Staging the dark times: contemporary dystopian theatre in the UK 2000-2019

De Simoni, Laura (2021) Staging the dark times: contemporary dystopian theatre in the UK 2000-2019. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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This thesis explores contemporary manifestations of dystopian theatre. Through a detailed analysis of ten carefully selected plays and performances premiered in the UK from the year 2000 onwards, it aims to identify the key traits, mechanisms, and functions specific to the genre. Despite the proliferation of theatre with dystopian thematic concerns in the UK since the turn of the twenty-first century, with a few notable exceptions the critical scholarship on dystopia tends to concentrate on other forms, especially the novel, at the expense of the theatrical medium. My thesis aims to redress this imbalance. By bringing together concepts from Utopian Studies and critical approaches to drama and performance studies, I develop a specialist, innovative framework for the analysis of dystopian theatre.

Each chapter attends to a central feature of dystopia – its narrative structure, its estrangement, and its function of critique – in order to investigate how theatre interprets, transforms, and develops the themes and conventions of the genre. Through the analysis of a range of recent dystopian plays and performances, this project explores the diverse ways in which dystopias in the theatre communicate, affectively and cognitively, with their audiences. This study contends that the current understanding of dystopia can be enriched by the productive encounter with theatre’s unique qualities, particularly its materiality, multiple signifying system, and relations to live audiences. The key findings of this dissertation are that dystopian theatre conveys its critique in distinctively theatrical ways, by combining linguistic techniques, scenographic features, and visual, spatial, aural and kinetic signs with the affective elements of performance.

To illustrate my argument, my first analysis chapter examines the scripts of Martin McDonagh’s The Pillowman, Dawn King’s Foxfinder, Sam Sneider’s Lemons, Lemons, Lemons, Lemons, Lemons, and Sam Holcroft’s Edgar & Annabel. The second considers the scripts and production arrangements of Lucy Kirkwood’s Tinderbox, Stef Smith’s Girl in the Machine and Alistair McDowall’s Pomona. The final chapter focuses on the performances of Killer by Philip Ridley, Golem by 1927, and The Wedding by Gecko.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Robinson, Joanna
Collins, Christopher
Keywords: theatre, performance, drama, dystopia, contemporary, UK, drama, utopia, estrangement, affect, language, dystopian theatre
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: 65722
Depositing User: De Simoni, Laura
Date Deposited: 04 Aug 2021 04:43
Last Modified: 04 Aug 2023 04:31

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