Fake News and Drama: Nationalism, Immigration and the Media in Recent British Plays

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Fake News is often not taken seriously enough. It might appear like a mere hoax and too fantastical or bold to believe, just like the so-called ‘alternative facts’ presented about the size of the crowd at Donald Trump’s inauguration. Similarly, nationalistic tendencies, often driven by fake news and promoted by authoritarian leaders, can be underestimated. Recent British plays and performances about fake news which appeared after the Brexit vote make clear that the typical strategies of the liberal left of fighting against nationalism and authoritarianism seem to no longer work when taken on their own. These strategies include, for instance, postmodern techniques, the exposure of a misuse of power through the media or documentary theatre, or the foregrounding of marginalised and oppressed groups, e. g. by means of verbatim practices. They often lack efficacy nowadays because they have become undermined by ‘post truth’ or because they can reflect, rather than challenge, the mechanisms of fake news as well as the widespread feeling of uncertainty in the Western world, which in turn can be found at the root of a growth in nationalism and power of authoritarian leaders. This paper suggests that theatre is currently creating new strategies of dealing with these harmful developments. It argues that recent plays about fake news show that, in order to counter the disorientating effects of fake news, a new type of viewer is needed, the particularly ‘alert spectator,’ whose senses are strengthened through the performance, and who in times like these when people reach out for (fake) certainties amidst confusing uncertainty is able to develop a double vision: a postmodern and a post-postmodern one.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)87-100
JournalJournal of Contemporary Drama in English
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 27 Apr 2018


  • Fake News
  • Trump
  • Brexit
  • alert spectator
  • (post-)postmodernism


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