London fog, metropolitanism & new writing in British theatre

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

This article argues that for the last thirty years playwriting culture in the UK has been subject to a growing encroachment of London cultural values. These extend from the so-called "In-Fer-Face" dramatists of the 1990s such as Nick Grosso, Philip Ridley, and Patrick Marber, who according to Aleks Sierz "saved British theatre" to the likes of Polly Stenham, Rachel De-Lahay and Oladipo Agboluaje who today all transpose national concerns through largely Londoncentric preoccupations. This poses the quesiton as to whether such plays risk becoming contemporary variants of what Kenneth Tynan dubbed the “Loamshire” play of the interwar and immediate post-war years which he criticized for being – amongst other things – out of touch with wider national social and political concerns.

The article will also look at the work of other contemporary "commuter dramatists", who include Leo Butler, David Eldridge, and Simon Stephens whose work reflects tensions between the respective towns, cities and geographies of Stockport, Sheffield, and Essex from which they respectively grew up and the metropolis of London in which they all now live and work. Against these extensive commutes are the more localized ones that characters take in Butler's Faces in the Crowd (2008) and Eldridge's Beginning (2017) through various London's districts. These journeys are largely instigated and driven through the process of gentrification, and the paper also considers how in comparison with plays by Black contemporaries such as Kwame Kwei-Armah's Elmina's Kitchen (2003) and Bola Agbaje's Off the Endz (2010), despite often being projected as reflections of national concern, still come up against obstacles – either self-willed or otherwise- that prevents them undertaking the same, seemingly frictionless journeys through London that their white playwriting counterparts embark upon.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13-36
Number of pages24
JournalComparative Drama
Volume56
Issue number1-2
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 29 Apr 2022

Keywords

  • London theatre
  • regional theatre
  • play writing

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