| Abstracts for debbie tucker green symposium, Saturday 21 November 2015, LPAC
Lorna Chigwende Gangaidzo, ‘Centralising black bodies: The gap between language, action, body and meaning in Generations and Stoning Mary’
In Stoning Mary and Generations the poetic lyricism of tucker green’s language simultaneously increases the impact of the trauma she presents while heightening the sense of alienation of her characters. This playwright’s poetic realism also presents the narratives of her black characters not from the perspective of a marginalised community but from a repositioned centralised location. This serves to emphasise a shared and recognisable humanity between the black race and the traditionally hegemonic white race.
In both plays, through linguistic and physical repetitions and also the subversion of the culturally accepted sign system that positions the black body as inferior to the white one, tucker green exposes the subtextual language beneath what is presented. This strategy is used particularly effectively in Stoning Mary.
By examining Stoning Mary and Generations I aim to establish that when Husband in Stoning Mary states, “I wouldn’t know? Wouldn’t wanna know”, he goes to the heart of tucker green’s theatre because his statement opposes his meaning and his white body subverts cultural stereotypes of the racial and cultural background of the HIV sufferer. This gap between language, action, body and meaning pervades many of tucker green’s plays and constitutes a stylistic signature which imparts meaning.
My name is Lorna Chigwende Gangaidzo. I am an award winning playwright and a 2nd year PhD student in the University of Birmingham’s Drama and Theatre Arts Department. My thesis concerns the performativity of race, gender and nationhood in Anglo- American New Writing since 1990. My supervisor is Liz Tomlin.
Harry Derbyshire and Loveday Hodson, ‘Human rights and legal process in the work of debbie tucker green’
In our 2008 article ‘Performing Injustice: Human Rights and Verbatim Theatre’, we combined our respective expertise to consider what use theatre can be to human rights. In this paper we seek to build both on our own previous work and on Fragkou and Goddard’s 2013 ‘Acting In/Action: Staging Human Rights in debbie tucker green’s Royal Court Plays’; our interest is in the specific topic of the interactions between individuals and legal processes and structures represented in tucker green’s work. We will consider how well the characters in these plays are served by the structures that surround them and the processes through which their problems are dealt with by society, seeking to define the nature of tucker green’s critique and to identify any implicit suggestions as to how the law can better work to provide justice in people’s lived experience. Plays to be considered include stoning mary, truth and reconciliation and – subject to its relevance – tucker green’s new work for 2015 hang.
Harry Derbyshire lectures in English Literature and Drama at the University of Greenwich, and has published on Harold Pinter, Roy Williams and the culture of new writing.
Loveday Hodson lectures in Law at the University of Leicester and her publications include NGOs and the Struggle for Human Rights in Europe.
Damien Giraud, “there ent nothing wrong with my music.”
Disruption and the loss of the self in debbie tucker green’s dirty butterfly.
This paper will examine dirty butterfly through the lens of performance philosophy – ie. dramatization as a form of philosophy. Green’s drama engages the actors’ bodies and voices in a constant struggle to stand up and exist as the expression of an identity – that of a true self. But the play is the very enactment of the failure to find the proper posture and voice to deal with the violence of what lies behind the wall – be it the Other, or the Real. Directly questioning the possibility to escape patterns of repetition or robot-like behaviour, the acting machine is brought to a breaking point. We will analyse the way the effects of rhythm and overlapping dialogue are pushed up to a disruptive point, putting a stop to the full creation of characters. It will also be discussed in relation to the physical presence of the body, overwhelmed by its fluids, as another claim for the humanity/animality conflict that is at stake in the play. The search for a human self seems to be constantly challenged by forces that are not necessarily on stage, and the question of who takes the part of the absent/ghost will also be considered.
Damien Giraud (born 1981) is a PhD student at the University Lumière Lyon 2, France, focusing his research on the theatre of debbie tucker green. He is a teacher of Literature and English (ESL) in a secondary school in Romans, France. He is a member of RADAC, research on contemporary drama in English (www.radac.fr)
Lynette Goddard, Social, Political, Emotional: Black-British and African-Caribbean Human Rights in debbie tucker green’s plays
Since her emergence onto the British new writing scene in February 2003, debbie tucker green has been of relatively big interest to critics and scholars of contemporary British theatre, garnering more sustained critical attention than the other black British playwrights of her era. Arguably, this is because of connections that can be drawn between tucker green’s work and some of the most well esteemed white British playwrights (Beckett, Pinter, Caryl Churchill, Sarah Kane) and the prominent themes of analysis in post 9/11 twenty-first century white British theatre scholarship (e.g. ethics, violence, trauma, human rights). However, debbie tucker green herself has said "I just don't see it […] I think it says more about critics' reference points than my work.” […] "I'm a black woman. I write black characters. That is part of my landscape.”
This keynote discusses tucker green’s plays as a specific response to black, African and Caribbean, social issues and human rights concerns. I will argue that the combination of subject matter and dramatic devices, such as casting and language style, render tucker green’s plays social, political, and emotional articulations of black experience and human rights issues. I locate her work within early twenty first century black British playwriting genres by examining some of the connections between her plays and those of other black playwrights of the time. I explore how she deploys dramatic devices that suggest that she is aware of the predominately white audience demographic at the main theatre venues in which her plays are shown. While tucker green asserts that the audience demographic would be different “if the marketing department does its job properly," I will argue that she consciously positions white audiences as empathetic witnesses to some of the realities of the ways in which racism and sexism continue to shape black experience, locally and globally. Therefore I will suggest ways in which tucker green’s plays epitomize mainstream twenty first black British playwrights turn towards representing topical black social issues in ways that might begin effect social change.
Lynette Goddard is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Drama and Theatre, Royal Holloway, University of London. My research focuses on representations of race, gender and sexuality in contemporary black British playwriting. My publications in this area include Staging Black Feminisms: Identity, Politics, Performance (Palgrave, 2007), Contemporary Black British Playwrights: Margins to Mainstream (Palgrave, 2015) and co-editing Modern and Contemporary Black British Drama (Palgrave, 2015). My current research is looking at the politics and impact of black history plays by writers from the UK, USA and the British and French Caribbean as well as at black and Asian adaptations of Shakespeare and other canonical European playwrights.
Maggie Inchley, ‘the vocal artillery of debbie tucker green’
This paper explores debbie tucker green’s radical politics through her challenge to dominant modes of vocal and linguistic articulation. Disturbing the assumptions regarding the ‘natural’ norms of vocal identity, her hypnotic but alienating blend of the real and the poetic realigns racially and regionally inflected perspectives. Positioning the audience as witnesses of the most painfully inflicted interpersonal cruelty, tucker green’s percussive voices articulate the violence that is associated with naming, othering and categorisation. Her work provides an acute political critique of ‘natural’ expectations regarding black voices, while suggesting material and ethical frameworks that extend beyond a narrowly defined British context.
tucker green’s voices change the dynamics of silence and speaking out, embodying an alternative structure of cultural audibility both within theatre’s spaces and the overlapping contexts to which they both allude and elide. This paper will be based on but also develop extracts from my book, Voice and New Writing, 1997-2007: Articulating the Demos (2015), which explores theatre’s inclusion of marginalised voices. It will reflect on my use of the term ‘voicescape’, coined in response to Raymond Williams’ attempts to define a ‘structure of feeling’ through sensitivity to the ‘articulation of presence’ and ‘elements of impulse, restraint and tone’ (Marxism and Literature, 1977, p. 132-5).
Dr Maggie Inchley has been a Lecturer in Performance at QMUL since 2013, previously lecturing at Birkbeck and the University of Surrey. Her research specialism is in the articulation of identity in contemporary writing and performance, with a specific focus on the voice. Maggie has directed and developed new plays for the stage and radio, as well as working in applied contexts.
Marissia Fragkou, ‘Reanimating the human: debbie tucker green’s feminist politics of perception’
debbie tucker green’s oeuvre has garnered much critical attention since her first appearance on the British stage with scholars commenting on her experimental aesthetics and affective registers, and her engagement with global inequalities and human rights (Osborne 2007; Goddard 2007; Aston 2010; 2012; Fragkou and Goddard 2013). In particular, Aston has suggested that tucker green’s work belongs to the ‘experiential, socially aware women’s writing’ which ‘feels’ the loss of feminism (2010: 588) while Fragkou and Goddard (2013) examine tucker green’s ‘politics of anger’ as a device that exemplifies a ‘politics of perception’ which, according to Hans-Thies Lehmann is based on ‘an aesthetic of responsibility’ (2006: 185).
This paper will further expand on the above critical field of enquiry vis-à-vis tucker green’s work with a particular focus on her complex negotiations of precarity and the ‘affective politics of the performative’ (Butler and Athanasiou 2013: 194). Drawing on Butler’s understanding of the terms ‘precarity’ and ‘dispossession’ as tropes that mobilize a collective responsibility for human life (2009a: 13-14), I will examine how tucker green’s reanimation of ‘the human’ can be read as a ‘feminist politics of perception’ which dynamically works to promote a ‘reconceptualization of the subject of feminism’ (Koivunen 2010: 11) in the theatre.
Dr Marissia Fragkou is senior lecturer in Performing Arts at Canterbury Christ Church University. Her research interests include feminist nomadic politics, ethics of responsibility, precarity, and citizenship in contemporary British and European performance. Her publications on debbie tucker green, Stan’s Cafe, Rimini Protokoll have appeared in Contemporary Theatre Review, Performing Ethos and edited collections on contemporary theatre and performance. She is a member of the early-career research network Inside/Outside Europe and CDE (Contemporary Drama in English) and an associate member of the European Theatre Research Network (ETRN) based at the University of Kent.
Alex Kerridge and Viv Kerridge, ‘Directions of a social Legacy debbie tucker green’
The paper will consider the navigation of social feminist concerns in the work of debbie tucker green. It will examine tucker green’s connection with second wave socialist feminist theatre through the use of distancing techniques which highlight in the case of earlier work, the gender inequalities of patriarchy and are navigated in tucker green’s work to highlight frustrations with a white, western patriarchal and capitalist system. The paper will attempt to demonstrate how tucker green is expanding the equation to include issues brought to light by the consolidation of world markets and the subsequent need for transnational communication between all women.
The paper will consider how, through a critique of transnational capitalist regimes, tucker green uses domestic settings to raise broader questions about personal and social support between women in contemporary national and international communities. The paper will pay particular attention, although not exclusively, to Stoning Mary and Trade and will examine tucker green’s portrayal of an individualist feminism which highlights Western women’s disregard for the welfare of ‘other’ women through the assumption of a modern Western freedom which is still in fact still regulated by male standards.
Alex Kerridge MA Lancaster- currently working for Moving picture Company. Specialist area,-Feminist Theatre.
Viv Kerridge – Academic coordinator for Drama Bishop Grosseteste University Lincoln. Specialist areas include Applied Drama, Theatre for Development and Contemporary Women’s theatre.
Elisabeth Massana, ‘Cartographies of silence in debbie tucker green's truth and reconciliation’
In her 2011 play truth and reconciliation, debbie tucker green draws our attention to a number of unresolved conflicts from our recent past. Throughout its fragmented structure, readers and spectators become witnesses to the unhealed wounds of South Africa, Rwanda, Zimbawe, Bosnia Herzegovina and Northern Ireland, from the point of view of the survivors and their confrontation with some of the perpetrators. Inspired by the rational behind the truth and reconciliation commissions in post-Apartheid South Africa, tucker green questions to what extent are these two possible. How – if possible – can we approach this truth? Is reconciliation granted? What is being said and, more importantly, what is being left unsaid in these conversations? How is the spectator of the play asked to engage with it? What is the role of ethics in this engagement?
Following Martin Middeke's affirmation that “the ethical in literature can be approached by analysing the equivocal conditions of in-between-ness” (2014: 101) and drawing from a reading of Adrienne Rich's poem “Cartographies of Silence”, I want to suggest that tucker green's play is embedded by two different kinds of silences – active silences and what I will call (distr)active silences – which become these spaces of in-between-ness. It is my contention that it is in these spaces where the possibility for ethical gestures emerges.
Elisabeth Massana is Lecturer in the English Literature Section of the Department of English and German at the University of Barcelona and a member of the Contemporary British Theatre Barcelona research group recognized by the Catalan research agency AGAUR. She is currently working on her PhD thesis The performance of terror in post-9/11 British Theatre.
Deirdre Osborne, 'Hearing Voices: Performing the Mind in debbie tucker green's dirty butterfly, stoning mary and nut'
The stylistic method by which debbie tucker green embodies her characters’ psychological states, while (paradoxically) abstracting their physical presences suggests a valuing of the voice for its ability to challenge a priori consciousness across many planes. Husserl observed that ‘speaking and hearing, intimation of mental states through speaking and reception thereof in hearing, are mutually correlated.’ The aesthetic and performative system for the voice and its embodiment that tucker green creates disturbs any comfortable recourse to mimetic/diegetic spatial arrangements as an orientation for audiences or readers who seek a realist narrative arc. This narrative temptation is, of course, the consequence of the mystery genre she employs, delivered through the ‘red herrings’ of realist moments, passions and themes that evoke meta-socio-cultural contexts. While these endow critical readings driven by sociological or political impetuses with rewarding material, this approach diminishes the rich poeticity (Jakobson) of her stage idiom and the power of her vocal complex.
To attend to the abyss to which her subject-matter often leads, I follow Heidegger’s proposition that language must be liberated ‘from the fetters of rational-logical explanation’. I will suggest that tucker green forces a re-tuning of how dramatic language is heard and navigated in live performances (with actors’ enunciations inflected by accent, pronunciation, pace and other vocalising attributes), and in the introspection of page encounters – the voices in the reader’s head. The orchestration of her text and their linguistic economy means ‘not only do rhymes have meaning, and meters, but also each consonant, each vowel, all the seen and heard materiality of words contributes to meaning’. (Meschonnic)
I have chosen three plays traversing debbie tucker green’s playwriting oeuvre: her first major produced play, a mid-career example, and her second most recent drama before hang’s premiere at the Royal Court this summer. All three represent abjection and a pushing of the body to its physical and psychological limits of endurance, reliant upon the porousness between what is said, seen and heard, both as played and read. As dirty butterfly positions characters and audiences as eavesdropper, stoning mary plays with staging speaking subjects and transcendental ego, while nut dramatises voices in the head as constituting a realm of authenticity which, when suppressed, produces the distress of self-harming where the body speaks as a text. In the realm of listening that tucker green creates, in order to hear her words, I follow Gerard Bruns’s Heideggerian direction aiming, ‘to linger in their company, or in their neighbourhood, and pick up on their resonances’, to situate my readings ‘dialogically with the text rather than analytically against it…’
Deirdre Osborne is a Reader in English Literature and Drama at Goldsmiths University of London where she co-convenes the MA Black British Writing. Her research interests span late-Victorian literature and maternity, to Landmark Poetics, mixedness, adoption aesthetics and Black writing. In this field she has guest-edited ‘Contemporary Black British Women’s Writing’ for Women: a Cultural Review (2009), a critical edition of Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun (Methuen 2011), volumes of previously unpublished plays and monodramas by Kwame Kwei-Armah, Malika Booker, SuAndi, Lennie James, Courttia Newland, Lemn Sissay (Hidden Gems Vols. I and II, Oberon Books, 2008; 2012) and co-edited Modern and Contemporary Black British Drama (Palgrave 2014). She is currently editing the Cambridge Companion to British Black and Asian Literature (1945-2010).
Michael Pearce ‘Empathy in the diaspora: debbie tucker green’s African plays’
Black theatre in Britain has a long history of engaging with Africa. In many ways this is the result of black practitioners’ identification with the notion of the African diaspora which emphasises solidarity through a shared experience of separation from the continental homeland and marginalisation and racism in the new place of settlement. Historically, this bond has engendered complex transnational political and cultural connections between black people throughout the world. However, in the 21st century what sort of influence does Africa continue to hold on black British theatre and, as disparities between developed and developing countries widen, what are the implications of these empathetic connections?
Using the notion of the African diaspora as a critical framework to discuss stoning mary, generations and truth and reconciliation reveals the important ways in which Africa influences debbie tucker green’s approach and style. Foregrounding these transnational connections also provides a way to discuss tucker green’s plays beyond a white British framework, and demonstrates the work’s potential to critique such limiting discourses. Finally, through the lens of the African diaspora tucker green’s artistic and political aims become sharper: to speak to and challenge ideas of Africa and black diasporic identification and to articulate a collective yet differentiated diasporic experience and bond in the new millennium.
Dr Michael Pearce is Lecturer in Socially Engaged Theatre at the University of Exeter. His research examines black British theatre in relation to the cultural and political spaces of Africa, the Caribbean and the USA. He has published chapters on Kwame Kwei-Armah and Roy Williams and is currently working on his monograph, provisionally entitled Black British Theatre: A Transnational Perspective, which will be published by Routledge in 2016.
David Ian Rabey, Time, resonance and implication in green’s drama
debbie tucker green’s play random (2008) immerses character, performer and audience in a retrospectively thickened sense of (phenomenological) time, and the deceptive texture of apparent and so-called “everyday” experience (objective time), struggling to comprehend, “catch up with”, and so avert an outcome which has already been completed. random then turns out the question: how and why can the fatal events it depicts become “everyday” experience? Similar questions are posed by generations and truth and reconciliation.
This paper will consider green’s plays within the context of developments in time studies, including the KAM theory of trajectories (by Kolmogorov, Arnold and Moser) which offers a distinction between two types of trajectories: “nice” deterministic trajectories and “random” trajectories associated with erratic resonances, which lead to irreversible diffusion (Prigogine and Stengers 1997: 41): resonances which ‘are not local events, inasmuch as they do not occur at a given point or instant’, but imply persistent interactions which ‘mean that we cannot take part of the system and consider it in isolation’ (45). It will also refer to Adam’s principle of implication, ‘a theoretical approach which unites the local with the global, difference with universals […] a view from somewhere specific and everywhere [which] insists on the relative position of the centre’ (Adam 1995: 159).
Adam, Barbara (1995) Timewatch: The Social Analysis of Time Cambridge: Polity Press
Prigogine, Ilya, with Stengers, Isabelle (1997) The End of Certainty Free Press: New York and London
David Ian Rabey is Professor of Drama and Theatre Studies at Aberystwyth
University, UK, and Artistic Director of Lurking Truth/Gwir sy’n Llechu Theatre Company. His critical publications include Howard Barker: Politics and Desire (1989, 2009), David Rudkin: Sacred Disobedience (1997), English Drama Since 1940 (2003), Howard Barker: Ecstasy and Death (2009), The Theatre and Films of Jez Butterworth (2015) and, forthcoming, Theatre and Time (2016). He has co- edited two collections of essays, Theatre of Catastrophe (2006) and Howard Barker’s Art of Theatre (2013). His plays include two volumes, The Wye Plays (2004) and Lovefuries (2008).
Trish Reid, ‘What about the burn their bra bitches?’: debbie tucker green and the Willful Subject
In this paper I want to draw on Sara Ahmed work in The Promise of Happiness (2010) and Willful Subjects (2014), to think both about some of the more belligerent aspects of debbie tucker green’s woman centered dramaturgy, and also her unusual public persona. tucker green’s reluctance to give interviews sets her apart from other playwrights of her generation, for instance, as does her refusal to grant performance rights for re-stagings of her plays.
In The Promise of Happiness, Ahmed argues that the cultural imperative to ‘be happy’ encourages us to order our desires in particular ways, towards heterosexuality and monogamy for instance. Some groups, she maintains, are more aware of the downside of this happiness injunction than others. Ahmed calls such people ‘affect aliens’, offering the figure of the ‘feminist killjoy’ as one example. She also shows how the history of Empire as a kind of forced ‘happiness’ haunts the postcolonial moment, noting that assimilation and integration are in fact happiness injunctions that foreclose on other kinds of cultural attachment. The subject who refuses this foreclosure is of course destined to be ‘unhappy’ but is also labelled disobedient, deviant and/or willful. For, Ahmed the unhappiness of the ‘affect alien’ exposes the ideological loadedness of the happiness imperative. In this sense, as she goes on to argue in Willful Subjects, feminist and antiracist histories, ‘can be thought of as histories of those who are willing to be willful’ (2014:134). In this paper I want think about how willfulness is taken up in tucker greens’s plays by those who have received its charge – Dawta, Amelia, Younger Sister, Elayne – and to consider how their willfulness can be thought of as a strategy for resistance.
Trish Reid is Associate Professor of Drama and Director of Teaching and Learning in the School of Performance and Screen Studies at Kingston University. Her research interests are primarily in contemporary Scottish theatre and performance. Her recent publications include Theatre & Scotland (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2013), ‘Anthony Neilson’ in the Aleks Sierz, Modern British Playwriting: the 1990s (London: Methuen, 2012) and ‘Post- Devolutionary Drama’, in Ian Brown ed., The Edinburgh Companion to Scottish Drama (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press 2011). She is currently working on a longer monograph for Palgrave on contemporary Scottish theatre and performance and on The Theatre of Anthony Neilson for Bloomsbury Methuen. Trish is from Glasgow.
Lea Sawyers, ‘Community and singularity: a musical approach to debbie tucker green’s writing’
“I never set out to write plays. I was just messing about. (…) Then the writing started to get longer. I didn't know whether it was a poem, the lyrics to a song or a play.”
(debbie tucker green, to Lyn Gardner for The Guardian, March 30th 2005)
What if tucker green’s plays weren’t plays? What if, even more than lyrics to a song, they were actual songs of their own right?
Using a musical approach of tucker green’s texts, I intend to initiate a reflection on the idiosyncratic musicality of her writing, on the resulting distribution of speech from monophony to polyphony and on the political significance of such stylistic choices.
Indeed, tucker green has been praised for her distinctive voice. But how does her musical orchestration of speech and voices feed into the poetics of community and singularity which are constitutive of her work?
Far from turning a blind eye on the theatrical performances of said work and denying them their status as plays, my endeavour is to show how tucker green’s musical experimentations transcend stylistic considerations, paving the way for new modalities of political expression on stage.
Lea Sawyers is a second-year doctoral student and teacher of British literature at the University Paris - La Sorbonne. Under the direction of Pr. Elisabeth Angel-Perez, her PhD thesis, a monograph on debbie tucker green’s theatrical work, will investigate the new terms of political expression on the British stage at the dawn of the twenty-first century. Her professional practice of music on stage as an operatic lyrical singer has made voice and musicality core interests in her research.
Lucy Tyler, ‘Playwriting Pedagogy and the works of debbie tucker green’
This paper will examine debbie tucker green’s Random (2008) in a pedagogical context, exploring how it offers students of playwriting threshold learning experiences in relation to contemporary theatre. Because Random is a play intended for performance by ‘one black actress’ yet is a story told by five characters, this play offers new students of contemporary playwriting an important example of how text for performance operates. Existing somewhere between the script and performance, Random helps student playwrights understand the complexities of text-based theatre and the negotiations at work between script and performance. Using examples from my own teaching of Random this paper will explore how the work of debbie tucker green challenges and helps evolve student playwrights’ understanding of how text operates in theatre.
Lucy Tyler is MA Course Leader in Creative and Critical Writing at the University of Gloucestershire, where she teaches playwriting at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels. Her research interests are playwriting pedagogy and developmental dramaturgy in practice. She is completing a PhD at York University on the practice of developmental dramaturgy in universities and theatres.