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Essay Questions (Term 2)

Deadline: Wednesday 15th May at 12pm (Term 3, Week 4)

Please write a 2,500-word response to one of the following questions:

  1. “The place I came from isn’t there anymore. It disappeared” (Katia, Europe). Discuss the issues of geographical and/or personal displacement in Europe (1994) and one other play studied in Terms 2 or 3.
  2. “I’ve never seen the point of other countries. I leave Wiltshire, my ears pop. Seriously. I’m on my bike, pedalling along, see a sign says ‘Welcome to Berkshire’, I turn straight round. I don’t like to go east of Wootton Bassett” (Davey, Jerusalem). In what ways do Europe (1994) and Jerusalem (2009) anticipate the uncertainty of British national identity in the 2010s through the 2014 Scottish independence referendum and the 2016 Brexit referendum?
  3. “Butterworth deliberately scatters classical and Elizabethan associations throughout his writing in order to activate a tragic gaze” (Anna Harpin). Explore the function and purpose of nostalgia in Jerusalem (2009) and any other play studied in Terms 2 or 3.
  4. ‘[L]ike Dunsinane, the relationship between Jerusalem and Shakespearian drama goes far deeper than surface identification” (Graham Saunders). Explore the influence of Shakespeare’s work on two of the following plays: The Cordelia Dream (2008); Jerusalem (2009); Dunsinane (2010); The Effect (2012); Fleabag (2013).
  5. “Contemporary women’s playwriting [is] characterized by feeling the loss of feminism” (Aston). Write about two plays by female writers studied on the module in the light of this statement.
  6. “I would not argue for a ‘new’ feminism, but for a continuum: an understanding of feminism as a political field that responds intrinsically and extrinsically to social and cultural change…” (Elaine Aston). How does Caryl Churchill and any other playwright studied in Terms 2 or 3 grapple with feminism?
  7. “I think we live in a time now where […] for the last twenty-five to thirty years, the obsession’s been with the brain and that the idea that you are because of your brain. […] Right now, it feels like that’s at the centre of who we are” (Lucy Prebble). In the light of this statement, discuss how The Effect (2012) and any other post-2000 play studied on the module explores what it means to be human.
  8. “People meet each other and fall in love all sorts of ways, doesn’t matter what starts it. I’m sure there’s a rush of something chemical if you meet on holiday or on a bus with a bomb on it, doesn’t mean Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock aren’t really in love.” (Tristan, The Effect). Examine the definition of love in at least two plays studied on the module in Terms 2 or 3.
  9. “… everything we’re doing is to try and ensure that the audience is the co-authors in this experience. There are no hospital beds, no props, there’s nothing – everything needs to be in your imagination. This puts the emphasis on the actors and on the words on this psychological journey” (Jamie Lloyd). Discuss at least two of the following elements in relation to Jamie Lloyd’s 2023 production of The Effect (2012): acting; casting; lighting design; music; sound design; staging; textual edits.
  10. “[Oil] premiered at London’s Almeida Theatre in October 2016, it offered British society an unambiguously negative perspective on its imperial past, only four months after the Brexit referendum had demonstrated that nostalgia for Empire remained a damagingly potent force in that country” (Patrick Lonergan). Referring to at least two of the post-2000 plays studied on the module, how have playwrights changed the landscape of modern British theatre and responded to the contemporary political landscape?
  11. A woman steps out into the night

Carrying a single lamp

She walks barefoot across freezing fields

She walks and walks and walks and walks.

She walks through lands, through empires, through time. (Oil)

Explore the use of unconventional dramatic structures in the work of any two playwrights studied on the module.

  1. “Despite this tidal rise in environmentally oriented plays, there has been a dearth of plays taking oil as their focal point. Oil drama – what I will call ‘Petro-Drama’ – has indeed, until very recently, been conspicuous in its absence from the stage” (Alireza Fakhrkonandeh). Discuss the staging of environmental problems in at least two plays studied on the module.
  2. “I have a horrible feeling I’m a greedy, perverted, selfish, apathetic, cynical, depraved, mannish-looking, morally bankrupt woman, who can’t even call herself a feminist” (Fleabag, Fleabag). Explore how one or more of the female playwrights studied on this module (Carr, Churchill, Prebble, Hickson, Waller-Bridge, Coel) approach the portrayal of a female protagonist differently to their predecessors.
  3. “I am obsessed with audiences. How to win them, why some things alienate them, how to draw them in and surprise them, what divides them” (Phoebe Waller-Bridge). With this comment in mind, discuss the role of the audience in any two plays.
  4. To what do you attribute the rise of plays that utilise only one performer? Explore this question in relation to Chewing Gum Dreams (2013) and/or Fleabag (2013).
  5. ‘Whether you change the spelling, GGA or GGER, it means the same thing! 2face, 2Pac, whatever! Shit in any language smells like shit! Am I wrong? Am I wrong?’ (Mohammed, Barber Shop Chronicles). How have Micaela Coel and/or Inua Ellams tackled issues of race in their work?
  1. Manus: For the benefit of the colonist?
    Owen: He’s a decent man.
    Manus: Aren’t they all at some level? (Translations).
    Compare how Brian Friel and Inua Ellams represent the effects of colonialism.
  2. ‘Adaptation is repetition, but repetition without replication’ (Linda Hutcheon). Discuss how Silent Faces manipulate Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot (1953) to update it for their contemporary audience and critique the original in Godot is a Woman (2022).
  3. Analyse in detail a production of a contemporary British play that you have seen recently. How adequately did it meet the demands of the script, and did it constitute an ‘interpretation’ of it?
  4. Write the first scene of a sequel to any of the plays studied this term, with an accompanying critical commentary of 1000 words.
  5. Devise a question of your own. To do so, please talk to your seminar tutor before the end of Term 3, Week 2.

Each essay will have the following elements:

  • A full bibliography, including publication details, showing evidence of secondary critical reading.
  • The essay will be anonymous but will have your student number on every page.