4 April 2019 / Events
The Country and the City in Contemporary British Theatre: Binary, Crisis, Futures
What is it about place and spatial parameters that so strongly serves to determine our identity? Why do we feel the need to define ourselves by means of that which we are not? How purposeful or even plausible is it to keep making distinctions and raising visible or invisible barriers at a time when our experience can be best described as being in a state of flux? Why do certain spaces and locales continue to provoke strong – and often also contradictory – feelings such as allure, fear, attraction or repulsion? How is this spectrum conditioned?
The country and the city have long persisted as binary concepts and geographies in the public imagination and in socio-political discourses alike. From issues of class and income to questions of ideology and voting patterns, the myth of separation has long persisted, the divide perhaps a convenient way of disguising and sidestepping the mutual implication of one in the other. As Raymond Williams’s seminal study The Country and the City (1973) has shown, now more than forty-five years ago, literature has not been a mere way of logging social change and documenting the shifting experience in the country and the city; it has also been an agent ahead of its time, anticipating and producing this change in perception and representation.
This paper picks up from Williams’s prescient and essential analysis, which concentrates on forms of literature such as poetry and the novel to deliver a history of the evolution in the concepts of the country and the city primarily in Britain. It will take on Williams’s insightful criticism to address the false yet enduring binary between the country and the city, asking how both have been captured in recent and contemporary British theatre and how playwrights have negotiated the myth of the binary while working to evidence the points of intersection and commonality. The lecture will make reference to plays and playwrights who have influenced and determined the field in terms of how the urban and the rural are depicted for modern-day audiences, and how the lines of separation have, through this work, become forever challenged and decisively contested.
Dr Vicky Angelaki is Associate Professor of Theatre at the University of Reading. She has published extensively in the areas of contemporary theatre, society and politics and her research concentrates on internationalism and cultural sociology through the lens of performance. Major publications include the monographs The Plays of Martin Crimp: Making Theatre Strange (Palgrave Macmillan 2012) and Social and Political Theatre in 21st-Century Britain: Staging Crisis (Bloomsbury 2017), the edited collection Contemporary British Theatre: Breaking New Ground (Palgrave Macmillan 2013) and the forthcoming Theatre & Environment (completed for Palgrave Macmillan). Angelaki is also the co-editor for the Palgrave Macmillan series Adaptation in Theatre and Performance.
This talk forms part of Vicky Angelaki’s research on the country and the city in post-war British playwriting as part of The Cambridge Companion to British Playwriting since 1945, which she is co-editing with Dan Rebellato.
All lectures are free, no booking necessary.