Class concerns: Figuring the abject subject in contemporary British theatre

Lecture Theatre G11, Ground Floor, Barber Institute of Fine Arts (R14), Zoom event
Thursday 9 December 2021 (17:00-19:00)

DTA research talk series Autumn 2021

Speaker: Professor Liz Tomlin (University of Glasgow)

Please join us for the last research talk of the Autumn semester followed by a discussion chaired by Caroline Radcliffe.
Open to Postgraduates and final year undergraduates as well as academic staff

A zoom link will be added shortly.


In this paper I will draw from my initial research into figurations and representations of the working-class subject in contemporary UK theatre practice and policy to focus on the dominant recurrence and focus in recent theatre and scholarship on the abject or precarious subject: the poor and indebted, refugees, travellers, the homeless, the unemployed, criminals, the ‘at risk’, the ghettoised. 

Through placing different dramaturgical models into dialogue, from autobiography to dramatic fiction, this paper will identify worrying new paths in the trajectory of what I call the ideological imaginary of moral and cultural deficit which continues to underpin class discrimination and the stigmatisation of the working-class subject as has been chronicled by sociologists Beverley Skeggs and Imogen Tyler in particular. 

The paper will draw political distinctions between working-class access to, and representation within, the theatre industry; and identify where intentions to subvert stigmatising figurations of mainstream poverty porn can inadvertently shore up existing and pejorative tropes of abjection. Through a combination of close reading of key performances and broader analysis of disciplinary trends, I seek to expose the ideological imaginary of cultural deficit as something that is not confined to right-wing media commentators, but as a pervasive myth which challenges all of us – including those who may themselves identify as working-class - to remain vigilant to our own unconscious bias.