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7 - A Royal Court Celebration

Elaine Aston
Affiliation:
Lancaster University
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Summary

The principal question you can ask of any artist is: what difference would it have made if they'd never existed? Would the culture be poorer? In Caryl's case, the answer is self-evident. (David Hare)

In 2008 Caryl Churchill celebrated her seventieth birthday at the Royal Court Theatre, the venue she has been most closely associated with since her professional theatre debut in 1972 when Owners was staged in the Court's Upstairs studio space. To celebrate, ten Court writers - including Nicholas Wright who first directed Oiimers - were each invited to direct a reading of their favourite Churchill play (see Biographical Outline for full details). The involvement of the writers in this series of events is testimony to the exceptional regard in which Churchill is held by her contemporaries and to the influence of her theatre on different generations of playwrights.

On the advent of the readings, playwright Mark Ravenhill, who had chosen to direct Light Shining in Buckinghamshire, summed up the views of many writers, directors and practitioners when he wrote:

Of all the major forces in British playwriting, I can think of no one else who is regarded with such affection and respect by her peers… it's her ability to continually reinvent the form that most writers would identify as her genius. In Churchill's plays, there is a constant search for new kinds of language and theatrical structures: devices that can reveal the essence of a moment.

As Far Away evidences, Churchill's ‘language and theatrical structures’ have become increasingly elliptical as she continues to ‘form’ political landscapes against the relentless and destructive tide of capitalism, terror, violence, damaged ecologies and identities. Dispensing with detailed explanation or contextualization, her recent theatre rapidly discharges the symptoms of a Western world plagued by its failure to be touched by those others, all others, it would sooner impoverish, terrorize, violate, or damage rather than care for.

In their condensed, elliptical, epic styles, each of the three very different plays examined in detail in this chapter share some political stake in reviewing damaging relations to others whether this is the father/child relation in A Number, the brokering of power in Drunk Enough to Say I Love You?

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Caryl Churchill
, pp. 121 - 140
Publisher: Liverpool University Press
Print publication year: 2010

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