Prose Fiction Stage Adaptation as Social Allegory in Contemporary British Drama. Staging Fictions

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This study will argue that a distinction needs to be made between faithful but derivative stage versions of novels in the tradition of Zola's Thérèse Raquin, which aspire only to the status of theatricalised novel, and the autonomous stage transformation of a literary text, creating its own performance dynamic through the reconstruction of literary form and content. For the sake of greater critical clarity the former type will be designated dramatizations and the latter adaptations, despite the lack of consistent differentiation in common theatre discourse.


“In the spectrum of possibilities that separates two impossible extremes, originality and cloning, the person who adapts a novel for the stage occupies a special position. Every writer, indeed each artist, owes a debt to the ideas and themes that come from other people, but these sources are often hidden or private. For example, it has taken a full television research team to find a possible location for P.G. Wodehouse’s imaginary Blandings Castle. But the stage adaptor identifies the source in advance and in doing so, sets up a kind of discourse between the play and the novel upon which it is based. In his knowledgeable and illuminating new book, Michael Ingham analyses the nature of that discourse, choosing examples mainly from the British stage but also from a long European tradition of adaptations that includes such innovative writers as Zola and Brecht. He usefully distinguishes between “adaptation” and “dramatization”. In the first, the dramatist transforms the original work to make it suitable for the stage and the climate of opinion in which the play is presented, whereas in “dramatization”, the aim is to reproduce as faithfully as possible the novel in a theatrical form. …. Ingham’s book is likely to become an indispensable guide to an important section of modern British playwriting, especially since it is agreeably free from the jargon often associated with a semiotic approach to intertextuality. It is readable, informed and thought provoking.”- (From the Commendatory Preface) Dr John Elsom, Honorary President of the International Association of Theatre Critics

“Dr Ingham's new book provides a much-needed study of a critically somewhat neglected field of contemporary theatre practice – that of stage adaptations of works of fiction. His investigation is detailed as well as illuminating. Dr Ingham has been researching this area for years, and is well placed to offer a comprehensive guide to the fiction adaptation genre as represented on the contemporary British stage. He has kept the language of the book accessible so as to make it of interest not only to theatre practitioners, academics and students, but to alert theatre-goers as well. In view of these merits I am happy to recommend the book.” – George W. Brandt, Professor Emeritus of Film and Drama. University of Bristol

“Moving great works of literature from the page to the stage has become more and more popular in Britain in recent years, although the practice is still viewed with suspicion by many. Dr Ingham's thorough and detailed work is a most timely examination of the phenomenon, which I have no doubt will be warmly welcomed by students of theatre and theatregoers alike.” – Ian Herbert, Editor Theatre Record. Chairman, International Association of Theatre Critics.

Table of Contents

Prefatory Poem “Adaptation”
1 Introduction
2 The Dramatisation and the Adaptation: Zola’s and Brecht’s Methodological Paradigms - Naturalism and Epic
3 Berkoff’s Adaptations of Kafka: The Theatre of the Impossible
4 Epic and Ensemble - the Uses of History
5 Melodrama, Metadrama and Metatheatre
6 Critiquing the Novel - a Feminist Perspective
7 Creating Correspondences
8 Adaptation as Popular Theatre – Musical Transformations
9 Conclusions
Bibliography: Drama, Novels, Non-Fiction Texts

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