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Criminal Justice in British Playwriting and Theatre Practice, 1979-2017

Onyeisi, Rene (2020) Criminal Justice in British Playwriting and Theatre Practice, 1979-2017. PhD thesis, University of Essex.

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This thesis explores narrative-construction in criminal justice through the art of playwriting/dramaturgy and theatre practice. It investigates how playwrights, and theatre companies have created and curated these narratives by employing a spectrum of techniques from the conventional to the immersive play, from forum theatre to cognitive behavioural therapy and mask work in both mainstream spaces and in marginalised and site-specific locations. The thesis examines what these narratives and practices reveal about the theatre’s developing role in uncovering and articulating attitudes to crime, criminality and justice, and in providing routes to rehabilitation. My project moves between the analysis of play-texts, to an investigation of how the three specialist British theatre companies: Clean Break, Synergy and Geese – at the forefront of making theatre in and about prison, and with, and for prisoners have questioned and debated narratives about crime and punishment. A recurrent question in prison theatre practice of all kinds is the extent of the impact theatre might have in the rehabilitation and resettlement of offenders. The thesis moves from the textual analysis of plays about criminal justice, to look at the writerless practices of Geese, who work without playwrights but nonetheless still engage in narrative construction albeit without any end-product of script or formal performance – through mask work, forum theatre and improvisation, all of which are employed to support processes of self-reflection and transformation. This thesis therefore identifies how the narrative of the British cultural theatre practice and criminal justice has evolved from 1979 to 2017, and how alternative theatre has shifted from the margin to the centre. In tracing and analysing the progress of British prison theatre, it engages with the centrality of narrative-construction as crucial to transformative processes – whether for audiences, writers and practitioners or for those incarcerated within or emerging from the world of criminal justice.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Prison Theatre Theatre and Criminal Justice
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN0080 Criticism
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN2000 Dramatic representation. The Theater
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities > Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies, Department of
Depositing User: Rene Onyeisi
Date Deposited: 18 May 2020 13:25
Last Modified: 18 May 2020 13:25

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