Language, sound and textuality
Caryl Churchill’s Identical Twins as neo-avant-garde (radio) drama
in Tuning in to the neo-avant-garde
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Pim Verhulst uses Caryl Churchill’s Identical Twins (1968) as a case study to investigate the role of radio in the neo-avant-garde, relating it to the historical avant-garde and (late) modernism, as well as movements such as postdramatic theatre and the Theatre of the Absurd. While Churchill’s destabilising treatment of language and speech as sound or noise aligns her with avant-garde predecessors in Britain and abroad, the postwar institutional context of the BBC is explored archivally as a typically neo-avant-garde environment that aims to reconcile new aesthetic experiences with concerns about audience reception, particularly through stereo. Usually exploited by neo-avant-garde artists as an experimental feature, it is atypically used by the BBC production team as a means to constrain the radical identity-blurring so characteristic of Identical Twins. An intermedial analysis investigates its status as an ‘interior duologue’, as well as the friction between theatre performance, textuality and recording. Finally, the chapter studies the formative role of radio in Churchill’s oeuvre and its lasting effect on her later drama, to argue more generally that the medium played an important but neglected part in the theatrical revolution that innovated the British stage from the 1950s onwards.

Tuning in to the neo-avant-garde

Experimental radio plays in the postwar period

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