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Journal of Contemporary Drama in English

Editor-in-Chief: Middeke, Martin

Ed. by Berns, Ute / Wallace, Clare / Wald, Christina

2 Issues per year

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2195-0164
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Bola Agbaje’s Off the Endz. Authentic Voices, Representing the Council Estate: Politics, Authorship and the Ethics of Representation

Katie Beswick
Published Online: 2014-04-16 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/jcde-2014-0008

Abstract

Amongst the many socio-political concerns central to contemporary British theatre, there appears an overriding concern – in terms of the production of new plays – with the notion of “authenticity” in the voice of the authors of new writing. This issue is related to politics as it resonates with concerns about the ability of individual citizens to have their “voices” (Couldry) heard within contemporary structures of neoliberalism. In the UK, pioneering new writing theatres, most notably the Royal Court Theatre, run writing programmes which target economically disadvantaged and minority ethnic communities, and ask members of these groups to use their own experiences as a basis for storytelling. The work produced from these programmes is often marketed by using the “authenticity” of the writer. Authenticity, in this definition, is synonymous with notions of personal experience. Although a focus on authenticity addresses postcolonial concerns regarding the ethics of representation, it also problematically suggests that personal experience is the basis for “authentic” artistic output. This essay examines the portrayal of council estates (British social housing estates) in contemporary play-writing, looking at the issues which might emerge from a commercial focus on the “authentic voice.” It asks how representations might work to intervene in the production of council estate spaces. Drawing on the Royal Court’s recent production Off the Endz (2010), the essay seeks to problematise the notion of the “authentic voice” by considering the Royal Court as a public sphere, where the discourse of contemporary culture might be democratised (McCracken).

Keywords: Council estates; authentic voice; social inequality; public sphere/square; Bola Agbaje; Off the Endz,; Royal Court Theatre

Works Cited

    Primary Literature

    • Agbaje, Bola. Off The Endz. London: Methuen 2010.Google Scholar

    • Soans, Robin. “A State Affair.” Andrea Dunbar and Robin Soans. Rita Sue and Bob Too & A State Affair. London: Methuen, 2000.Google Scholar

    Secondary Literature

    • Appiah, Kwame Anthony. “Whose Culture Is It?” The New York Review of Books, 9 Feb. 2006.Google Scholar

    • Bell, Charlotte, and Katie Beswick. “Authenticity and Representation: The Council Estate at The Royal Court Theatre.” New Theatre Quarterly 30.1 (2014). Forthcoming.Web of ScienceCrossrefGoogle Scholar

    • Beswick, Katie. “A Place for Opportunity: ‘The Block’, Representing the Council Estate in a Youth Theatre Setting.” Journal of Applied Arts and Health 2.3 (2011): 289–302.Google Scholar

    • Bharucha, Rustom. Theatre and the World. London: Routledge, 2003.Google Scholar

    • Billington, Michael. State of the Nation: British Theatre Since 1945. London: Faber and Faber, 2007.Google Scholar

    • Costa, Maddy. “Arinze Kene: ‘At home, I’m Nigerian. I go out and I’m a British kid’.” Guardian, 25 Feb. 2013. <http://www.theguardian.com/stage/2013/feb/25/arinze-kene-gods-property>.

    • Couldry, Nick. Why Voice Matters: Culture and Politics After Neoliberalism. London: Sage, 2010.Google Scholar

    • Damer, Seán. “Wine Alley: The Sociology of a Dreadful Enclosure.” The Sociological Review 22 (1974): 221–248.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

    • De Jongh, Nicholas. “Cruel Cartoon Not Very Nice” Evening Standard, 12 Feb. 2009. <http://www.standard.co.uk/goingout/theatre/cruel-cartoon-not-very-nice-7412614.html>.

    • Goddard, Lynette. Staging Black Feminisms: Identity, Politics, Performance, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007.Google Scholar

    • Harvie, Jen. Staging the UK. Manchester: Manchester UP, 2005.Google Scholar

    • Innes, Christopher. A Sourcebook on Naturalist Theatre. London: Routledge, 2000.Google Scholar

    • Kelleher, Joe. Theatre & Politics. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.Google Scholar

    • Khan, Naima. “Interview. Off the Endz writer Bola Agbaje.” Spoonfed, 26 Feb. 2010 <http://www.spoonfed.co.uk/spooners/naimakhan-6622/interview-off-the-endz-writer-bola-agbaje-2290/>.

    • Lay, Samantha. British Social Realism: From Documentary to Brit Grit. London: Wallflower, 2002.Google Scholar

    • Little, Ruth, and Emily McLaughlin. The Royal Court Theatre: Inside Out. London: Oberon, 2007.Google Scholar

    • McCracken, Scott. Masculinities, Modernist Fiction and the Urban Public Sphere. Manchester: Manchester UP, 2007.Google Scholar

    • McKenzie, Lisa Louise. Finding Value on a Council Estate: Complex Lives, Motherhood and Exclusion. PhD Thesis. University of Nottingham, 2009.Google Scholar

    • Murphy, Paul. “Class and Performance in the Age of Global Capitalism.” Theatre Research International 37.1 (2012): 49–62.Web of ScienceGoogle Scholar

    • O’Toole, Emer. The Ethics of Intercultural Performance. PhD Thesis. Royal Holloway, 2012.Google Scholar

    • Pearce, Jenny, and E.J Milne. Participation and Community on Bradford’s Traditionally White Estates. York: Joseph Rowntree Foundation, 2010.Google Scholar

    • Richardson, Chris, and Hans A. Skott-Myhre. Habitus of the Hood. Bristol: Intellect, 2012.Google Scholar

    • Royal Court Theatre. “Off the Endz Resource Pack” (2010). <http://www.royalcourttheatre.com/education/educational-resources/>.

    • Shohat, Ella, and Robert Stam. Unthinking Eurocentrism, London: Routledge, 1994.Google Scholar

    • Sierz, Aleks. Rewriting the Nation: British Theatre Today. London: Methuen, 2011.Google Scholar

    • Tyler Peterson, Grant. “‘Playgrounds which would never happen now, because they’d be far too dangerous’: Risk, Childhood Development and Radical Sites of Theatre Practice.” RiDE: The Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance 16.3 (2011): 385–402.Google Scholar

    • Williams, Raymond. “A Lecture on Realism.” Screen 18.1 (1977): 61–74.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

    • –––. Culture and Materialism. London and New York: Verso, 1980.Google Scholar

Primary Literature

  • Agbaje, Bola. Off The Endz. London: Methuen 2010.Google Scholar

  • Soans, Robin. “A State Affair.” Andrea Dunbar and Robin Soans. Rita Sue and Bob Too & A State Affair. London: Methuen, 2000.Google Scholar

Secondary Literature

  • Appiah, Kwame Anthony. “Whose Culture Is It?” The New York Review of Books, 9 Feb. 2006.Google Scholar

  • Bell, Charlotte, and Katie Beswick. “Authenticity and Representation: The Council Estate at The Royal Court Theatre.” New Theatre Quarterly 30.1 (2014). Forthcoming.Web of ScienceCrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Beswick, Katie. “A Place for Opportunity: ‘The Block’, Representing the Council Estate in a Youth Theatre Setting.” Journal of Applied Arts and Health 2.3 (2011): 289–302.Google Scholar

  • Bharucha, Rustom. Theatre and the World. London: Routledge, 2003.Google Scholar

  • Billington, Michael. State of the Nation: British Theatre Since 1945. London: Faber and Faber, 2007.Google Scholar

  • Costa, Maddy. “Arinze Kene: ‘At home, I’m Nigerian. I go out and I’m a British kid’.” Guardian, 25 Feb. 2013. <http://www.theguardian.com/stage/2013/feb/25/arinze-kene-gods-property>.

  • Couldry, Nick. Why Voice Matters: Culture and Politics After Neoliberalism. London: Sage, 2010.Google Scholar

  • Damer, Seán. “Wine Alley: The Sociology of a Dreadful Enclosure.” The Sociological Review 22 (1974): 221–248.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • De Jongh, Nicholas. “Cruel Cartoon Not Very Nice” Evening Standard, 12 Feb. 2009. <http://www.standard.co.uk/goingout/theatre/cruel-cartoon-not-very-nice-7412614.html>.

  • Goddard, Lynette. Staging Black Feminisms: Identity, Politics, Performance, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007.Google Scholar

  • Harvie, Jen. Staging the UK. Manchester: Manchester UP, 2005.Google Scholar

  • Innes, Christopher. A Sourcebook on Naturalist Theatre. London: Routledge, 2000.Google Scholar

  • Kelleher, Joe. Theatre & Politics. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.Google Scholar

  • Khan, Naima. “Interview. Off the Endz writer Bola Agbaje.” Spoonfed, 26 Feb. 2010 <http://www.spoonfed.co.uk/spooners/naimakhan-6622/interview-off-the-endz-writer-bola-agbaje-2290/>.

  • Lay, Samantha. British Social Realism: From Documentary to Brit Grit. London: Wallflower, 2002.Google Scholar

  • Little, Ruth, and Emily McLaughlin. The Royal Court Theatre: Inside Out. London: Oberon, 2007.Google Scholar

  • McCracken, Scott. Masculinities, Modernist Fiction and the Urban Public Sphere. Manchester: Manchester UP, 2007.Google Scholar

  • McKenzie, Lisa Louise. Finding Value on a Council Estate: Complex Lives, Motherhood and Exclusion. PhD Thesis. University of Nottingham, 2009.Google Scholar

  • Murphy, Paul. “Class and Performance in the Age of Global Capitalism.” Theatre Research International 37.1 (2012): 49–62.Web of ScienceGoogle Scholar

  • O’Toole, Emer. The Ethics of Intercultural Performance. PhD Thesis. Royal Holloway, 2012.Google Scholar

  • Pearce, Jenny, and E.J Milne. Participation and Community on Bradford’s Traditionally White Estates. York: Joseph Rowntree Foundation, 2010.Google Scholar

  • Richardson, Chris, and Hans A. Skott-Myhre. Habitus of the Hood. Bristol: Intellect, 2012.Google Scholar

  • Royal Court Theatre. “Off the Endz Resource Pack” (2010). <http://www.royalcourttheatre.com/education/educational-resources/>.

  • Shohat, Ella, and Robert Stam. Unthinking Eurocentrism, London: Routledge, 1994.Google Scholar

  • Sierz, Aleks. Rewriting the Nation: British Theatre Today. London: Methuen, 2011.Google Scholar

  • Tyler Peterson, Grant. “‘Playgrounds which would never happen now, because they’d be far too dangerous’: Risk, Childhood Development and Radical Sites of Theatre Practice.” RiDE: The Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance 16.3 (2011): 385–402.Google Scholar

  • Williams, Raymond. “A Lecture on Realism.” Screen 18.1 (1977): 61–74.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • –––. Culture and Materialism. London and New York: Verso, 1980.Google Scholar

About the article

Published Online: 2014-04-16

Published in Print: 2014-05-01


Citation Information: Journal of Contemporary Drama in English, Volume 2, Issue 1, Pages 97–112, ISSN (Online) 2195-0164, ISSN (Print) 2195-0156, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/jcde-2014-0008.

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