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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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Contemporary “high-end” TV drama
Author: Robin Nelson

This book updates and develops the arguments of TV drama in transition (1997). It sets its analysis of the aesthetics and compositional principles of texts within a broad conceptual framework (technologies, institutions, economics, cultural trends). Tracing ‘the great value shift from conduit to content’ (Todreas, 1999), the book's view is relatively optimistic about the future quality of TV drama in a global market-place. But, characteristically taking up questions of worth where others have avoided them, it recognises that certain types of ‘quality’ are privileged for viewers able to pay, possibly at the expense of viewer preference worldwide for ‘local’ resonances in television. The mix of arts and cultural studies methodologies makes for an unusual approach.

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The TV drama industry – new rules of the game
Robin Nelson

3 State of play: the TV drama industry – new rules of the game Production conditions for distinctive product Those readers primarily interested in the TV dramas themselves might think the industry background to be less compelling. But, properly to understand why we get a particular kind of TV drama to appear on our screens at any given time is not just a matter of creative people coming up with fresh ideas. Moreover, the dramas behind the scenes are just as intricate and fascinating as those on the screen. First, here, I look back at circumstances in the past

in State of play
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Geraldine Cousin

8 Daughters’ tales I have just brushed ten million other worlds, and they knew nothing of it. (Philip Pullman, Northern Lights) Time and place do not exist; on an insignificant basis of reality the imagination spins, weaving new patterns . . . (Strindberg’s Note to A Dream Play, translated by Michael Meyer) Approximately a quarter of the productions discussed in the preceding pages were staged at one of the National Theatre’s three venues, the most recent being Iphigenia at Aulis, directed by Katie Mitchell, which played at the Lyttelton Theatre from 22 June

in Playing for time
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Geraldine Cousin

accept communal responsibility for injustices is followed by the crucial twist of ‘time’s tail’. This moment of return offers the characters the opportunity, at least, to behave differently. While Eden End also focuses on a new way of viewing the past, return in this play is shown to be a delusion. Stella can go back to somewhere called Eden End, but it is no longer the place that she once knew. Time has irredeemably changed it. Given that Stella is the central character, her exile from Eden is clearly important, but the play in its entirety is suffused with a longing

in Playing for time
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Geraldine Cousin

forces informed a number of productions in 2004 and 2005. Among the new plays on the topic of Iraq, the most high profile was David Hare’s Stuff Happens, which opened at the Olivier Theatre in September 2004. The most powerful dramatic anti-war voice, however, was a very old one. It belonged to Euripides, perhaps the greatest anti-war playwright there has ever been. ‘Despite being dead for over 2,000 years, Euripides is the man of the moment’, Sarah Hemming commented in a review of Kneehigh Theatre’s production of The Bacchae (Financial Times, 9.11.04). Directors turned

in Playing for time
Geraldine Cousin

a horrifying new relevance. This hugely successful, multi-award-winning production, described by the Daily Telegraph reviewer Charles Spencer as ‘the defining production 2 Playing for time of the 1990s’ (2.10.01), was still touring in 2005, the year in which the most recent productions I discuss were first performed. I have begun with the spectacular effect of the collapsing house because, as I explained in the Preface, it seems to me that it symbolises a preoccupation with the precariousness of the present moment that is an important characteristic of

in Playing for time
Geraldine Cousin

5 Stories of lost futures Michael Frayn’s Copenhagen was only one of a number of new plays in 1998 in which stories of children played important roles. ‘Few theatregoers can have failed to notice the extraordinary preoccupation with children in this season’s crop of new plays’, Sam Marlowe remarked in his review of Mark Ravenhill’s Handbag (What’s On, 23.9.98), which opened at the Lyric Studio on 14 September 1998. His words echoed Michael Billington’s comments in the Guardian the previous week: ‘Babies. They are everywhere this theatrical season. Test

in Playing for time
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Dramatisations of ‘return’
Geraldine Cousin

2 Past present: dramatisations of ‘return’ My focus in this chapter is primarily on four of Priestley’s ‘time plays’, each of which is structured either around the return of a character or a reversal to a previous point in the action. The present is inescapably linked to the past. Dangerous Corner and An Inspector Calls skilfully manipulate the whodunnit format in order to shine a powerful beam of light on moments when choices are made that will have momentous consequences for the future. Time and the Conways and Eden End are meditations on the nature of loss

in Playing for time
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Arcadia and Copenhagen
Geraldine Cousin

4 Nunc Instantis: Arcadia and Copenhagen Both Arcadia and Copenhagen were first performed at the National Theatre, Arcadia on 13 April 1993 at the Lyttelton Theatre and Copenhagen on 28 May 1998 at the National’s studio venue, the Cottesloe. The two plays are also similar in other ways. They each deal with complex scientific and mathematical ideas and, like Priestley’s An Inspector Calls, they utilise what is essentially a detective-story format. However, while this format is used in An Inspector Calls to expose guilt and to highlight the consequences of choices

in Playing for time