© 2018

Staging the Past in the Age of Thatcher

"The History We Haven't Had"


Part of the Palgrave Studies in Theatre and Performance History book series (PSTPH)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-ix
  2. Anthony P. Pennino
    Pages 1-13
  3. Anthony P. Pennino
    Pages 15-52
  4. Anthony P. Pennino
    Pages 231-239
  5. Back Matter
    Pages 241-251

About this book


This book investigates how the British theatrical community offered an alternative and oppositional historical narrative to the heritage culture promulgated by the Thatcher and Major Governments in the 1980s and early 1990s. It details the challenges the theatre faced, especially reductions in government funding, and examines seminal playwrights of the period – including but not limited to Caryl Churchill, Howard Brenton, Sarah Daniels, David Edgar, and Brian Friel – who dramatized a more inclusive vision of history that gave voice to traditionally marginalized communities. It employs James Baldwin’s concept of witnessing as the means by which history could be deployed to articulate an alternative and emergent political narrative: “the history we haven’t had”. This book will appeal to students and scholars of theatre and cultural studies as well as theatre practitioners and enthusiasts.


Churchill Edgar Howard Brenton Howard Barker Tom Stoppard Edward Bond Hegemony Roman Empire Northern Ireland Conservative Party

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.Stevens Institute of TechnologyHobokenUSA

About the authors

Anthony P. Pennino teaches literature, theatre, and cinema at Stevens Institute of Technology, USA. He works primarily on post-war American, British, and Irish playwrights, and has published on August Wilson and William Shakespeare. He is especially interested in political theatre as well as contemporary performance and adaptation of Shakespeare’s canon.

Bibliographic information


“Pennino’s smart, well-researched study of theater during the age of Margaret Thatcher and her successor, John Major, demonstrates how serious playwrights—Caryl Churchill, David Edgar, Howard Barker, Howard Brenton, David Hare, Tom Stoppard, Timberlake Wertenbaker—created ‘oppositional history plays’ that offered a starkly different version of British history and contemporary life than was promulgated by government propaganda, the press, and the wildly popular musicals of Andrew Lloyd Webber. … Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty and professionals.” (M. S. LoMonaco, Choice, Vol. 57 (9), 2020)