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The Politics of Form: Exploring the role different dramaturgies play in determining the political character of a play (Film Theatre and Television Seminar)

Within the context of British theatre, plays are generally considered political if they address current social and political issues within the content of their narrative. Little attention is paid to the political character of the dramaturgical forms that shape the play’s content. As Rebellato notes, there is a ‘puritan attitude’ within British theatre that ‘thinks form a distracting nuisance’ and privileges plays that provide audiences with a series of ‘pungently instructional points’ (Contemporary Theatre Review 18:4, p.530).

This seminar will look at the importance of considering a play’s form when determining the political character of a play. It will explore the role that different dramaturgies play in shaping a play’s politics, arguing that the dramatic structure can act as a prism though which to re-imagine the structures of everyday social reality.

These ideas will be explored through an analysis of Charlotte Jones’s Humble Boy (National Theatre, 2001) and Nick Payne’s Constellations (Royal Court, 2012); two plays that explore the ways in which advances in contemporary physics are reshaping our understanding of the nature of the universe. While both plays draw on the same source material, Brian Greene’s The Elegant Universe, they articulate his ideas through very different dramaturgical forms and, in doing so, take on very different political characters.


Sarah Grochala is Senior Lecturer, Writing for Theatre at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, where she leads the MA/MFA in Writing for Stage and Broadcast Media. Her first monograph, The Contemporary Political Play (Bloomsbury, 2017), was shortlisted for the 2018 TaPRA Early Career Research Prize. In 2018, she was awarded a British Academy Rising Star Engagement Award for a project examining the lack of contemporary European drama in translation on British stages in the run up to Brexit. As a playwright, her plays include S-27 (Finborough Theatre 2009), which won the 2007 Amnesty International/iceandfire Protect the Human Playwriting Competition.


16 May 2019
4:00 pm - 6:00 pm
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HBS 201