Extended deadline, June 5: "Theatre and Displeasure", Nordic Theatre Studies Vol. 36 No. 1 (2024)


Theatre and Displeasure

Nordic Theatre Studies Vol. 36 No. 1 (2024)

edited by Martynas Petrikas and Petra Dotlačilová 

Whereas theatre as a source of pleasure has been much researched, the history of displeasure in relation to theatre has received far less attention. Yet, in every period of theatre development, one will find instances of offended audiences, be it Aristophanes and his comedies or Rodrigo García and his unrest provoking pieces. This issue of Nordic Theatre Studies is conceived as contemporary response to Anne Ubersfeld, who in her seminal book L’Ecole du spectateur (1981), listed numerous sources of pleasure available for spectators in theatre: pleasure of seeing and hearing, pleasure of bricolage, pleasure of memory, understanding, invention, transgression and so on. The ambition of this issue is quite the opposite: to pinpoint and to categorise the numerous and varied instances of displeasure in theatre that can be registered by theatre makers, audiences, political or economic power and other agents.

The idea and purpose of unpleasant effects in theatre were famously conceptualised by dramatic writers. For George Bernard Shaw, his “unpleasant plays” were such because “their dramatic power is used to force the spectator to face unpleasant facts.” (Shaw: 1905). For Peter Handke, the source of offence was theatre refusing to be “theatre” and rejecting all sorts of theatricality and fiction (Joseph et al.: 1970). Conceptually offensive playwriting and theatre making peaked in the 1990s, prompting Aleks Sierz to term it “in-yer-face” theatre (2014). The challenges to the theatre norms and conventions produced by Sarah Kane, Mark Ravenhill, Martin Crimp, Thomas Ostermeier and others strongly reverberated in Nordic and Baltic theatres when presented at the key festival “Baltoscandal” (est. 1990), promoting a change in theatre of the region. In all the cases outlined above one might find an attempt to generate what Jacques Rancière calls a “dissensus” - a “reordering” of senses in relation to something that seems to be established and finite (2015). In such a perspective manifestation of displeasure in theatre can be seen as indicative of a rearticulation of reality. 

We invite contributions that would trace negative theatrical experiences in form as well as in content of the theatrical event. The contributions could be devoted to the theoretical definition of displeasure or discomfort caused by textual, performative, visual and other dimensions of theatre production. We invite to consider the displeasure from various theoretical standpoints, for example philosophical (as suggested by Schroeder: 2001), queer studies and postcolonial readings (as pioneered by White: 2020).

The displeasure could also be regarded as an affective response that occurs due to particular socio-cultural dispositions of audience members (see Haedicke: 2006; Wetherell: 2012). We also welcome historical analysis of cases of performative displeasure such as audiences leaving in the middle of performances as in some of Romeo Castellucci’s or Angélica Liddell’s work or causing riots in theatre or outside it as in the USA (as registered by Richard Butsch (1995)), Ireland (case John Millington Synge and Sean O’Casey plays), England or recently Poland (cases of Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti in Birmingham and Oliver Frljić in Warsaw). Proposed themes include but are not limited to:

  • Sources of theatrical displeasure: writing, directing, performing, attending, spectating
  • Displeasure as theatrical tool: zone of discomfort as a part of the process of creating theatre practice and / or as the objective of a work of theatre
  • Aesthetic, ethical, economic aspects of negative experience in theatre
  • Catharsis vs. feelgood theatre: theatrical experience and well-being
  • Vulnerability of theatre maker and theatre goer

The open section of the journal

Additionally, we invite theatre researchers in the Nordic and Baltic countries and all scholars writing about theatre and performance related to these countries to send proposals for the journal's open section


BUTSCH, Richard. American Theater Riots and Class Relations, 1754-1849. THEATRE ANNUAL-AKRON-, 1995, 41-59.

HAEDICKE, Susan C. Discomfort at the Intersection of the Imaginary and Everyday Worlds in Friches Théâtre Urbain's Macbeth for the Street. Text and Performance Quarterly, 2006, 26.3: 253-273.

JOSEPH, Artur; ASHTON, E. B. Nauseated by Language: From an Interview with Peter Handke. The Drama Review, 1970, 15.1: 56-61.

RANCIÈRE, Jacques. Dissensus: On politics and aesthetics. Bloomsbury Publishing, 2015.

SCHROEDER, Timothy, 2001, Pleasure, Displeasure, and Representation. Canadian Journal of Philosophy. 2001. Vol. 31, no. 4,  507–530.

SHAW, Bernard. Plays: Pleasant and Unpleasant. Brentano's, 1905.

SIERZ, Aleks. In-yer-face theatre: British drama today. Faber & Faber, 2014.

WETHERELL, Margaret. Affect and emotion.  2012, 1-192.

WHITE, Bretton. Staging Discomfort: Performance and Queerness in Contemporary Cuba. 2020.



5 June 2023 – Deadline for the abstracts

19 June 2023 – Decision about abstracts

15 October 2023 – Deadline for the articles

30 November 2023 – Reply from peer reviewers

10 February 2024 – Deadline for submitting the revisions

April/May 2024 – Publication of the journal


Please send your abstract submission (300 words) and a short bio (100 words) to the email address editor.nordictheatrestudies@gmail.com by 5 June 2023.