Materialist-feminist criticism and selected plays of Sarah Daniels, Liz Lochhead and Claire Dowie
This thesis is an examination of the extent to which contemporary British plays written by women constitute an ideological theatre. It is based upon the premise that there is a relationship of feminist theatre practice to feminist theory, where theory is seen to have informed practice and practice has informed the theory. I argue that an ideological theatre can be understood with reference to first, playstructure and second, the place of the performer in relation to both character and spectator. The implications of these can be seen terms first, of representation and second, of the physical presence of the body of the performer on stage and are therefore seen to be to do with the representation of issues on stage and performance issues to do with the woman performer respectively. Using aspects of a materialist-feminist analysis I examine the ways in which feminist epistemology has brought about a transformation of social relations in so far as these are deployed through representation and specific processes of performance based upon the slogan "the personal is political". This involves looking at the influence of performance issues and acting, especially at power-relations as they are reproduced and represented in selected theatre exercises. Importantly, these strategies for reading are always seen in the context of modem British political theatre; the importance of this emerges through my proposition that an ideological theatre practice is one which both establishes and foregrounds a relationship or resistance to existing theatrical form or genres. This constitutes the first part of my thesis. The second part of the thesis is comprised of three case studies. In these I draw together aspects of representation and the processes of performance established in Part One as a way of understanding selected plays constructed in relation to existing genres. In Chapter Three I look at the plays of Sarah Daniels in relation to melodrama; in Chapter Four I look at the plays of Liz Lochhead in relation to adaptation. Chapter Five is my concluding chapter in which I stress the importance of both foregrounding previous genres and questioning generic expectations by examining the interactions of theatre with stand-up comedy in the work of Claire Dowie.