Making dramas about the past has always been a political act, because how you respond to history shows how you’re thinking about the present. Yet history plays have been notably absent from recent culture-war attacks on the arts. This wasn’t always the case. In the last decades of the twentieth century, a series of controversies around historical representation on stage, from Edward Bond’s Early Morning to Howard Brenton’s The Romans in Britain, seemed to draw the battle lines between left and right, paving the way for the divisions of today.
In his inaugural lecture, Professor Ben Poore discusses the development of his research on dramas of the past – from neo-Victorian plays, to dramas of empire, to the contemporary history play – in the context of British politics since Thatcherism. Ben highlights recent examples of new writing on historical subjects, like Winsome Pinnock’s Rockets and Blue Lights and Jackie Sibblies Drury’s Marys Seacole. These works’ playfulness with form offer an example of how challenging ideas can effectively fly under the radar in a political culture that is hostile to the arts.
Please join us for a drinks reception following the lecture.