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About this book

This guide offers a comprehensive account of British theatre from the 1960s to the present day. Placing critical commentary at the heart of its analysis, it explores how theatre critics and scholars have sought to understand and write about modern theatre, from the earliest reviews to revivals appearing decades later. With studies of contemporary reviews and archival material, Contemporary British Drama offers readers the opportunity to learn about British theatre in its original context and to chart shifting critical perceptions over the decades. It provides a crucial juxtaposition between the development of British theatre and its contemporaneous critical response, supplying an invaluable insight into the critical climate of recent decades.
From feminist playwrighting to In-Yer-Face theatre, this is the ideal companion for undergraduate students of Literature and Theatre in need of an introduction to the debates surrounding contemporary British drama.

Table of Contents

1. The Rise of Political Theatre

Abstract
The aim of this chapter is to provide the reader with a critical overview of political theatre in Britain from the late 1960s to the 1980s. This is clearly a potentially vast undertaking, so it will necessarily focus on specific playwrights and critical perceptions. However, in exploring the ways in which playwrights from this time responded to their political environment, the hope is to offer the reader a broad understanding of the relationship between theatre and politics during this period, theatre’s role as a commentator on society and theatre’s place within the wider political setting through an examination of critical response to the plays under consideration.
Catherine Rees

2. The Gendering of Political Theatre: Women’s Writing and Feminist Drama

Abstract
Political playwriting in the 1970s and 1980s, as described in the previous chapter, might appear to be dominated by male writers. Indeed, as is often the case, mainstream theatre was, and still arguably is, the monopoly of the middle-class white man; but that is not to say that political theatre was not also being created by women at this time, and some of those writers would go on to become mainstream playwrights. This chapter aims to examine two female playwrights – Sarah Daniels and Caryl Churchill – who offered critiques of female experience in the 1980s.
Catherine Rees

3. In-Yer-Face Theatre: The Shocking New Face of Political Drama?

Abstract
There was one form of theatre that enjoyed almost uncontested dominance in the 1990s, and that was a style of drama christened “In-Yer-Face” theatre, or the theatre of extremes. There has been much debate since about how best to classify this work, but scholars and critics tend to agree that stylistically the end of the 1990s saw a shift in theatre from state of the nation political grandstanding to more personal and experiential drama, with a specific emphasis on extreme depictions of sex, violence and behaviour.
Catherine Rees

4. The “New” Political – Verbatim Theatre and Theatre of the “Real”

Abstract
As Chapter 1 sought to explore, political theatre has always been a dominant form in post-war British theatre, and it was especially dominant in the 1960s and 1970s. However, in more recent years, a new form of political playwriting emerged, which challenged the very notion of the playwright and called into question the role of theatre in documenting political events. Documentary theatre – less a narrative of fictional events inspired by political history and more a journalistic response to “real” life, where playwrights are less concerned with creating fictional worlds and recast as an assembler of other people’s voices – became increasingly dominant.
Catherine Rees

5. Global Theatres: Representing Race, Religion and Identity

Abstract
2003 has been termed a “particularly fortuitous year” for black British playwriting, in which “an unprecedented eleven black British plays were staged” (Goddard, 2015a: 4). Certainly, this period represented an upsurge in popularity of plays by minority ethnic dramatists, with diverse works achieving critical acclaim on main stages and in the West End. This chapter seeks to examine, along other things, whether or not 2003 was a watershed or a one-off; did black theatre really celebrate a renaissance in the noughties, or was this surge of success a mirage, obscuring problems with plays by writers of colour still not achieving critical success or enjoying equality with white writers.
Catherine Rees

6. New Theatre Forms – Adapting the Novel and Filming the Stage

Abstract
On 25 June 2009, British theatre entered into an experiment that would change the nature of live performance and make us question what it means to witness a live theatrical event. The Royal National Theatre in London became the first theatre in the world to broadcast a screening of a live performance into 70 cinemas across the United Kingdom. In so doing, they effectively doubled the audience capacity for this entire production, with the equivalent of the total audience for the whole NT run seeing the performance broadcast live on 25 June (Bakhshi and Throsby, 2010: 4).
Catherine Rees
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