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From Sore Throats to Greenland : Howard Brenton's Utopian Plays

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British playwright Howard Brenton once wrote, “There is an infinite variety of ways of making theatre, but only one theme which, inevitably, Aeschylus was onto—it's simply ‘how can we live justly?'” Brenton's entire oeuvre reflects his struggle to answer this basic question but he has specifically characterized three of his plays as Utopian. These are Sore Throats, Bloody Poetry, and Greenland. The plays comprise a journey which begins, in the playwright's words, “far from human dignity and peace” and ends 700 years from now with a vision of Brenton's hopes for the future: “how I hope my children, or my children's children's children, will live and think.” The works explore the nature of love, individual relationships, and sexual roles as these relate to issues of power and manipulation. The corrupting power of money, and English complacency and acquiescence, are additional major themes. Finally, they all confront the question of human responsibility and its relationship to the individual and to society. Ultimately, they offer us an unmerciful look at the worst of human nature and a liberating vision of the good we are capable of achieving.
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Keywords: Bloody Poetry; Greenland; Howard Brenton; Situationist Political Theory; Sore Throats; Utopia; Utopian Plays

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 December 2005

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