The Resistible Rise of Isli-Crouch Upon-Thames: New Metropolitanism in New British Drama


Graham Saunders


This article argues that for the last thirty years playwriting culture in the UK has been subject to the gradual encroachment of London based cultural values. From the period of the so-called “In-Yer-Face” dramatists to a newer generation that includes Polly Stenham, Rachel De-lahay, and Oladipo Agboluaje, a transposition has occurred where national concerns are refracted through Londoncentric preoccupations. This poses the question as to whether such plays risk becoming contemporary variants of Kenneth Tynan’s “Loamshire play” of the interwar and immediate post–war years, which he criticized at the time for being out of touch with national social and political concerns. The article will also look at the work of what could be termed “commuter dramatists.” These include Leo Butler, David Eldridge, and Simon Stephens, some of whose work outlines tensions between the respective geographies of Sheffield, Essex, and Stockport where the dramatists originated from and the Capital in which they now live and work. Finally, in contrast with these dramatists, I will examine the more localized journeys that take place in Butler’s Faces in the Crowd (2008) and Eldridge’s Beginning (2017), which interlace through various London districts. These journeys are mainly instigated by the processes of gentrification, and the article also considers how by comparison, in the plays of Black contemporaries such as Kwame Kwei-Armah’s Elmina’s Kitchen (2003) and Bola Agbaje’s Off the Endz (2010), such journeys are either thwarted or not considered.

Comparative Drama is carried by JSTOR and Project MUSE.