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Journal of Contemporary Drama in English

Editor-in-Chief: Middeke, Martin

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

CiteScore 2018: 0.11

Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2018: 0.597

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Experiencing Nationlessness: Staging the Migrant Condition in Some Recent British Theatre

Tom Cornford
  • Corresponding author
  • The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, University of LondonUniversity of LondonLondonUnited Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
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Published Online: 2018-05-04 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/jcde-2018-0014


This essay takes as its starting-point the post-2016 Refugee Crisis, which it considers to have been caused not so much by unmanageable migration as by excessive border control. It then uses Julia Kristeva’s figures of the ‘abject’ and ‘deject’ and Tim Ingold’s related conceptions of ‘containment’ and ‘exposure’ to explore some ways in which borders shape conceptions of nationhood and of identity. It goes on to explore Vicky Featherstone’s production of Zinnie Harris’ How to Hold Your Breath (Royal Court, 2015) and the Isango Ensemble’s A Man of Good Hope (Young Vic, 2016) as examples of representations of migrants and migration from a position of settled, white privilege. It then takes up the challenge of the chorus in A Man of Good Hope to ‘tell the other stories’ of the nationless, which it does partly by tracing the trajectories of easily-overlooked characters in A Man of Good Hope and then in dialogue with Zodwa Nyoni’s play Nine Lives (Leeds Studio, 2014). It finds in Nyoni’s play ways in which bounded conceptions of identity can be productively troubled by the figure of the migrant and identity thereby reframed not as the experience of containment within borders, but as a consequence of movement across them.

Keywords: Refugee crisis; identity; nationhood; migration; British theatre

Works Cited

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About the article

Tom Cornford

Tom Cornford is Lecturer in Theatre & Performance at The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, University of London and also works as a director and dramaturg. He is the author of articles about the histories and practices of acting and directing for journals including New Theatre Quarterly, Shakespeare Bulletin, Shakespeare Studies, and Theatre, Dance and Performance Training, as well as contributions to edited collections. Forthcoming projects include a long essay co-authored with Roberta Barker on the director Tyrone Guthrie for Bloomsbury’s Great European Theatre Directors series; a special issue of the journal Contemporary Theatre Review, co-edited with Caridad Svich, on the director Katie Mitchell, as well as two book projects, a monograph: Theatre Studios: Historicizing Ensemble Theatre-Making (Routledge, 2019) and an edited collection: Michael Chekhov in the Twenty-First Century: New Pathways, with Cass Fleming (Bloomsbury, 2018). Tom was the winner, in 2017, of the David Bradby Award for Early Career Research in European Theatre and serves on the editorial board of the journal Studies in Theatre and Performance.

Published Online: 2018-05-04

Published in Print: 2018-04-27

Citation Information: Journal of Contemporary Drama in English, Volume 6, Issue 1, Pages 101–112, ISSN (Online) 2195-0164, ISSN (Print) 2195-0156, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/jcde-2018-0014.

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