Bola Agbaje’s Off the Endz. Authentic Voices, Representing the Council Estate: Politics, Authorship and the Ethics of Representation
Journal of Contemporary Drama in English
Walter de Gruyter
Amongst the many socio-political concerns central to contemporary British theatre, there appears an overriding concern – in terms of the production of new plays - with the notion of ‘authenticity’ in the voice of the authors of new writing. This issue is related to politics as it resonates with contemporary concerns about the ability of individual citizens to have their ‘voices’ (Couldry 2010) heard within contemporary structures of neo-liberalism. In the UK, pioneering new writing theatres, most notably the Royal Court, run writing programmes which target economically disadvantaged and minority ethnic communities, and ask members of these groups to use their own experiences as a basis for storytelling. The work produced from these programmes is often marketed by using the ‘authenticity’ of the writer. Authenticity, in this definition, is synonymous with notions of personal experience. Although a focus on authenticity addresses postcolonial concerns regarding the ethics of representation, it also problematically suggests that personal experience is the basis for ‘authentic’ artistic output. This paper examines the portrayal of council estates (British social housing estates) in contemporary play-writing, looking at the issues which might emerge from a commercial focus on the ‘authentic voice’. It asks how representations might work to intervene in the production of council estate spaces. Drawing on the Royal Court’s recent production Off the Endz (2010), the paper seeks to problematize the notion of the ‘authentic voice’ by considering the Royal Court as a public sphere, where the discourse of contemporary culture might be democratised (McCracken 2007).
Copyright © 2014 by Walter de Gruyter GmbH
This is an Author's Original Manuscript of an article submitted to the Journal of Contemporary Drama in English, August 2014, 2(1) pp97-112.
Vol. 2, Iss. 1, pp. 97 - 112.