New Readings in British Drama
From the Post-War Period To the Contemporary Era
Table Of Contents
- About the editors
- About the book
- This eBook can be cited
- The Unbearable Absence of Existence: The Post-Structuralist Condition in Tom Stoppard’s After Magritte (Mehmet Akif Balkaya)
- Memory, Gender and Innovation in Caryl Churchill’s Cloud Nine: The Brechtian Legacy in the Postmodern Theatre (Gül Kurtuluş)
- Deciphering Postdramatic Tragedy in Sarah Kane’s Phaedra’s Love (Mesut Günenç)
- Nostalgia and Identity Crisis of Black British Characters in Roy Williams’s The No Boys Cricket Club (Enes Kavak and Gökçe Akarık)
- Apocalypse In-Yer-Face: Mark Ravenhill’s Faust Is Dead (Mustafa Bal)
- Becoming Human/oid: A Posthumanist Critique of Thomas Eccleshare’s Instructions for Correct Assembly (Özlem Karadağ)
- Post-Neoliberalism, Free Market and Disillusionment: Anders Lustgarten’s If You Don’t Let Us Dream, We Won’t Let You Sleep (Hakan Gültekin)
- “An International Crossroads of Female Pain.” Intersectional Feminism: Jackie Kay’s Chiaroscuro (Pelin Doğan)
- Notes on Contributors
New Readings in British Drama: From the Post-War Period to the Contemporary Era includes chapters by scholars specializing in drama and theatre studies at various Turkish universities. The book aims to present new readings of British plays produced after the post–-Second World War period by underlining the fact that literary theories have never been stagnant and exhausted in the field of drama as part of literary studies. Scholarly editions focusing exclusively on contemporary drama and its critical readings are still a rarity, as contemporary literary scholars tend to neglect drama in favour of fiction. Books and edited volumes such as Oscar G. Brockett’s Perspectives on Contemporary Theatre (1999), Vicky Angelaki’s Contemporary British Theatre: Breaking New Ground (2013), Gabriele Griffin’s Contemporary Black and Asian Women Playwrights in Britain (2003), Cristina Delgado-García’s Rethinking Character in Contemporary British Theatre: Aesthetics, Politics, Subjectivity (2015), Kara Reilly’s Contemporary Approaches to Adaptation in Theatre (2018) and Joe Kelleher and Nicholas Ridout’s Contemporary Theatres in Europe: A Critical Companion (2006) offer important critical insights into different aspects of contemporary British and European theatres and they have all contributed to the field by attracting interest in critical readings. Following these examples, we have decided to offer an edited volume featuring new perspectives into a select collection of British plays written after World War II by emphasizing how key theoretical approaches can help elucidate theatrical texts and their performances from a contemporary critical standpoint.
Literary theory offers an invaluable instrument and critical space for appreciation, signification and repositioning of drama/theatre in the realms of philosophy, culture and politics. In the second half of the twentieth century, postmodernism and post-structuralism became the two most influential movements guiding and inspiring playwrights and directors who confronted and dismantled the dominant political and social discourses of their age. Post-structuralism, most basically, stands for a reaction to structuralism by employing a metalinguistic reading of social and political power relations. The famous philosopher and theorist Michel Foucault asserted that the human subject, who is historically specific, is under the influence of the dominant discourses of a historical period, which builds up the bodies of knowledge and subjectivities. On the contrary, the French sociologist and philosopher, Baudrillard saw culture as completely negated of political and other meanings and associations. He ←7 | 8→blamed commodification, commercial marketing and mass media for the loss of meaning in contemporary societies. He presented a critique of the dominant modes of thought and the power of technology in his writings on postmodernism and contemporary culture. In this context, playwrights such as Harold Pinter, Edward Albee, Caryl Churchill, Tom Stoppard, Sarah Kane and Mark Ravenhill wrote the best examples of postmodern British plays.
Postcolonial criticism of the British theatre focuses on the theatres that appeared in the immediate post–Second World War period. It offers the critiques of theatrical works on or from the ex-colonies such as India and the Caribbean as well as countries such as Canada, America and England. Postcolonial criticism in theatre, therefore, explores the colonial past and its relation to the current White, Black and mixed communities through dramatic portrayals of individuals and their subjective experiences. However, a group of new Black playwrights such as Roy Williams, Jackie Kay, Kwame Kwei-Armah, debbie tucker green, Winsome Pinnock and Bola Agbaje have brought a new sensibility to the British stage with their plays on contemporary issues of the Black diaspora in the United Kingdom. These plays go beyond the confines of postcolonial tradition and offer us a unique window into the lives and experiences of Black people in multi-ethnic and multicultural urban centres of British society in the new millennium.
Posthumanism, which was conceptualized around the 1990s, puts forward that an anthropocentric future and its social, political and moral circumstances are longer sustainable and sensible in a technologically and scientifically forward-looking world. It, thus, proposes that it is possible and reasonable for humans to exceed their corporeal and mental boundaries physiologically, politically and philosophically. The progressive mentality of the theory has offered a new critical realm for theatre writers and critics to discover the unexplored aspects of posthuman possibilities and related philosophical disputes in theatre. Plays such as Mark Ravenhill’s Faust Is Dead (1997), Sarah Kane’s Crave (1998), Katie Mitchell’s The Waves (2006), Lucy Prebble’s The Sugar Syndrome (2003) and Sarah Ruhl’s Dead Man’s Cell Phone (2007) displayed a posthumanist stance in contemporary theatre.
Postdramatic theatre is a theatre of states and dynamic pictorial and performative scenes. It rebuffs the conventional representation of the material world and distorts the linearity of time. Hans-Thies Lehmann, examining the theory of drama, divides periods such as predramatic, dramatic and postdramatic. Analysing avant-garde movements, Bertolt Brecht and Gertrude Stein, Lehmann saw the crises in drama and the total rejection of Aristotle’s mimesis as a key aim in contemporary theatre and defended the staging of performative states as aesthetic constructions rather than the narrative representations of life. The ←8 | 9→traces of postdramatic theatre can be seen in the work of companies such as the Wooster Group in the USA and Forced Entertainment in the UK between the 1970s and 1980s. Playwrights such as Heiner Müller, Martin Crimp, Mark Ravenhill, Sarah Kane, Simon Stephens and Tim Crouch are notable representatives of postdramatic theatre in Europe.
All these post–Second World War theories provided a fertile ground for the critical analyses of dramatic, postdramatic and avant-garde plays written and produced by contemporary British playwrights from new and diverse perspectives. In this respect, each chapter of the book aims to answer the following:
- how the theories of the postwar period are essential to our understanding of contemporary drama and theatrical performances;
- what critical genealogies of the theory are relevant to theatre and its criticism today;
- in what ways these theories offer new insights into contemporary drama, dramaturgy and theatre performances today;
- in what ways key literary theories and discourses subvert previous readings of British drama.
Our contributors recognize that the question for theatre writers and critics today lies precisely in how to pinpoint, conceptualize and examine what is to be qualified/disqualified, essential/non-essential, potential/non-potential and meaningful/empty in contemporary theatre, the productions and scripts of which mostly emerged as a reaction to the notable literary theories of the twentieth century. We have attempted to answer the posed questions by examining the works of Tom Stoppard, Caryl Churchill, Sarah Kane, Roy Williams, Mark Ravenhill, Thomas Eccleshare, Anders Lutsgarten and Jackie Kay from the perspectives of the critical theories. Accordingly, as the scholars working in the field of English Literature and Drama Studies in Turkey, we would like to stress the criticality of literary theories in our valuation and understanding of dramatic works and express our keen interest in drama and theatre criticism, which, we hope, will generate further interest in the field.
The contributions to this study have taken up different perspectives into post–-Second World War theories and offer new critical insights into a select collection of British plays as summarized below.
The first chapter by Mehmet Akif Balkaya helps contextualize Tom Stoppard’s play After Magritte within the context of post-structuralism. The author aims to show to what extent symbols may not get proper meanings within the post-structuralist nature of the play read through Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault and Albert Camus’s ideas on deconstruction, power relations and existentialism, ←9 | 10→respectively. Stoppard’s play undermines wholeness within the meaning of the text itself; therefore, no final statement of meaning can be established. The chapter, then, discusses the complicated reality perceived by the characters in After Magritte by dealing with problems such as reality/misperception, uncertainty/doubt and truth/failure.
In the second chapter, Gül Kurtuluş writes on Caryl Churchill’s Theatre and reassesses her place in the contemporary theatrical world through her play Cloud Nine, which marks a significant point in the epoch of the postmodern theatre. The author tries to reflect how Churchill’s plays are very much compatible with the new theatre forms such as postmodern and contemporary experimental alternatives in the 1970s. The chapter argues that Cloud Nine offers a link between postmodernist theory, specifically post-Brechtian theatre, and current theoretical discussions.
In the third chapter, Mesut Günenç examines Phaedra’s Love, which reflects the tragic side of postdramatic theatre and features a more rapeful and disordered structure than theatrical form. The study analyses one of the most distinctive contemporary British playwrights, Sarah Kane, by drawing on the philosophy of Hans Thies Lehmann’s postdramatic theatre and his theory of postdramatic tragedy.
In the fourth chapter, Enes Kavak and Gökçe Akarik contribute the volume with a study on Roy Williams’ The No Boys Cricket Club, which looks into contemporary Black British theatre with its portrayal of nostalgia and unique Black characters who go through personal crises. The play presents an imaginative quest instigated by nostalgia and existential anxieties of two female Black characters in East London in which the past is envisioned as a liminal space for reclamation and transformation of self away from personal disillusionments and intra-family rifts. The chapter thus examines the Black characters’ search for meaning and coherence in the contemporary multicultural society and the theatrical strategies of Black theatre as an offshoot of diaspora literature in the new century.
- ISBN (PDF)
- ISBN (ePUB)
- ISBN (MOBI)
- ISBN (Hardcover)
- Publication date
- 2021 (December)
- Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2021. 152 pp.