a stage adaptation of Le Sûrmale, a novella, by Alfred Jarry
Originally intended as a small-scale, studio performance, The Supermale
was eventually staged as a public performance. It was intended to
investigate (and in this respect followed on from some previous
production experiments, in particular Szchokke's The Gang,) ways of
expressing in performance, or making concrete in scenographic
presentation, passages of writing which seem 'unstageable'.
Questions which were addressed included:
In presenting performance pieces which are 'distanced', either
historically, culturally or ideologically, from the context of performance,
should a University Drama Department seek to re-create a replica of the
original, for subsequent interrogation?
Or should ideas and beliefs which are no longer current be interrogated,
or subverted, by the manner of performance?
What performance practices might provide such subversions ?
What happens when a joke doesn't work, or has to be explained?
Can an idea be simultaneously celebrated and subverted, as in the
'alternating current' of an electric circuit?
How important is the gender, or cultural identity, of the author/auteur?
Pedagogic questions included:
Should student actors be asked to engage with potentially 'difficult' or
Are student actors, still learning their craft, able to deal with irony in
What is the place of artistic experiment, even innovation, in a University
What controls and safeguards should be in place?
What is the relationship between 'art' and pedagogy?
I identified four passages of The Supermale which were likely -even
certain - to provoke strong reactions, posing challenges in rehearsal and
The opening discussion of sex, and the comparison of sexual
'supermen' from history and mythology
The policeman's account of the murder -"raped to death" of a little girl
The prostitutes' seven-way lesbian orgy
The extended and extremely explicit sex scene between Andre and
Ellen, in which they break the 'record' set by the "Indian".
Some of the strategies adopted in the presentation of The Supermale
may best be expressed in the terminology of rhetoric; in particular,
anachronism, anachorism, litotes and hyperbole.
The production was the subject of a paper given to the XIIth congress of
the International University Theatre Association in Urbino, July 2006.
Click here for the text of that paper
Click here for a discussion of the scenography of The Supermale
Click for a full set of production photographs
Click for the performance text of The Supermale