Brexit Stage Left

Cultural Adaptation in Contemporary British Theatre

In The Guardian (14 May 2014), Andrew Haydon entitles his essay about European plays “European theatre is still foreign to us”. Haydon ascribes the reason behind this fact to the issue of translating and staging foreign texts. It is true that translation for meaning from one language to other may make the text lose not only its meaning, but also the cultural context that makes sense of it as a dramatic text.

Though British theatre is known for its plurality, it is noted that most theatres in the UK do not stage contemporary European plays as before. Many factors accelerate the growth and spread of this phenomenon. Among these factors are the funding system, the marginalisation of women writers and the attitude of the critics towards foreign texts.

Since the emergence of the state-of-the-nation tradition, British theatre begins to deal with local issues which related closely to the nation. This orientation of theatre makers can be justifiable because of multiple threats such as immigration, multiculturalism and national identity. All these provocations have their impact on the type of the plays presented. Taking, for example, David Edgar’s Testing the Echo (2007), we see that the fear of alien values made Edgar warn against threats that menace British society.

Moreover, David Hare does not hide his anxieties, “We’re heading in Britain towards an over-aestheticized European theatre. We’ve got all these people called ‘theatremakers’ – God help us, what a word! – coming in and doing director’s theatre, where you camp up classic plays and you cut them and prune them around.” Likewise, Michael Billington outlines his anxieties about the lack of classic drama in the National Theatre repertory because it is related to the innovation of mixing past with the present.

The present paper is an attempt to highlight on the reasons behind marginalisation of European plays in contemporary British theatre. These reasons can be classified into economic, cultural and political.

Majeed Mohammed Midhin