Sated, Starved or Satisfied: The Languages of Theatre in Britain Today

  • Tony Dunn


That politics and theatre have much in common is a truism. The fall of Margaret Thatcher followed exactly the sequence of a typical Greek tragedy as analysed by Aristotle and preserved in the student notes on his lectures which we call the Poetics. But her downfall was more than a banal conceit. It was the high point of a process that had been accelerating throughout the decade. In 1980s Britain a number of different developments combined to make possible, for the first time, the permanent theatricalisation of everyday life. Media-technology became more compact, more economical and more accessible. Home-videos, Walkmen, Car-phones and VDU’s plugged the people into their own mobile dramas. Conservative anti-union legislation was traditional and in the Government’s first five years was aimed at traditional targets, the heavy industries of steel, coal and the railways. Dramas of confrontation, particularly with the miners, were familiar from the 1970s, extraordinary sagas with a long class-history. But a side-effect was to demonstrate the mobility of new lightweight TV cameras, needing much smaller crews. When the print-unions were broken in the Wapping dispute of 1986, the way was open for much more rapid editing and production of verbi-visual stories by journalists. The result, according to Mark Lawson of The Independent, was an increase in media-outlets so that ‘for the first time British politicians employed image-makers to help them fill the newly available space’ (The independent, 1 December 1990).


National Theatre Live Theatre Theatre Club Henry Versus Sumo Wrestler 
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Copyright information

© Theodore Shank 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tony Dunn
    • 1
  1. 1.Literary and Cultural StudiesPortsmouth UniversityUK

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