Configurations of mothering in post-war British women's playwriting
While examining a selection of plays centred on the phenomenon of mothering, my thesis also investigates the interaction between theatre and feminism in post-war Britain, aiming to highlight mutual correspondences between women's theatre making and feminist agendas. I focus mainly on the period of second-wave feminism, but I also discuss the decade preceding the appearance of the Women's Liberation Movement, as well as its aftermath up to the mid-nineties. Scrutinising proto-feminist, feminist and post-feminist stances, I argue that several fifties women dramatists anticipated key concerns of the late sixties and seventies; and equally, that many playwrights active after the heyday of second-wave feminism revisited the climate of the seventies in an attempt to evaluate the transformations that have since occurred in women's lives. In this manner, I not only contextualise some of the major achievements and shortcomings of successive feminist interventions, but also elaborate on key changes that have taken place in the negotiation of dramatic form and content. Rather than privileging one dominant theoretical position and adopting its perspective for the purposes of my analysis, I connect the work of playwrights informed by different artistic positions and political convictions, in order to pinpoint the principle of co-existence and multiplicity. This aesthetic and ideological diversity in women's writing for the stage, characteristic of the past five decades, has been confirmed not only by the primary and secondary sources that I drew upon but also by the playwrights themselves, whom I interviewed. For most present-day female dramatists, as this thesis argues, contemporary British women's theatre is a space of experimentation and of confluence - in which the broad range of individual voices can situate themselves next to one another, without the urge to replicate an ultimate direction imposed by hegemonic political constraints or artistic platforms.