This practice research inquiry examines the relationships between darkness and uncertainty in performance. ‘Theatre in the dark’, as the name suggests, refers to performances or events that physically locate the audience in the dark – either by using blindfolds or by positioning the audience in near/pitch darkness. Within the growing interest in darkness and obstructed vision in contemporary practices, this PhD – comprised of this thesis, practice presentations and contextualised documentation – explores the different dramaturgies and manifestations of uncertainty that are in play in these performances. Using Practice Research and embracing a compositional-structural perspective, I propose the framework of dramaturgies of uncertainty to analyse theatrical compositions that seek to challenge clarity and generate indeterminate and ambiguous perceptions, as a means to conceptualise the substantive role and possibilities of darkness in performance.
At the same time, as uncertainty has been regarded as a prominent characteristic of the current socio-political climate this doctoral research suggests that while it may be overwhelming and alarming, uncertainty can also be a generative experience, producing different or new understandings of what is perceived. As theatre in the dark can equally influence and alter perception, darkness becomes a useful setting through which to investigate the broader ramifications of uncertainty and the possibilities it might generate. Therefore, this PhD argues that theatre in the dark can facilitate different modes of being with others that move beyond fixed visual recognition or identification. Through three cycles of exploration, which resulted in three performance presentations (Campfire (2016), Overcast (2017) and Certain Ways (2018)), I study how darkness evokes different perceptions and forms of engagement. As a result, and when contesting the unquestioned legitimacy of the visual, this research seeks to outline an altered state of clarity, which can trouble different visual biases and regimes, and bring forward more plural and inclusive perceptions and views.