Redefining Political Theatre in Post-Cold War Britain (1990-2005): An Analysis of Contemporary British Political Plays

  • Paola Andrea Botham

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    After the end of the Cold War had signalled for many the demise of political theatre, a re-emergence of British political plays since the turn of the century has become an acknowledged phenomenon. Customary definitions of this cultural practice, however, have become historically and theoretically obsolete. An alternative philosophical framework is needed which breaks with both the unrealistic expectations of the traditional Left and the defeatist limitations of postmodernist positions.

    This thesis aims to provide a revised definition of political theatre based on the ideas of Jürgen Habermas. The development of his philosophical project is described together with its refinement as the result of interjections by other thinkers from within the neo-Marxist tradition of Critical Theory, in particular feminist contributors. In addition to exploring key concepts such as the reconstruction of historical materialism, the paradigm of discourse ethics and the model of post avant-garde political art, greater focus is placed on the notion of the public sphere, which has special relevance when examining the contemporary dynamics of political theatre.

    The second part of the thesis comprises case studies of plays written since the fall of the Berlin Wall, with emphasis on those performed from 2000 onwards, illustrating how the theoretical framework can be employed to interpret these works. The plays are representative of different strands of current political theatre, including (reconstructed) epic theatre, verbatim and tribunal forms, and feminist writing that deals with public/private and local/global dichotomies. The proposed redefinition offers an emancipatory framework for a productive understanding of political theatre in the changing world of the new century.
    Date of Award2009
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Coventry University
    SupervisorClaire Cochrane (Supervisor), Jean Webb (Supervisor) & Alan How (Supervisor)

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