Performativity and the Construction of Children’s Citizenship in Backa Theatre’s Staging of Lille Kung Mattias (2009/2010)

Sandra Grehn


The aim of this article is to investigate and explain how performativity, as defined by J.L. Austin and Judith Butler, can be viewed as an important element within the narrative framework of Lille Kung Mattias (Little King Mattias), as performed by Backa Theatre in Gothenburg, Sweden, during the 2009­2010 season. Lille Kung Mattias, directed by Mattias Andersson, is based on the novel Król Macius ́ Pierwszy (1923) by Polish author Janusz Korczak, and has been performed for children aged 11 upwards. I explore how class, age and gender are »made« (and also fail to be made) performatively, and show how being a king is revealed as a performative act precisely then, when Mattias receives all the attire and the title but doesn’t move or talk like an adult king. Thus he fails to fulfil expectations. But thereafter, in terms that Butler uses, Mattias pushes the borders of what a king can be and do by iteratively »making« a new kind of king. In the end, the audience also change their behaviour by becoming an active part of the performance.

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