Mrs Worthington’s Daughters: Drama

  • Gabriele Griffin
Part of the The History of British Women’s Writing book series (HBWW)


Women’s engagement with drama and performance has a long tradition but it was in the 1970s that this tradition, shaped by the emergence of second-wave feminism, gained new urgency and drive, leading to an explosion of theatre and performance work by women which has continued unabated until the present.1 As feminist playwright Caryl Churchill has stated:

[E]ven in the spring of 1973, when a group of us were meeting to plan the first Women’s Theatre Festival (at the Almost Free Theatre in London in the autumn of 1973), we weren’t short of plays from which to choose for the three-month season. The submerged women playwrights were there — as they appear always to have been.2


South Asian Woman Face Theatre Theatre Company Queer Performance Dinner Party 
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  1. 1.
    See, for example, Catherine Burroughs, Women in British Romantic Theatre: Drama, Performance and Society 1790–1840 (Cambridge University Press, 2000);Google Scholar
  2. Kate Newey, Women’s Theatre Writing in Victorian Britain (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005);CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Mary A. Schofield and Cecilia Macheski, eds, Curtain Calls: British and American Women and the Theatre, 1660–1820 (Athens: Ohio University Press, 1991).Google Scholar
  4. Also Susan Croft, She Also Wrote Plays (London: Faber and Faber, 2001).Google Scholar
  5. 2.
    Caryl Churchill, ‘Introduction’, Plays by Women, Vol. 1, ed. Michelene Wandor (London: Methuen, 1982), p. 9.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality, Vol. 1, trans. Robert Hurley (London: Allen Lane, 1978), p. 76.Google Scholar
  7. 8.
    See Liz Goodman, Contemporary Feminist Theatres: To Each Her Own (London: Routledge, 1993), p. 7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 11.
    Plays with all-female casts remained common until the middle of the 1980s. See, for example, the collection Pulp and Other Plays by Tasha Fairbanks, ed. Gabriele Griffin and Elaine Aston (London: Harwood Press, 1996).Google Scholar
  9. 14.
    For a theoretical elaboration of this point, see Clare Hemmings, Why Stories Matter (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2011).Google Scholar
  10. 15.
    Candida Lacey, Dale Spender, and Carole Haymen, eds, How the Vote Was Won and Other Suffrage Plays (London: Methuen, 1985).Google Scholar
  11. 17.
    Deborah Levy, Plays 1 (London: Methuen, 2000), p. 3.Google Scholar
  12. 18.
    Timberlake Wertenbaker, Plays 1 (London: Faber and Faber, 1996).Google Scholar
  13. 19.
    Elin Diamond, Unmaking Mimesis (London: Routledge, 1997).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 20.
    Jill Davis, ed., Lesbian Plays (London: Methuen, 1987).Google Scholar
  15. 21.
    Jill Dolan, Presence and Desire: Essays on Gender, Sexuality and Performance (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1993);Google Scholar
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  18. 22.
    For British commentators on and performers of this, see Nina Rapi and Maya Chowdhry, eds, Acts of Passion: Sexuality, Gender, and Performance (London: Routledge, 1998), andGoogle Scholar
  19. Lesley Ferris, Crossing the Stage: Controversies on Cross-Dressing (London: Routledge, 1993).Google Scholar
  20. 23.
    See their play Walking on Peas in Gabriele Griffin and Elaine Aston, eds, Subversions: Playing with History in Women’s Theatre (Amsterdam: Harwood Academic Publishers, 1997).Google Scholar
  21. 24.
    Claire Dowie, Why Is John Lennon Wearing a Skirt and Other Stand-Up Theatre Plays (London: Methuen, 1996);Google Scholar
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  23. 26.
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  24. 27.
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  25. Rebecca Prichard, Yard Gal (London: Faber and Faber, 1997).Google Scholar
  26. 28.
    See Gabriele Griffin, Contemporary Black and Asian Women Playwrights (Cambridge University Press, 2003) for an extended discussion of these.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    See Helen Gilbert and Joanne Tompkins, Post-Colonial Drama (London: Routledge, 1996).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. 30.
    For example, Kadija George, ed., Six Plays by Black and Asian Women (London: Aurora Metro Press, 1993);Google Scholar
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  30. 31.
    See Ann Pellegrini’s Performance Anxieties: Staging Psychoanalysis, Staging Race (New York: Routledge, 1997) as a uselul exploration of this.Google Scholar
  31. 33.
    See Gabriele Griffin, ‘Gagging: Gender, Performance and the Politics of Intervention’, Contemporary Theatre Review, 17:4 (2007), pp. 541–9. Kaur Bhatti herself commented on this experience in a subsequent play, Behud (Beyond Belief), which opened at the Soho Theatre in 2010.Google Scholar
  32. 46.
    Amelia Jones, ‘Holy Body: Erotic Ethics in Ron Athey and Juliana Snapper’s Judas Cradle’, TDR, 50:1 (2006), pp. 159–69.Google Scholar

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© Gabriele Griffin 2015

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  • Gabriele Griffin

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