London Theatre Seminar PG Panel 5 October: Leah Sidi (Birkbeck) and Nina-Marie Gardner (RHUL)

Our next London Theatre Seminar will take place on 5 October 2017 in the University of London Senate House (Room TBC). This is a postgraduate panel featuring Leah Sidi (Birkbeck) and Nina Marie Gardner (RHUL). It starts at 6:30 PM and will close at 8:30 PM, to reconvene at a local pub. Wine and refreshments served.

Please also see below for the LTS schedule for 2017-18.

We hope to see you there!


Leah Sidi (Birkbeck): Sarah Kane, Psychiatry and Dramaturgies of Dislocation

The recent opera version of Sarah Kane’s 4.48 Psychosis at the Lyric Hammersmith clearly contextualised Kane’s final piece as a ‘medical-humanities’ work. The set evoked the blank walls of a psychiatric ward and the opera’s dramaturgy led its audience along the lines of the play’s doctor-patient conflict. This interpretation is in line with several productions of the work, which wholly or in part understand the play as a critique of the UK mental health system’s failure to recognise the subjectivity of the psychiatric subject. This concern with psychiatric subjectivity, which is so prevalent in discussions of Kane’s final work, is in fact traceable throughout her oeuvre, from the unpublished monologues onwards. Kane reimagines the psychiatric subject as dislocated from the medical in the works preceding 4.48 Psychosis – a dislocation which is historically situated in the crisis of representation provoked in the 1990s by the Community Care Act. Examining Kane’s works in relation to political and public discourses surrounding mental health and psychiatric care in the 1990s, her plays emerge as a flashpoint for the tensions surrounding the construction and experiences of psychiatric subjects, in a profoundly transitional moment in the history of UK psychiatric care. Kane’s penultimate play Crave embeds this dislocation into its form. By contextualising the dramaturgy of this play in relation to specific legislative and discursive changes in the decade it was written, this presentation aims to examine the extent to which the play can be understood as a form of embodied critique of conceptions of the psychiatric. It also asks how far these my remain pertinent in 21st century, austerity-era productions.

Leah is a PhD student at Birkbeck. Her thesis explores Sarah Kane’s dramaturgy in relation to developments in psychiatry and psychoanalytic theory from the 1980s to the present. Before beginning the PhD Leah worked supporting student activists, especially in the areas of mental health and disability rights. Her first publication, ‘A Director in Search of a Narrative: Reality-Testing in Katie Mitchell’s Cleansed’ is available in the most recent issue of Performance Research journal.

Nina-Marie Gardner (RHUL): ‘Collaborating with Ghosts to Inhabit the Body: Adapting Women’s Literary Modernism to the Stage’

The novels and short stories of the modernist women writers were considered radical in their time, not just for the ways they experiment with language and narrative style, but also for their content. My research explores the challenges of adapting these novels to the stage. The manner in which many of these narratives perform – specifically, modernist women’s autobiographical novels – effects a strong ‘woman’s presence’, one that fosters a point of interaction, reflection and identification between author/narrator and reader/audience. What is performed in the text is a search for a distinctly female identity; a search that as translated to the stage might offer in the performing body a dialectical image of history that also speaks to how women ‘perform’ in the present. As such, adapting these texts for the stage becomes a process of foregrounding and activating what is already in place. I consider my own stage adaptation of American modernist Margery Latimer’s This Is My Body (1930); conceived through an approach that sees adaptation as a conversation and collaboration, the play also responds to the ideological conflict between modernism and theatre. Strategies considered include how the relationship between history and fiction is addressed, which in turn sets up a dialogue between the past and the present; the splitting of the subject, which in turn allows for the performance of the search for and construction of identity; and finally, approaching the play as a performance of women’s history, which highlights the elision of that history and in turn justifies revisionist nature of the work itself.

Nina-Marie Gardner recently completed a PhD in the Department of Drama, Theatre and Dance at Royal Holloway, University of London, where she is also a Visiting Lecturer. A novelist and playwright, her short stories, essays and reviews have been published in 3AM Magazine, The Fix, The Frisky, Flavorpill and the anthologies Bedford Square and 3AM London, New York, Paris. Her novel Sherry & Narcotics was published in 2012 by Future Fiction London, and the stage adaptation was selected as part of the Arcola Theatre’s PlayWROUGHT Festival in 2014, directed by Yael Shavit and starring Lucy Ellinson and Michael Colgan. She is a recipient of the Royal Holloway International Excellence Award and a Crossland Research Award.