Introduction: Intangible Commodities

  • Duncan Wu


This book grew out of my frustration at the absence of any publication designed to explain to my students the concerns that have preoccupied contemporary British dramatists of the 1980s and early 1990s. In a popular field like television and stage drama, such a gap seems all the more surprising. Millions of viewers watched the broadcast plays discussed in following chapters, but little attempt has been made to elucidate them. Similarly, David Hare’s The Secret Rapture entertained many people when it opened at the National Theatre in London, but its aims are far from transparent, and interpretation seemed to lie beyond the range of most reviewers. Audiences may appreciate some guide to such works, and an indication of their place in each author’s development. As with other literary forms, meanings lie beneath the surface of the text, and sometimes we — as theatregoers, actors, directors, or simply as students of the play — may find it helpful to have these outlined. This volume aims to offer such a guide, and in doing so concentrates on works available to the reader in print.


Moral Judgement Labour Party National Theatre Transcendent Idealism Stage Drama 
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Notes and References

  1. 1.
    These remarkable lines were first published by Jonathan Wordsworth, The Music of Humanity (London: Nelson, 1969), pp. 269–72Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Jonathan Wordsworth provides a useful introduction to the millenarian beliefs of the romantics in his Epilogue to William Wordsworth: The Borders of Vision (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1982).Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Tariq Ali and Howard Brenton, Moscow Gold (London: Nick Hern Books, 1990), p. 92.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Potter, interviewed by Alan Yentob, Arena, BBC2. See also his elucidation of this remark, Potter on Potter, ed. Graham Fuller (London: Faber, 1993), p. 86.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Howard Brenton, Diving for Pearls (London: Nick Hern Books, 1989), p. 223.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Alan Bennett, Forty Years On and Other Plays (London: Faber, 1991), pp. 10–11.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Forty Years On and Other Plays, p. 177.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Forty Years On and Other Plays, p. 154.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Forty Years On and Other Plays, p. 154.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Alan Bennett, Single Spies (London: Faber, 1989), p. ix.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    The success of Pravda was a surprise to its authors; see David Hare, ‘Sailing Downwind: On Pravda’, Writing Left-Handed (London: Faber, 1991), pp. 132–5.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Alan Bennett, Objects of Affection and Other Plays for Television (London: British Broadcasting Corporation, 1982), p. 7.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Potter, interviewed by Alan Yentob, Arena, BBC2.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Potter, interviewed by Alan Yentob, Arena, BBC2.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Simon Gray, The Holy Terror and Tartuffe (London: Faber, 1990), p. 40.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Simon Gray, An Unnatural Pursuit and Other Pieces (London: Faber, 1985), p. 22.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    The Holy Terror and Tartuffe, p. 88.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Simon Gray, Hidden Laughter (London: Faber, 1990), p. 81.Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Brenton, interviewed on BBC Radio, 22.8.80.Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Howard Brenton, Plays: One (London: Methuen, 1986), pp. 65–6.Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Howard Brenton, The Romans in Britain (rev. edn, London: Methuen, 1980), p. 86.Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    The Romans in Britain, p. 60.Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    The Romans in Britain, p. 75.Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Howard Brenton, Bloody Poetry (rev. edn, London: Methuen/Royal Court Writers Series, 1988), pp. 49–50.Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    The Romans in Britain, p. 75.Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    David Hare, Writing Left-Handed (London: Faber, 1991), p. 159.Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Howard Brenton, Berlin Bertie (London: Nick Hern Books, 1992), p. ix.Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Brenton and Tom Stoppard, interviewed by John Russell Taylor, BBC Radio, 23 November 1970.Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    David Hare, Paris By Night (London: Faber, 1988), p. 71.Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    Paris By Night, p. 75.Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    Writing Left-Handed, p. 26.Google Scholar
  32. 32.
    I have noted Hare’s Wordsworthian tendencies in ‘In the air’. New Statesman and Society (21 June 1991), p. 45.Google Scholar
  33. 33.
    Ayckbourn, interviewed by Duncan Wu, p. 150.Google Scholar
  34. 34.
    Ayckbourn, interviewed by Duncan Wu, p. 150.Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    The Second Coming, 5-8.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Duncan Wu 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Duncan Wu
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of English LiteratureUniversity of GlasgowUK

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