Casting Matters: Colour Trouble in the RSC’s The Orphan of Zhao

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This article argues that all casting practices have significant discursive power. Drawing upon Judith Butler’s analysis of materiality, and J. L. Austin’s speech-act theory, it asserts that, in all contexts, casting produces bodies as discursively meaningful, and can facilitate a reflexive gap between actors and the roles they play. The article focuses on Ben Kingsley’s performance as The Mandarin in Iron Man 3 to explore how this gap might articulate both dramaturgical and social performativity. The Royal Shakespeare Company’s (RSC) The Orphan of Zhao is then analysed to consider why ethnic pretence was critiqued by British East Asian artists in this production. Ultimately, the article argues that the way in which The Orphan of Zhao was staged leads to possible charges of cultural imperialism – a charge that framed the relationship between actor and role as ‘authentic’, and prevented the casting from being truly ‘integrated’.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)436-451
Number of pages16
JournalContemporary Theatre Review
Issue number4
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 21 Oct 2014

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