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Gheorghe Williams

Drama and Theatre Studies, University of Birmingham

Thesis title:

The Political Gothic and Twenty-First Century British Theatre

The primary focus of my research is the modern theatrical Gothic. My doctoral thesis examines the increasing prevalence of Gothicist strategies in British political drama staged or written since the turn of the millennium, including work by playwrights like Mike Bartlett, Caryl Churchill, debbie tucker green, Stef Smith and Jasmine Lee-Jones, as well as theatre companies such as Imitating the Dog, Proper Job, Tilted Wig and DARKFIELD. The project builds upon the important work of scholars like Kelly Jones, Madelon Hoedt and Emma McEvoy, who have led efforts to acknowledge contemporary Gothic performance as a vibrant and vital field that has been routinely overlooked since the emergence of Gothic studies as a major academic discipline in the late 1970s. 

In line with their essential undertaking, a key aim of my thesis is to re-assess the boundaries of what we understand ‘Gothic theatre’ to be. While Gothic (in) performance is commonly regarded as that which subjects its audiences to macabre aesthetics and unsettling affects, I argue that while the sensational and the shocking undoubtedly remain integral to the Gothic mode, the presence of these qualities alone is not sufficient to define or account for the broader influence of Gothicism in contemporary British theatre. Mike Bartlett’s Albion (2017), for example, can hardly be said to inspire affective terror in the same way as Stephen Mallatratt’s The Woman in Black (1989) or Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman’s Ghost Stories (2010), and yet its political consciousness clearly draws from the Gothic tradition in its use of supernatural returns, troubled familial bonds, excessive displays of obsessive passion and imageries of political, national and ecological decay. At the same time, as the often-cited controversy surrounding Anthony Neilson’s Relocated (2008) demonstrates, overtly ‘Gothicised’ productions risk dismissal from consideration as politically conscious works precisely due to their association with the Gothic, which has, on the stage as well as in literature and cinema, frequently been disparaged as merely a sensationalist and melodramatic mode of entertainment. Considering dramaturgical trends in recent political drama together with both implicit and explicit forms of Gothic theatricality, I identify Gothic performance as an acutely political form that strikes the deep vein of anxieties that disturb our cultural and political lives in the twenty-first century.

Research Area

  • Drama and Theatre Studies

Publications

Book Chapters

  • Williams, G. 'Theatricality, Undeath and the Ecogothic in DC Moore's Common (2017)'. in The Anthropocene and the Undead, ed. Simon Bacon (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, forthcoming 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, issue 7 (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, Administrator and Co-Treasurer, 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