The Performance

Hardcover / ISBN-13: 9781474616980

Price: £14.99

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‘Quietly transformational’
The Times

‘A tour de force… I can’t recommend this too highly’
Patrick Gale

‘Innovative… an original, at-a-sitting read’
Daily Mail

‘A potent meditation on the intensity of women’s lives’
Charlotte Wood, author of The Weekend

‘A miracle… Engaging and evocative’
Washington Post

I loved and admired The Performance… Unmissable’
Emma Stonex, author of The Lamplighters

‘Lively and intimate… The way Thomas plays with the reader is a sort of genius’

‘Thomas writes these women with such wisdom and compassion, that by the end we are all transformed’
Claire Fuller, author of Unsettled Ground

The false cold of the theatre makes it hard to imagine the heavy wind outside in the real world, the ash air pressing onto the city from the nearby hills where bushfires are taking hold.
The house lights lower.
The auditorium feels hopeful in the darkness.

As bushfires rage outside the city, three women watch a performance of a Beckett play.
Margot is a successful professor, preoccupied by her fraught relationship with her ailing husband. Ivy is a philanthropist with a troubled past, distracted by the snoring man beside her. Summer is a young theatre usher, anxious about the safety of her girlfriend in the fire zone.
As the performance unfolds, so does each woman’s story. By the time the curtain falls, they will all have a new understanding of the world beyond the stage.


Graceful, complex, intriguing. I read from start to finish almost without looking up, and suspect I will be carrying these characters with me for some time yet. A brilliant contribution to Australian fiction. Bravo, Claire Thomas.
Claire Bowditch, Aria-Award-winning musician, actor, radio presenter and author of YOUR OWN KIND OF GIRL
This extraordinary novel contains multitudes. Grounded in the inner lives of three women, it expands to encompass so much that is of fundamental importance to our times, and indeed to the human condition itself. Profound, funny, full of empathy and oh-so-smart, this is a work of art in the truest sense. Read it as soon as you possibly can.
Emily Bitto, author of THE STRAYS
Restrained and adventurous at once, The Performance is a cool, potent meditation on the private intensity of women's lives. An enigmatic, elegant and assured novel that explores the power of art in revealing us to ourselves.
Charlotte Wood, author of THE WEEKEND
Witty, affecting, brilliantly wise and original: this is a wholly compelling examination of three women's lives triangulated through Beckett's Happy Days. Against Beckettian constraint, this is a "performance" of the gorgeous amplitude of everyday details and the densely lovely and scary texture of consciousness'
Gail Jones, author of THE DEATH OF NOAH GLASS
Firstly, I loved the whole idea of this book: that while the most extraordinary life happens onstage, three relatively ordinary women in the theatre's audience consider their most intimate fears and desires. And secondly, Thomas writes these women with such wisdom and compassion, that by the end we are all transformed.
Claire Fuller, author of BITTER ORANGE
Three women sit in the audience of a theatre production of Beckett's Happy Days while outside, somewhere beyond, bushfires present a looming threat. The Performance is an intimate, intensely brooding novel: at once claustrophobic and yet revelatory. Thomas touches on the climate crisis and the anxiety, grief and helplessness many of us feel. More than that, she gently questions the certainties of modern life that so many of us take for granted, and which have been thrown into stark relief over the past year by the pandemic we are living through.
Guinevere Glasfurd, author of THE YEAR WITHOUT SUMMER
I'd love to sit down with Claire Thomas and deconstruct The Performance. I am in awe of its architecture; the elegant circumscription of its staging; its multidimensional exploration of womanhood, the power of art, the geometry of relationships, and the state of the world; the vibrancy of its language, and the vividity of its character and place. This is a novel that thrums not with ferocious dramatic force, but with naked emotional power and insight... Thomas's gift is that she is able to make the most mundane detail beautifully compelling: she spins gold out of everyday material. Her novel is a sharply incisive, profound depiction of three women at different stages of their lives, rendered in gorgeously captivating prose. An indisputable masterpiece.
Simon McDonald, bookseller at Potts Point Bookshop (Sydney) and 2020 ABA Young Bookseller of the Year
The Performance is a story that assuredly balances the connections between the inner self, the intimacy of our immediate world and lives that are both beyond reach and yet determined by the paths we choose. Claire Thomas writes with a sure eye and knowing heart.
Tony Birch, author of BLOOD, GHOST RIVER and THE WHITE GIRL
Claire Thomas carries off a tour de force in The Performance, managing to pack a lifetime of human experience into remarkably little space. Like Beckett's ambiguous masterpiece, Happy Days, around which her narrative is tightly woven, she celebrates humanity and humour in the face of the intolerable. Even to people who live theatre makes fidget, I can't recommend this too highly.
Patrick Gale
I loved and admired The Performance. It's a work of great elegance and precision, a sharp yet achingly tender contemplation of women's hearts and minds. Thomas employs the stage to dazzling effect, calling into question the way we participate in our own lives and the lives of other people. Frequently funny, often profound, The Performance is an unmissable show.
Emma Stonex, author of THE LAMPLIGHTERS
Written with passion, The Performance is a brave book: unafraid of confronting the dissonances of living in a modern Australia
Cecily Niumeitolu, THE CONVERSATION
Thomas's innovative novel . . . [is] an original, at-a-sitting read
Stephanie Cross, DAILY MAIL
Intimate, poignant and darkly funny . . . Thomas has an astute eye for social inequality, and how "wealth generates wealth, abundance delivers abundance". Her most impressive feat is to portray the novel itself as a playscript during the play's interval . . . Much like Beckett, Thomas is more interested in the untangling of inner truths than in external incident, and her novel is quietly transformational. As the curtain falls on both the book and the performance, it is us and the characters alike who are changed in thought, if not yet in deed
Shabnom Khanom, THE SUNDAY TIMES