Does risk theatre follow the conventions laid out in Aristotle’s Poetics?
No! Risk theatre is an anti-Aristotelian model of tragedy. Where Aristotle says ‘pity and fear’ risk theatre says ‘anticipation and apprehension’. Where Aristotle says hamartia or a ‘tragic flaw’ risk theatre says that the protagonist’s plan is actually rather flawless. What ruins the hero is a low-probability, high-consequence event that could not have been predicted beforehand. Not error, but chance.
Does the idea of risk theatre seem too vague?
Yes, the kernel of risk theatre–that tragedy is a gambling act–is designed to be fruitfully ambiguous. It shares this feature with many other leading theories of tragedy.
Is risk theatre new?
Why risk theatre?
When Miller wrote Death of a Salesman, he lamented that “there was no model I could adapt for this play, no past history for the kind of work I felt it could become.” The critic Eagleton states it even more succinctly. He begins his seminal study, Sweet Violence: The Idea of the Tragic (Blackwell, 2002), with the point-blank pronoucement: “Tragedy is an unfashionable subject.” Artists and critics need a new model of tragedy, one that appeals to today’s audiences. Risk theatre, by aligning tragedy with the current fascination with uncertainty, risk, and chance, accomplishes this.