Clare Finburgh, 27 November 2014

London Theatre Seminar
Thursday, 27 November 2014, 6.30-8.30pm
Bloomsbury Room G35, Senate House (ground floor)

Clare Finburgh (University of Essex), ‘War on Screen on Stage in Recent British Theatre’

War appeared on screen shortly after the advent of commercial cinema. Theatre, though, was never far from film presentations of war. Famously, images of fighting in Cuba’s Havana Harbour during the Spanish-American War in 1898, were mock-up toy ships that were exploded in a fish tank. The theatricality of filmed images of war is no less significant today, as footage on social media sites of gas attacks or of mass graves are frequently questioned for their veracity. The aim of this paper is to analyse the triangular relationship, as represented in recent British theatre, between theatre, war, and screen imagery – whether in cinema, on television or, more recently, on the internet.

Examining a range of different contemporary UK plays and performances, I address issues such as the commodification of war imagery into a readily consumable product; the ethics of shielding or “screening” viewers both from the true horrors of war, and from the complex historical, political and social contexts from which wars originate; and the acts of spectatorship undertaken by those who watch war on film, television and the internet, and by those who watch them watching, namely theatre audiences.