The changing depiction of homosexual people in twentieth-century British drama
This thesis studies how the image of homosexual people has evolved on the British stage during the present century. It aims to discern general trends rather than compile an exhaustive list of plays containing homosexual characters. Similarly, it is not intended to be a compendium of homosexual playwrights, but will focus on the contents of the drama rather than the biographical details of authors' lives. It makes no attempt to analyse work that is not ostensibly homosexual which could be argued to contain latent homosexual content. Nor, finally, does it discuss phenomena of interest in this field which are tangential to the area of study - for example, cross-dressing in pantomime and music hall. At the risk of superficiality, it concentrates on plays that have tried to discuss homosexuality and depict gay characters in an open, straight-forward manner. The approach taken to the subject has been historical and sociological, linking developments in gay drama to the social and political situation facing homosexual people throughout the present century. As such, this thesis argues for the existence of seven stages in homosexual drama during this time. While plays cannot always be fitted into a rigid chronological schema - some overlap clearly occurs - the history of homosexual drama can be briefly summarised as follows: - 1) Silence. 2) The first plays depict homosexual characters, but these are generally censored heavily or closed down. 3) Plays begin to raise the subject more boldly, but only by portraying characters who are wrongly accused of homosexuality or about whose sexuality there is left some doubt. 4) Homosexual characters are depicted openly as such, but they conform to degrading stereotypes. 5) Gay people break away to create their own separatist drama, generally intending to proselytise in favour of gay rights. 6) Mainstream plays on the West End and television begin to feature gay people in an unsensationalised way. 7) AIDS arrives and dominates homosexual drama. Although this study concentrates on British drama, theatre is now an international phenomenon, and this has been especially true of gay drama. Therefore, it has often been necessary to refer to the drama of other countries, in particular America.