Splintered Faith and Scar Tissue

  • David Ian Rabey


Victory: Choices in Reaction (staged 1983), as its double-barrelled title promises, offers new risks and openness for characters and audiences alike. Works as early as Cheek contain preoccupations with locating or creating identity; Noel in Claw cannot sense a personal essence, he wants comfort on society’s own terms, but sexuality disrupts his ambitions. Bela in No End of Blame is Barker’s most rationalist protagonist with a heroically iron sense of self in the face of ‘idolatry’; but the note of sexuality is diminished in his characterisation and his risks involve uncovering things in other people rather than in himself. Victory continues the existential theme of individuals who are particularly engaged in creating modi vivendi for themselves, finding niches within a social structure which is hostile or alien; rather than accommodating themselves, like Jardine in The Hang of the Gaol or Diver in No End of Blame, with all the circumspection and self-contempt involved, characters are driven to invent themselves by pushing to the edge of experience and taking risks. Victory: Choices in Reaction dramatises images of life alternative to the familiar, and develops the tragic strain in Barker’s writing. Play, characters and audience reactions are in a state of constant flux, and it is particularly crucial for the quality of the actors’ performances to involve the audience in characters’ experiences in order for new possibilities of life to be sensed, through a transitional stage of incomprehension and the demolition of conventional points of reference and sympathy.


Scar Tissue Christmas Tree Audience Reaction Wilful Blindness Existential Theme 
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    Friedrich Nietzsche, from Human, All Too Human; selected and translated by R. J. Hollingdale, A Nietzsche Reader (London: Penguin, 1977) pp. 43–4.Google Scholar
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    Angela Carter, The Sadeian Woman (London: Virago, 1979) pp. 144–6.Google Scholar
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    Howard Barker, ‘Oppression, Resistance and the Writer’s Testament’, interview with Finlay Donesky, in New Theatre Quarterly II no. 8 (November 1986) p. 338.Google Scholar

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© David Ian Rabey 1989

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  • David Ian Rabey

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