What's Wrong with Playwriting

Free and open to all; no need to book. Sandwich lunch from 12. Talk starts at 12.15.

Abstract: That new plays and playwrights are at the heart of British theatre is a state of affairs equally lamented as celebrated. In Steve Waters’ words, some think the idea of the solo-authored play that other people put on stage is ‘inherently fascist, patriarchal, phallocentric, phallogocentric’. The existence of the playwright is a sign of a fatally individualistic division of labour; the status of the play is the clearest theatrical symptom of logocentricity; our theatre’s literary obsession with the play prevents theatre fully becoming performance; to the attempt to establish the principle of collective creation and full theatrical collaboration, the playwright is the greatest obstacle. All of these claims are made in various ways and all of them, in theory and practice, are nonsense and in this paper I will try to explain why.

Dan Rebellato is Professor of Contemporary Theatre at Royal Holloway, University of London. His research has most often focused on post-war and contemporary British theatre. His book 1956 and All That is a rereading of the ‘theatrical revolution’ thought to have taken place at the Royal Court around Look Back in Anger. His current book project is Naturalist Theatre: A New Cultural History, exploring the emerging of Naturalist theatre in the last third of the nineteenth century. As a playwright, he has written extensively for the stage and radio.