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Staying Dead: The Corpse, Burial and Exhumation in Three Contemporary British History Plays

Death, Culture & Leisure: Playing Dead

ISBN: 978-1-83909-038-7, eISBN: 978-1-83909-037-0

Publication date: 20 August 2020

Abstract

This chapter examines the acts of burial and exhumation in three contemporary British history plays. For the purposes of this argument, a ‘history play’ may be defined as a piece of writing for the theatre that engages with historical events or settings. Such plays inevitably, at the moment of their staging or revival, take on particular meanings for audiences, since theatre as a live, durational art form encourages spectators to compare the historical events depicted with their present historical moment. The chapter argues that acts of burial and exhumation in contemporary British theatre are intimately tied to notions of land, soil and belonging. These became increasingly pertinent ideas in the UK’s political climate in the years following the 2016 Referendum on membership of the European Union. Of the three case studies, Victoria by David Greig (2000) dates from more than a decade before this vote, whilst Common by D. C. Moore (2017), and Eyam by Matt Hartley (2018) were written and staged in the interim between the Referendum result and the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. All three, however, feature corpses on stage as a means to consider time, temporality, place and history. Each play offers a different interpretation of what it means to play dead and to stay dead.

Keywords

Citation

Poore, B. (2020), "Staying Dead: The Corpse, Burial and Exhumation in Three Contemporary British History Plays", Coward-Gibbs, M. (Ed.) Death, Culture & Leisure: Playing Dead (Emerald Studies in Death and Culture), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 41-53. https://doi.org/10.1108/978-1-83909-037-020201010

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2020 Benjamin Poore