Watching the savages dance : problems and possibilities of creating post-colonial performance in a bi-cultural country
Type of content
This thesis will examine the question of how to perform the cultural Other in New Zealand, utilising Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe as the text for performance. This text provides a relevance to New Zealand through various similarities between the novel and this country, in particular articulating a paradigmatic Self/Other relationship between the figure of Crusoe and the primitive savages which can be employed to interrogate New Zealand's own colonial history. The inquiry into the performance of Robinson Crusoe has been the primary focus of a group of post-graduate students of the Theatre and Film Studies Department at University of Canterbury, since an initial performance of Robinson Crusoe in 1996. The question of how to perform the Other is particularised by the cultural specificity of the group, which is ideologically entirely pakeha. This question thus becomes a political issue of whether or not a pakeha group can perform a Maori Other. Through the question being postulated under the auspices of performance, the key scene from the Defoe text in which Crusoe watches the savages dance will provide a concrete model with which to constantly engage. This scene will be examined in both chapters, utilised in the first chapter as a means to enter into an analysis of the perception of the Other, and being considered in terms of theatricality in Chapter Two. Ultimately it would appear that to perform Otherness, or to perform Maori-ness, is impossible, due to the perception that every move a pakeha group makes towards this performance is perceived as culturally loaded. Nevertheless, I propose that it is a worthwhile and necessary endeavour to attempt such a performance of the Other, for this will at least raise questions rather than leave things in a state of conjecture.