Academic journal article Theatre Research in Canada

Identities of Ambivalence: Judith Thompson's Perfect Pie

Academic journal article Theatre Research in Canada

Identities of Ambivalence: Judith Thompson's Perfect Pie

Article excerpt

This paper examines Judith Thompson's Perfect Pie, using Judith Butler's discussion of subjectivity in The Psychic Life of Power. According to Butler, stability as a subject necessitates a simultaneous recognition and denial of subjugation to power, but this stability is also constantly threatened by desire which promises to destabilize the subject. Desire is therefore thwarted in order to guarantee the subject's existence. As Butler points out, the process of subject formation resembles melancholia: the subject is never fully able to disengage from the discursive and psychic means by which it is constituted.

Thompson, in both the script and in her directorial choices in the Tarragon 2000 production of Perfect Pie, writes large the subordination of the subject and also demonstrates its links to binary oppositions. Thompson highlights the excessive nature of the subject by foregrounding the binary oppositions which govern the psychic and social worlds and by then confounding them, demonstrating the Derridean notion of the trace of the other within the self. In her destabilizing of these binaries, and in her orchestration of narrative, Thompson emphasizes identity as a site of ambivalence in which binaries are relinquished and difference accommodated.

Moser examine la piece Perfect Pie de Judith Thompson a l'aide de la notion de subjectivite qu'expose Judith Butler dans The Psychic Life of Power. Selon Butler, la stabilite entant que sujet exige a la fois une reconnaissance de sa soumission au pouvoir et un refus de ce mouvement. Or, cette stabilite est constamment menacee par un desir qui risque de destabiliser le sujet, et ce desir doit etre contre afin de garantir l'existence du sujet. Comme le constate Butler, le processus de formation du sujet ressemble a la melancolie : le sujet ne peut jamais se detacher entierement des moyens discursifs et psychiques a l'aide desquels il a ete constitue.

Dans les choix qu'elle a fait au moment de l'ecriture et de la mise en scene de Perfect Pie au Tarragon en 2000, Thompson illustre la subordination du sujet et montre son rapport aux oppositions binaires. Elle souligne la nature excessive du sujet en placant au premier plan les oppositions binaires qui gouvernent les mondes psychiques et sociaux et en les confondant par la suite, illustrant la notion derridienne de la trace de l'Autre en soi. En destabilisant ces elements, et en orchestrant ainsi son recit, Thompson montre en quoi l'identite peut etre le lieu d'une ambivalence ou l'on abandonne les oppositions binaires et ou l'on cherche a s'adapter a la difference.

Emotions can turn on a dime in the plays of Judith Thompson. A moment of intimacy, for example, is frequently met with humiliation when women striptease as acts of seduction, only to have their mate brush them off. "I gotta be somewhere," says Joe to Sandy (31) in The Crackwalker, as he walks away, leaving her standing in her bra and pantyhose. In Lion in the Streets, Sue takes her clothes off in front of her friends in a last attempt to seduce her husband Bill, but he simply walks away. A frequent device Thompson uses to indicate this reversal is the interrupted kiss. In I am Yours, Dee tearfully begs Mack to come back to her. He finally relents, and they're about to kiss when Dee yells, "Youuuuu sucker, you believe me?" (126). In Lion in the Streets, Michael moves to embrace Rodney only to throw him to the ground, calling him a queer (53).

Critics have examined this tendency in Thompson's plays in terms of psychoanalysis, suggesting a primal, frustrated search for completion, in which oppositions invariably play a key role. Rob Nunn points out, for example, how the inscription of "Ich bin dein" on the locket in I am Yours "ironically holds out the offer of eternal love, of the desiring subject finding its lost complement in the other, but in fact, [...] the locket signifies loss. The promise is always already broken, the desired object is always already a signifier of that which is absent" ("Spatial Metaphor" 20). …

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