The Eco-Improvisatory-Theatre of Merleau-Ponty’s Phenomenological Narrative


  • Bronwyn Preece



Illustrating how Merleau-Ponty’s enigmatic phenomenology lends itself beautifully to both theatrical and ecological analysis, this essay examines how his work heralds a call to engage with our world on an embodied, improvisatory level. Exploratory improvisation and Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology mitigate notions of distance into a causal relationship towards (re)engaging wholeness, by inviting the sensuous intimacies of interaction: with ourselves, with each other, with earth…. in distance, in proximity. Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology must be embodied and experienced with a consciousness, an alertness and perceptive awareness of the act of engagement. The call to action by Merleau-Ponty begets an improvisatory eco-theatre; however it is not a move towards environmental activism. This paper illustrates how improvisation is a means to experientially make clear this delineation, which is crucial to overcome the dichotomies of separation and otherness that have been so entrenched in the Western world. Re-engaging our sensitivity of improvising as tool for survival, in a world where our sensitivities are all too often socially-placated and dulled is where the work of Merleau-Ponty and where theatre can be an active tool for re-imagining a future, our future. Merleau-Ponty’s eco-theatre is holistic, is inclusive and is most definitely a form of activism (or act-of-vision): a phenomenology that, properly and fully grasped, can be embodied through a ‘theatrical’ practice, specifically through exploratory improvisation.