Representing the Rural: New Rural Imaginaries on the English Stage since 2000

Edwards, Gemma (2021) Representing the Rural: New Rural Imaginaries on the English Stage since 2000. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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This thesis explores the representation of the English rural in contemporary theatre and performance. Here, I make the case that while a survey of theatre since 2000 evidences a relatively healthy engagement with the rural across a range of English stages, these plays and performances tend to be sidelined in contemporary theatre studies. In the pages that follow, I seek to address this neglect by affording the representation of the rural a central critical focus, with the aim of demonstrating the ways in which plays about the rural are both contemporary and political, making for a rich and stimulating object of study.

Defining the rural as both a material, lived landscape and an imagined space, I draw on work from cultural geography, political philosophy, and theatre studies in my first chapter to build an interdisciplinary framework for reading the rural landscapes, communities, and practices which are represented in the plays and performances that I have identified. I then develop four thematic lenses through which the rural has been staged in England in recent years. Chapter Two considers rural national iconographies, focusing in detail on Mike Bartlett’s Albion (The Almeida, 2017 and 2020). Chapter Three turns to the pre-industrial rural landscapes in D.C. Moore’s Common (National Theatre: Olivier, 2017) and E.V. Crowe’s The Sewing Group (Royal Court Upstairs, 2016). Chapter Four looks to rural work on the farms that are represented in Nell Leyshon’s The Farm (regional tour of the West Country with Strode Theatre Company, 2001; Southwark Playhouse, 2002), Richard Bean’s Harvest (Royal Court Theatre, 2005; national rural tour with New Perspectives Theatre Company, 2017) and Bea Roberts’ And Then Come the Nightjars (Theatre503, 2015; regional tour with Perth Theatre Company, 2015). Finally, Chapter Five examines race and rurality in Testament’s Black Men Walking (national tour with Eclipse Theatre, 2018 and 2019) and White Open Spaces (rural tour with Pentabus, 2006; reproduced online, 2016) which was a collaboration between rural-touring company, Pentabus, and Black-led touring company, Eclipse Theatre. Through these four thematic lenses, I explore the ways in which theatre and performance attend to the complexity of the rural on the contemporary English stage, making the case that the English rural is not singular, but plural.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Robinson, Jo
Moran, James
Matless, David
Keywords: performance, politics, community, rural, rurality, England
Subjects: P Language and literature > PN Literature (General) > PN2000 Dramatic representation. The Theater
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Arts > School of English
Item ID: 65140
Depositing User: Edwards, Gemma
Date Deposited: 04 Aug 2021 04:41
Last Modified: 04 Aug 2023 04:30

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