Playing for time

Stories of lost children, ghosts and the endangered present in contemporary theatre

This book explores connections between theatre time, the historical moment, and fictional time. It argues that a crucial characteristic of contemporary British theatre is its preoccupation with instability and danger, and traces images of catastrophe and loss in a wide range of recent plays and productions. The diversity of the texts that are examined is a major strength of the book. In addition to plays by contemporary dramatists, the book analyses staged adaptations of novels, and productions of plays by Euripides, Strindberg and Priestley. A key focus is Stephen Daldry's award-winning revival of Priestley's An Inspector Calls, which is discussed in relation both to other Priestley ‘time’ plays and to Caryl Churchill's apocalyptic Far Away. Lost children are a recurring motif. Bryony Lavery's Frozen, for example, is explored in the context of the Soham murders, which took place while the play was in production at the National Theatre, whilst three virtually simultaneous productions of Euripides' Hecuba are interpreted with regard to the Beslan massacre of schoolchildren.

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