concerns: firstly (as a frame to the second concern) the work explores the ethical implications of continuing or discontinuing the correspondences with the three women and especially the prisoner who asks in one section of the piece: ‘will you, please, still write once it’s over… won’t you?’ From this, the paper employs embodiment theory alongside Levinasian theories of ethics, to ask what an encounter with such othered others might teach us about ourselves, about ‘the’ other and about the ethics of encounter within performance texts