Representations of Children, Families and Neo-families in British Theatre 1993-2001: "...It's not an ordinary family"

Selina Busby

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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In this thesis, I argue that a number of new British plays written in the period between 1993 and 2001 demonstrate that the ‘normalised’ family unit, which has been taken as “common sense,” is a social construct. I will outline how plays written during this period invite audiences to reconsider family structures and provide critical perspectives on the dominant ideology of ‘family’ life. I suggest that this critical perspective paves the way for the conceiving of alternative structures, and in so doing, argue that these plays offer a utopic vision.

This thesis considers the family as a “mythical entity” that works as a unit of social control, political aspiration and regulation. I argue that British plays written during this time period represent an alternative in the form of what I shall call a neo-family structure. I suggest that the plays discussed in this thesis are inherently political in nature, in that they frame contemporary issues associated with family and neo-family structures and invite a reading of them that displays the social structures of governmentality. I outline the ways in which adherence to this traditional family structure can be seen as dangerous to its individual members, especially the children, who live within these arrangements.

I also propose that these British plays demonstrate that this governmentality, or self-regulation, when taken to an extreme, results in the loss of feelings for both the self and others, ultimately leading to a complete global breakdown involving a personal passive acceptance of violence that will perpetuate both mental and physical abuse. I argue that the form and content of these plays work synergistically to enable the audience to link representation of personal or domestic situations directly to the deployment of ideology and state power. I consider the way in which British playwrights represent the boundaries created by the family home, while simultaneously analysing the utopian endeavours of escape from these spaces. I use Edward Bond’s plays for young people as an exemplar for a theatre that poses questions and invites audiences to conceive alternative ways of living.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Nicholson, Helen, Supervisor
Award date1 Nov 2014
Publication statusUnpublished - 2014


  • Theatre Children Families Neo-families

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