A critical analysis of the plays of Sarah Daniels
As one of the forerunners of 'second wave' feminist playwriting, Sarah Daniels has for the past fifteen years been one of Britain's most prolific writers for the stage. This thesis is the first to offer a detailed critical analysis of all her published plays along with a developmental account of her career. My approach throughout is text-based and non-prescriptive, although I do at certain points indicate where Daniels reflects or voices differing feminist perspectives. I also consider, beginning in Chapter Three, the critical reception and 'gendered' reviewing the playwright has received over the years. The thesis is organised into five chapters with an Afterword. Chapter One, the Introduction, offers an overview of Daniels' career as well as certain key characteristics of her work. In Chapter Two I analyse the early plays, Ripen Our Darkness, The Devil's Gateway and Neaptide, and consider in particular how they reflect, along with other women's playwriting at the time, certain ideals of the Women's Liberation Movement. Chapter Three is devoted entirely to Masterpieces, Daniels' most controversial and, on many levels, successful play to date. Chapter Four is an analysis of the 'history plays', Byrthrite and The Gut Girls. In addition to giving voice to women traditionally silenced in and by history, these plays (especially Byrthrite) also echo particular strands of modern feminist debate. Chapter Five examines Daniels' plays of the 1990s (Beside Herself, Head- Rot Holiday and The Madness of Esme and Shaz) with their central theme of 'women and madness'. This is also a fitting theme with which to conclude the thesis as it brings together and expands on the most significant motif running throughout the playwright's work. In the Afterword I consider the effect of Esme and Shaz's critical reception on Daniels, as well as her current 'work in progress'. Finally, the two Appendices provide a chronological table of Daniels' productions and a list of subsequent professional productions as well as awards.