Questioning Narrative Authenticity in Kay Adshead’s The Bogus Woman

Agnes Woolley

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Kay Adshead’s 2001 play The Bogus Woman explores how asylum narratives are traumatised by the very legal process that seeks coercively to uncover an accurate and acceptable version of events. Echoing Spivak’s sense of the representational challenge that subaltern subjectivities pose, I argue that Adshead’s play soberly critiques the mediation through which the asylum seeker emerges into public discourse and vividly foregrounds the intricacies of narrativised experience which cannot be easily phrased in received representation. The play’s polyvocal performance strategy destabilises the pursuit of a definitive, documentary and originary story, distinguishing it from recent documentary theatre of asylum which too swiftly privileges narrative credibility. Adshead’s critique of authenticity extends to conceiving of the body as another document, which is read through its wounds and scars. Ultimately, I consider how far theatrical representation, in its negotiation of narrative at the intersection of text, performer and audience, might present new and more complex ways of perceiving the experience of seeking asylum.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)30-41
Number of pages11
JournalMoving Worlds: A Journal of Transcultural Writings
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • asylum
  • theatre and performance
  • Refugees

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