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Gheorghe Williams

Drama and Theatre Studies, University of Birmingham

Thesis title:

The Political Gothic and Twenty-First Century British Theatre

My research primarily explores Gothic modes of performance, with a concentration in late-twentieth and twenty-first century theatre. My doctoral thesis examines how Gothic drama has functioned as political theatre since the turn of the millennium. The project considers various works by emerging writers and theatre companies alongside known political playwrights. These include Caryl Churchill, Mike Bartlett, debbie tucker green, Stef Smith, Jasmine Lee-Jones, Martin McDonagh, Conor McPherson, DC Moore, Philip Meeks, Mel Pennant and Jack Thorne, as well as theatre companies such as Imitating the Dog and Proper Job Theatre Co.

My thesis builds on the relatively few works focusing on Gothic theatre that have been published since Gothic studies emerged as a major field of study in the late twentieth century. But in recent years, critical attention to the Gothic stage has finally begun to accelerate, as scholars like Kelly Jones, Emma McEvoy and Madelon Hoedt have sought to illustrate its continued, vital relevance to contemporary society and culture in Britain and beyond.

In contribution to this broader undertaking, my project identifies political dramaturgy as a critical lens that can shed greater light on the inner mechanics and outer functions of Gothic drama in the twenty-first century, expanding present understandings of what constitutes a ‘Gothic’ experience in the theatre. I use Sarah Grochala’s framework for reading the ‘liquid dramaturgies’ (2017) of contemporary political playwriting, arguing that Gothic dramaturgies are more closely aligned with the ideologies, forms, aesthetics and affects of political theatre than is currently recognised. At the same time, where Gothic dramaturgies seem to fundamentally oppose the ‘hopeful’ imperatives of politically-engaged theatre (Angelaki, 2017), I argue that they do so not as surrender to the status quo, but to express a productive caution against a reactionary tendency to weaponise optimism–to insist that, having been identified, the social ills in question are now ‘in hand’ and require no further scrutiny. The project therefore explores how a selection of recent plays adopt Gothic dramaturgical strategies, emphasising ambivalence, disjunction and extremity, in order to make urgent that which is dismissed or depoliticised. 

Research Area

  • Drama and Theatre Studies

Publications

Book Chapters

  • Williams, G. 'Undeath, Theatricality, and the Ecogothic in DC Moore's Common (2017)'. in The Anthropocene and the Undead: Cultural Anxieties in the Contemporary Popular Imagination, ed. Simon Bacon (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2022).

Book Reviews

  • Williams, G. 'Review: Gothic Utterance: Voice, Speech and Death in the American Gothic by Jimmy Packham (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2021)'. Revenant, 'Contemporary Legends' Special Issue (forthcoming 2022).
  • Williams, G. 'Review: EcoGothic Gardens in the Long Nineteenth Century: Phantoms, Fantasy and Uncanny Flowers, ed. Sue Edney (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2020)'. Gothic Nature Journal, issue 3 (forthcoming 2022).

Stage Reviews

Conferences

Presentations
  • '"It's not the animals drawing blood": Staging the Ecogothic in Stef Smith's Human Animals', Drama and Theatre Arts Virtual PGR Symposium, University of Birmingham (3 June 2020).
  • 'Dorian Gray's Anatomy: Augmented Masculinities and Mental Health in Proper Job Theatre Company's Adaptation of Dorian Gray'Reimagining the Gothic 2020: Bodies and Genders, Sheffield University (accepted May 2020; postponed due to COVID-19).
  • 'Gothic Dramaturgy: Mary Shelley as Spectral Dramatist in Rona Munro's Adaptation of Frankenstein'Progressive Connexions: Spirituality and the Supernatural, February 2021 (Online).
  • 'Performing the Unspeakable: Gothic Theatricalities as a Language for Communicating the Aftermath of Sexual Trauma', Gothic Spectacle and Spectatorship, Lancaster University (1 June 2019).
Chairing
  • Panel Chair, 'The Gothic, Truth and Control', Gothflix, Lancaster University, 1-2 February 2020
  • Panel Chair, 'Music and Society', Midlands4Cities Digital Research Festival, 13-14 July 2020
  • Panel Chair, 'New Approaches to Jazz Studies', Midlands4Cities Digital Research Festival, 13-14 July 2020
  • Panel Chair, 'Historical Theatre and Performance Cultures', Midlands Network of Popular Culture: Midlands Academic Lecture series, 2 December 2020
  • Panel Chair, 'Otherness, Healing and Community', Progressive Connexions: Spirituality and the Supernatural, 20-21 February 2020

Public Engagement & Impact

Research featured in the Westmere Images of Research 2019 Exhibition: 'Gothic Theatre Audiences', and a spectral photograph taken from the stalls in a 2019 production of William Peter Blatty's The Exorcist.

Other Research Interests

As well as Gothic Theatre, I enjoy studying literary and cinematic Gothic/Horror, particularly in relation to the Posthuman. More widely, I am interested in Practice-as-Research pedagogies, theatre-making in education, and the applications of theatre/live performance to social and cultural progress for the LGBTQIA+ communities.

Memberships

  • International Gothic Association (IGA)
  • The Society for Theatre Research (STR)

Other Activities

  • Co-Founder and Administrator/Co-Treasurer (2020-2021), Midlands Network of Popular Culture
  • Birmingham University SAF Representative (2020-2021), Midlands4Cities Student Advisory Forum
  • Co-Organiser of Creative Showcase, Midlands4Cities 2020 Digital Research Festival
  • Drama Editor (2018-2019), The Bubble Durham