Ethical Performance of Autobiography in Vicky Foster’s Bathwater on Stage, on Air, and in Print

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This article explores Vicky Foster’s Bathwater in its three formats of stage production, radio play, and book as an example of ethical autobiographical performance. Foster’s narrative is concerned with her experiences of an abusive domestic relationship and her efforts to care for her child. The material is characterised by a dual perspective in which the autobiographer-performer and an actor embodying the author’s son speak to the audience. The analysis makes use of discourses on liveness in performance studies, Susan Bennett’s understanding of the body as an archive of experiences in autobiographical performance, and Deirdre Heddon’s research into ethical performance practices. It highlights the respective merits of the three media formats chosen by Foster: the physical co-presence of the autobiographer-performer with a theatre audience, the sole focus on voice and sound on the radio, and the relative durability and reach of printed books. The conclusion argues that the three versions of Vicky Foster’s Bathwater balance the demands of truthfulness and artfulness towards autobiographical performance utilising the specific communicative set-up of each media format.
Original languageEnglish
JournalLife Writing
Early online date8 Sep 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 8 Sep 2020


  • ethical performance
  • liveness
  • domestic abuse
  • Bathwater

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