CDE Studies 23

Elżbieta Baraniecka
Sublime Drama: British Theatre of the 1990s

Berlin/Boston: Walter de Gruyter, 2013.
ISBN 978-3-11-030993-5, 254 S., geb., € 99,95 (2013)

British drama of the 1990s is most commonly associated with the term in-yer-face theatre, which was coined by Aleks Sierz to describe the shocking and provocative work of emerging playwrights such as Mark Ravenhill or Sarah Kane. Taking a cue from Sierz’s own suggestion that what still remains to be researched more thoroughly in this field is the particular relationship between the stage and the audience, this monograph undertakes precisely that task.

Rather than use the term offered by Sierz, however, the study proposes a different concept to account for the dynamics of communication within the particular theatre of the 1990s, namely the aesthetic category of the sublime. Coupled with elements of Reader Response Theory, the sublime proves to be a more fruitful term, as it provides more precise tools for the analysis of the audience’s aesthetic response than does in-yer-face theatre.

With the help of four representative plays by four key playwrights of that time, Closer by Patrick Marber, Normal by Anthony Neilson, Faust is Dead by Mark Ravenhill and 4.48 Psychosis by Sarah Kane, the book details the consecutive stages in the process of the plays‘ reception that the members of the audience go through while forming their aesthetic response to them. Looking through the prism of the sublime, the study not only offers a detailed analysis of each play but also suggests an entirely new approach to British drama of the 1990s.

cover