Nadine Deller (CSSD) - 2019-20 Students

Playing in the Dark – Women Playwrights in the Black Plays Archive

This research project will interrogate the work of black British women playwrights, charting their work in the National Theatre’s Black Plays Archive over the past six decades. To achieve this, my research project will take an intersectional approach to reassessing their work. I will pose questions about how ‘race’, ‘gender’, ‘class’ and ‘sexuality’ intersect within their plays and interrogate what they are saying about British theatre and history.

Michael Pearce claims that, ‘Black British theatre is a barometer for a changing Britain’ (Pearce, 2017); whilst I agree with this statement, I will investigate what black British women’s theatre has to say about a changing Britain. British theatre is still dominated by androcentrism and ‘whiteness’; this research aims to address this imbalance by exploring and celebrating the works of black British women.

In order to carry out this research I will be looking at the different works of women in the Black Plays Archive, I will then chart how these works were perceived and welcomed on their conception, examining how ‘race’, ‘gender’, ‘class’ and ‘sexuality’ played out in both the plays and in their contemporary historical context. Next, I will reassess these works using a range of postcolonial theory, feminist theory and theatre criticism to reconfigure their significance in the BPA and – more broadly – in the schema of British history. I also aim to focus on how black women’s histories have been narrativised in Britain and ask: how do we define and look at these playwrights and their works?

Ultimately, this research hopes to address the historical imbalance of the past 60 years in British theatre, reassessing black women’s contribution to British theatre by challenging the archival ‘gaps’ that have marginalised them in the histories of modern British theatre.

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