SOAS University of London

Centre for Global Media and Communications

Natalia Theodoridou

BA (Aristotle University), MRes (Royal Holloway), MA (University of Chicago)
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Natalia Theodoridou
Ms Natalia Theodoridou
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Thesis title:
After theatre: a metaphysical analysis of performance practices in Bali, and the problem of audiences.
Internal Supervisors

PhD Research

In my thesis, I examine representations, academic, popular and local, of ‘Balinese theatre,’ both live and recorded, and of its audiences. In doing so, I treat representing as a practice. I therefore consider the relationship between practices of studying Balinese performing arts, recording them for Balinese television (both national and local) and ethnographic film/documentary, and practices of making and watching Balinese performance. The object of study is, then, the relationship between practices. Such a study is relevant for several reasons. Can practices of performing be circumscribed and limited to, potentially underdetermined, theatrical practices? To what extent can practices of representation be seen as performance practices, and how could that inform current understandings of Balinese theatre, or even media and cultural studies more generally? Also, the question of how recording and broadcasting affects the relationships involved in performance tends to be ignored, as if such mediation were neutral, unimportant or irrelevant. The study of audiences, in turn, has tended to concentrate on television, but relies on precedents from theatre for many of its assumptions. This approach is even more problematic if we consider recording and watching as disjunct practices. In addition, Balinese theatre occupies a special place in Euro-American theory, not only for general claims about the nature of theatre, but about the polity and human nature itself. What has this knowledge been in aid of, who is it for, and what relationship does it bear to the ways in which Balinese perform, watch, and talk about their practices today?

The fieldwork for this research (fifteen months in Bali, Indonesia) started as an ethnographic study of theatre-making, recording, and watching practices, with particular attention to the ways Balinese audiences engage with performance practices. My focus gradually shifted and the primary object of study was refined as representations and articulations of theatre in Bali. Audiences per se came to be a stress test for our ideas of theatre.

During my fieldwork, I attended and recorded a large number of performances—predominantly in Ubud and Singapadu, which are longstanding centres of excellence in performance, but also in Denpasar, which is a natural centre of attraction by virtue of its being the provincial capital—which were then discussed with both actors and others present at the performances. Follow-up studies were conducted with (a) theatrical specialists at several of the leading institutions of higher learning in Denpasar (e.g., Institut Seni Indonesia, Denpasar; Universitas Udayana) and (b) media professionals (TVRI, DewataTV, BaliTV and RRI Denpasar). A central aim of the latter follow-up studies was to contrast local views of the audience with those of media and arts professionals. In the latter case, unstructured and semi-structured interviews as well as group discussions were the primary method employed. The Bali Arts Festival (June-July 2011 and 2012) was also a central focus of this part of the project, as it provided an opportunity to watch performances that attracted large audiences from different parts of the island.


  • 'Do the Balinese have theatre?.' Conference on Bali in Global Asia: Between Modernization and Heritage Formation. Denpasar, Indonesia, July, 2012.