Many Fine People on Both Sides: The Dramaturgy of Far-right Politics on the Recent UK Stage

Hudson, James (2020) Many Fine People on Both Sides: The Dramaturgy of Far-right Politics on the Recent UK Stage. Studies in Theatre and Performance . ISSN 1468-2761

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Many Fine People on Both Sides: The Dramaturgy of Far-right Politics on the Recent UK Stage
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Abstract

The leftist tradition of playwrights challenging political power on the UK’s prestige stages over recent decades meant eyebrows were raised at both Nick Hytner’s (2006) wish for a ‘mischievous right-wing play’ and Dominic Cooke’s proposed focus in 2007 upon the ‘liberal middle class’ under his Artistic Directorship at the Royal Court. Since then reactionary retrenchment in UK society has moved apace following sustained neoliberal statecraft by successive governments, continued widening of gaps in inequality of income, wealth, and opportunity, increased media advocacy and the mainstreaming of far-right ideas, and the resurgence of national chauvinism and anti-immigration sentiment, all of which culminated most notably in the Brexit vote. While this new climate has stimulated more serious explorations of conservative sentiment, typically such works are characterised by restrained objectivity and qualification in their handling of reactionary attitudes. This paper offers a reading of three recent productions that illuminate the way that reactionary politics is currently framed, explored and interrogated in UK theatre: What Shadows (2016) by Chris Hannan, Chris Bush’s The Assassination of Katie Hopkins (2018), and Rob Drummond’s The Majority (2017). While Grochala (2017), Howe-Kritzer (2005) and Chambers and Prior (1987) have all argued that theatre is reactionary if it tacitly supports the dominant social order by acquiescing in its values, thus far little note has been taken of productions that actively address reactionary politics but repeatedly fall back on a non-committal and stanceless form of post-political ambivalence. I argue that it is liberal-centrist notions of balance and disinterestedness that govern the dramaturgical conditions through which reactionary politics are currently ventilated in UK theatrical discourse, emerging from a tradition that has long distrusted partiality and instead favoured a studied ambivalence in the dispensing of ideas

Keywords:right wing politics, reactionary politics, Theatre, performance, Rob Drummond, Chris Bush, Chris Hannan, Centrist politics, Tone policing
Subjects:L Social studies > L200 Politics
W Creative Arts and Design > W440 Theatre studies
Divisions:College of Arts > School of Fine & Performing Arts > School of Fine & Performing Arts (Performing Arts)
ID Code:41076
Deposited On:18 Jun 2020 15:33

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