Acting, Anxiety and Authenticity: Performing Affective Labour in Nathan Fielder’s The Rehearsal (2022)


  • Maria Menzel



 This article investigates ways of performing affective labour as presented in the docu-comedy series The Rehearsal by Nathan Fielder. In reading The Rehearsal through the lens of affective labour, this article examines in what ways the cultural and economic value placed on performing authentic emotion has become a cause for anxiety in and around the modern workplace. Throughout the show, Nathan attempts to manage other’s emotions, as well as his own; but he constantly doubts whether the moments of intimacy he is creating are truly authentic. The show illustrates the feelings of alienation that come with the commercialisation of affect and the breaking down of divisions between the public and the private. The show uses the mise-en-scene to create an alienation effect (as conceptualised by Brecht), causing the viewer to question where the line between real and artificial lies. Fielder's show creates an environment reflective of neoliberal labour markets, in which there is no exteriority to work. This problematises the possibility to return to an authentic subjectivity outside the labouring self.