Staging Counter-Narratives: Contemporary British Theatre in the Age of Disruption
Through a comparative reading of a corpus of plays staged after 2009, my research links contemporary British ‘playwright’s theatre’ to the socio-political and literary debate regarding ‘storytelling’ (i.e. the use of narrative form in non-literary discourse for affective and/or manipulative ends). Alongside an explicit preoccupation with (the ethics and politics of) storytelling, a number of formal and thematic traits I identify as ‘disruptions’ cut through these dramatic texts and provide a hermeneutic key to their analysis. These interruptions/disruptions in both form and content constitute a fertile point of view from which to re-signify dramatic trends in relation to the growing “soft power” of narration and attention-based power structures. I address the questions of how and why many British playwrights contribute to the creation of what Yves Citton terms a “left-wing imaginary”, and describe the aesthetic space collectively evoked in ‘mainstream new writing’ theatres in London (the National, the Royal Court, the Almeida, etc.). These controversial and emotionally challenging ‘counter-narratives’, I argue, disrupt the seamless and passive fruition of commodified entertainment and affectively elicit (often disturbing/unwelcome) critical thought.