Sonna Cadman (KCL) - 2018-19 Students

Constructing and performing English identity on the British stage

My research examines how British theatre productions between 1968-2018 which integrate English folk music (re)construct, (re)present and perform English identity and ‘Englishness’. I focus on the following principal questions:

  • What statements are made by these productions in relation to the socio-economic, political and cultural moment of nation each production evokes and is created within?
  • What contributions to national narratives are made by these productions, and how are they made?
  • What cultural memory do these productions contribute to and/or create?
  • What facility do these productions have to contribute to the preservation of English cultural formations and the oral and performance traditions that sustain them?

Since 1968 English folk music has been integrated into a significant number of professional British theatre productions, ranging from large scale productions on prominent national stages, to small scale rural touring productions. Existing scholarship extensively investigates the relationship between theatre and nation, national identity and nationalism, which extends to the particular examination of Scottish identity in British theatre productions that have integrated and combined Scottish history, language and folk arts such as the Scottish ceilidh. Separately, contemporary English folk arts have, very recently, been acknowledged and interrogated by the academy as a site for constructing English identities. However, there is a notable absence of research into the utilising of English folk music (and dance) in constructing English identity/ies and the ever-elusive ‘Englishness’ in a remarkable collection of British theatre productions that have appeared throughout the last fifty years, and the contribution this body of work has made to national narratives; my research will begin to rectify this dearth in scholarship.

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