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DT3500 Nation/Adaptation

Summer Reading List


Brief Introduction

A look at the current West End schedules – War Horse; The Woman in Black; The Mousetrap; Les Misérables; Mathilda, The Musical - demonstrates that literary adaptations for the stage fuel our cultural economy. This course focuses on a number of less familiar, but nonetheless highly influential adaptations produced by Irish, British-Asian and Black-British theatre-makers over the past twenty years. It explores how they have used adaptation to explore - and often to subvert – notions of national and ethical identity and of cultural belonging.

This course begins with an exploration of adaptation theory, in particular the idea of the ‘cultural capital’ attached to the work of adapting. It explores why and how the adaptation has become mainstream; the issues around adaptation and ownership and the problems which duplication and replication present for those who seek to create a vibrant, contemporary, politically-alert theatre. Throughout the course, we will engage with a range of theoretical approaches to ask questions about adaptation and gender, adaptation and race, the literary canon and identity, historiography and representation of official ‘truths’. We will use a combination of close-reading, workshops, seminars and performance to explore a number of well-known plays and in the end use this knowledge to work towards an adaptation of our own. 

This course aims:

  • To introduce students to a range of political and aesthetic issues surrounding the adaptation of literary texts for performance.
  • To develop students’ familiarity with contemporary Irish, British-Asian and Black-British theatre as it plays with and interrogates ideas of nation and identity.
  • To develop in students an awareness of the different theoretical approaches to the question of adaptation and rewriting.
  • To develop a performance practice which explores how adaptation works to articulate matters of contemporary political urgency.

KEY PLAYS (listed alphabetically)

We will refer to all these texts across both terms. Those marked with an asterisk are essential reading for the Autumn Term. You will of course find it useful to read the original novels, plays and other texts on which the adaptations are based.

  • *Biyi Bandele, Oroonoko (RSC, 1999): all black Royal Shakespeare Company production based on Aphra Behn’s 1688 novel.
  • *Marina Carr, Ariel (2002) available in Marina Carr, Plays 2 (Faber, 2009): inspired by Euripides’ Iphigenia at Aulis
  • *Gurinder Chadha, dir. Bride and Prejudice (2004): the Bollywood adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice (1813).
  • *Seamus Heaney, The Burial at Thebes (Faber, 2005) a version of Sophocles’ Antigone.
  • Mustapha Matura, Playboy of the West Indies (Oberon, 1984): an adaptation of Synge’s The Playboy of the Western World (see below)
  • *Richard Norton-Taylor (ed.) The Colour of Justice (Oberon, 1999) edited from transcripts of the official inquiry into the murder of Stephen Lawrence and presented at the Tricycle Theatre.
  • *-----     Bloody Sunday: Scenes from the Saville Enquiry (Oberon, 2005): edited from transcripts of the official inquiry into Bloody Sunday (Derry, 1972) and presented at the Tricycle Theatre.
  • *J.M. Synge, The Playboy of the Western World: [1907]: Synge’s comedy, based on a real life ‘murder’ story caused riots when it opened in Dublin.
  • Deepak Verma, Ghostdancing (Methuen, 2001): an adaptation of Emile Zola’s novel Thérèse Raquin set in the modern-day Punjab.
  • Roy Williams, Sing Yer Heart Out for the Lads (Methuen, 2002): the 2000 World Cup qualifying match plays out in the background as the characters debate race, racism and nation.



*Nadine Holdsworth, Theatre & Nation (Palgrave Macmillan, 2010): a short snappy introduction to some of the key questions of the course, it will get you thinking…

*Julie Sanders, Adaptation and Appropriation (London: Routledge, 2008): a key text for the autumn term. 


You may also find these in the same ‘Theatre &…’ series useful:

Joe Kelleher, Theatre & Politics (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009)

Ric Knowles Theatre & Interculturalism (Palgrave Macmillan, 2010)

Geoffrey V Davies and Anne Fuchs (eds.) Staging New Britain: Aspects of Black and South Asian British Theatre Practice (Peter Lang 2006): a key text for the second term.

The Tara Arts Website has a series of interesting articles by Jatinder Verma on Binglish theatre and exploring the canon. http://www.tara-arts.com/#/archive/articles_archive

Further reading lists will be available on the Moodle Site for the course which will go live across the summer. 


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