Beginning with Frantz Fanon's description of the problematic yet energizing effects of decolonization in The Wretched of the Earth (1961), this essay discusses the ways in which the theatre of modernity appears especially attractive to anti-colonial and post-colonial nationalist movements. This dominant and institutional model of theatre presents the colonized, not only as physically decorous, but as efficient and ready for work within a capitalist economy. The essay examines these propositions in relation to twentieth-century Irish theatre and drama. The second part of the essay examines the continuing centrality of performance and professional theatre within current discourses of neoliberalism and performance management. The essay concludes by referring briefly to an array of contemporary theatre groups that re-awaken theatre's potential for ethical self-awareness by refusing many of the core conventions of institutional theatre.