Post-War British Historical Drama
4. Howard Barker: History and Anti-history
← 102 | 103 →4.Howard Barker: History and Anti-history
Howard Barker is one of the most prolific British playwrights. Since the beginnings of his career in the late 1970s, he has published forty plays, as well as six collections of poems and two collections of essays. He cooperated with some of the most important actors of his time, such as Ian McDiarmid (whose performance in Terrible Mouth was called by Barker (1988: 131) “the greatest accomplishment of the actor’s craft”), Gary Oldman or Judy Davis. In spite of all this, Barker’s plays never achieved real popularity with the British public and never gained an important presence in the repertoire of the larger theatres. They are now mainly performed by The Wrestling School, a theatre group founded in 1988 by Kenny Ireland, aware of the crucial differences between Barker and other British playwrights, which required “the development of new techniques of presentation in both performance and design” (Roberts 2000: 23).
One of the reasons for this state of affairs is Barker’s conscious choice to write plays that are not immediately accessible to the audiences. In his article “Fortynine asides for the tragic theatre”, Barker (1988: 17) claims that the Britain of the 1980s, going through “the extinction of official socialism” became an authoritarian state, in which the ruling position is taken by those who control the finances. In this new form of dictatorship, “the accountant is the new censor” (Barker 1988: 17), as it is the potential income that determines the repertoire of the theatres. This form of...
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