This article examines the emergent concept of ‘failure’ in performance with respect to Eugene Ionesco's play The Chairs. It is argued that The Chairs illustrates wider operations of failure in performance, and in particular the specific ways in which an aesthetics of failure connects to a disruption of theatrical deixis. In bringing together notions of stage deixis and failure in performance, this article offers its own perspective on the discourse of failure in performance. While discussions concerning failure in performance tend to assume a disruption and unpicking of form and representation, I suggest that, paradoxically, The Chairs exemplifies an aesthetics of failure while in many ways inhabiting a more conventional dramatic paradigm. In developing this perspective I address a range of discursive concepts, including Hans-Thies Lehmann's conception of ‘postdramatic theatre,’ and Merleau-Ponty's idea that consciousness enacts itself through continual failures to coincide with itself and the world.