Performance Studies: The human cost of Kennett’s ‘Victoria’ / The social performativity of comedy – School of Literature, Art and Media Performance Studies: The human cost of Kennett’s ‘Victoria’ / The social performativity of comedy – School of Literature, Art and Media

Performance Studies: The human cost of Kennett’s ‘Victoria’ / The social performativity of comedy

‘Essential beliefs and essential services’: the human cost of Kennett’s Victoria

Throughout the 1990s Victoria experienced a radical state-wide transformation under the leadership of conservative Premier Jeff Kennett. Upon election in 1992, Kennett commenced one of the most expansive periods of neoliberalisation in Australian history known as Victoria: On the Move: a project that over seven years privatised many of the state’s assets and services; enacted major public sector reform; decentralised industrial relations; and installed competitive markets into all areas of society. This paper is a work-in-progress that examines two areas of major change at this time: the arts under Kennett’s cultural policy, Arts 21 (1994), and the privatisation of ambulance emergency services. I connect these two sectors with a case study of a community theatre production, The Essentials (1997), which began as an exploration of occupational and domestic powerlessness but soon became a local controversy when the production was censored by the Gasworks Theatre and subsequently cancelled on defamatory grounds.

Izabella Nantsou is a PhD candidate in the Department of Theatre and Performance Studies at the University of Sydney. Her doctoral thesis draws on theory and methodology from political economy to produce an historiography of Australian radical theatre that highlights the impact of neoliberal ideology on cultural production, and in particular, on community arts practice.


It’s not funny: the social performativity of comedy

This paper argues one proposition: that comedy is not merely a theatrical representation which expresses and reflects the changing values of a given social group, but more importantly performs those values into being. The humour and comedy of any and every society: how, from which positions, with whom, and for what ends we laugh at what and whom, is an ongoing living investigation where the values of that society are performed, patrolled, negotiated, tested, and instantiated. The paper pursues this proposition through outlining a theory of comedic performativity, which details how this living ethos and moral philosophy happens. The theory details three moments of the process: the fundamental sociality of humour; the intentionality of laughter; and the performativity of comedy. The three constitutive elements of humour, laughter and comedy are related social, embodied, performative necessities. They are clearly delineated and must be dealt with separately but in the context of their relationships with each other at all times.

Stuart Grant is an Honorary Associate of Theatre and Performance Studies at Sydney University, founding Co-director of the Environmental Performance Authority and a Core Convenor of the Performance Philosophy Network. He has published widely on Performance Phenomenology, Performance and Place, and relationships between performance and philosophy.

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