Experimentation through witnessing tragic British theatre

Frisby, Madison (2022). Experimentation through witnessing tragic British theatre. University of Birmingham. M.A.

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This dissertation analyses various techniques used by contemporary British playwrights that aim to position the audience as witnesses rather than analysts. The role of the audience has changed drastically since the postdramatic trend encompassed the arts. Playwrights have now begun utilising different techniques, including the role of the witness, traumatised characters, drama-in-the-head, testing the audience, and the death of the author. All these techniques employ different means to accomplish one goal, to involve the audience and give them the responsibility to witness. The contemporary audience is no longer receiving a direct explanation from the play as to what it is. Instead, they must now engage with performances and decipher the playwright's underlying intention.

What does witnessing mean as it relates to contemporary theatre? This is what this dissertation aims to answer. To answer this question, I will provide examples from numerous playwrights that follow these techniques and reflect on ones we see from the 60s onward. This dissertation will be structured into different chapters that provide a deep analysis into how the techniques work. Some playwrights’ texts include more than one of these techniques, thus I will discuss some plays more than once. However, they will be discussed in different ways regarding how they utilize these contrasting techniques to include the audience. The historical playwrights that I will include in this dissertation are David Hare, David Edgar, and some of Martin Crimp’s work. The contemporary playwrights that use similar styles, but not limited, to the notion of the witness will be debbie tucker green, Caryl Churchill, Ella Hickson, Simon Stephens, David Greig, Anthony Neilson, Sarah Kane, and Jez Butterworth. Many of these contemporary playwrights’ plays ask the audience to take on responsibility and either witness, investigate or become the playwright themselves. Even though these plays may take on different themes and techniques, they all aim to include the audience in the performance process.

Type of Work: Thesis (Masters by Research > M.A.)
Award Type: Masters by Research > M.A.
Licence: All rights reserved
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
School or Department: School of English, Drama and Creative Studies, Department of Drama and Theatre Arts
Funders: None/not applicable
Subjects: N Fine Arts > NX Arts in general
URI: http://etheses.bham.ac.uk/id/eprint/13117


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