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English Play Development under Neoliberalism 2000-2019

Tyler, Lucy (2020) English Play Development under Neoliberalism 2000-2019. Doctoral thesis, The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama.

Abstract

Work in Progress: English Play Development under Neoliberalism, 2000-2019 explores how play development practices in state-subsidised English theatres functioned between 2000-2019, under conditions of neoliberal governance. By attending to both institutional and individual strategies and structures of play development, I analyse their economic rationality and co-constitution with the neoliberal statecraft of New Labour (1997-2010), the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition (2010-2015), and the current Conservative government (2015-) in advance of the general election in December 2019. Drawing on Marx’s Capital Volume One (1990 [1867]), this thesis engages a materialist mode of analysis, exposing ideological structures that contribute to making theatre what Ric Knowles calls a ‘culturally affirmative’ product (2009: 56). Taking up the cultural materialisms of Williams (1977) and Dollimore and Sinfield (1985), and the bureaucratic analyses of Weber (1978 [1922]) and Graeber (2016 [2015]), I show how New Labour’s neoliberal higher education and arts policies shaped English playwriting guides and dramaturgy in English theatres. The writings of Gramsci (1999 [1926]), Hall (1988), Brown (2015) and Foucault (2008 [1978-9]) further support an analysis of how play development in English theatres was shaped as a post-Fordist enterprise that encouraged artists to enact forms of neoliberal subjectivity. Furthermore, via the Marxist-feminist standpoint theories of Haraway (1988) and Hartsock (1983), I argue that the coalition furnished play development with a neoliberal ‘new diversity’ (Hargrave 2015: 109). Finally, using the ‘commodity chain analysis’ of Cook (2004) and Coles and Crang (2011), I contend that ‘performances of development’ represent new ways in which artists are attempting to resist neoliberal rationality. The thesis concludes that, over this period, neoliberal capitalist hegemony has fundamentally shaped English play development. By generating a mode of production that conflates the usually distinct categories of development and performance, however, artists have begun to challenge the existent play development paradigms and their ideological underpinnings.

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