Wednesday, 7 February 2018

A Note on ‘Kitchen Sink Drama’

The British drama of post 1940 is often labeled as Neo-Realist drama, Drama of Non-Communication, Kitchen Sink drama, Dark Comedy etc…Though the dramatists of the time didn’t agree to belong to any of these movements, there are certain features common to all these plays and playwrights and their use of theatrical devices are strikingly different from that of pre world war II stage setting.

  One of the striking features of these playwrights was their willingness to experiment and innovate with themes and presentation of drama. These young playwrights had an early beginning in theatre and many of them had their first theatrical production in their twenties. They were familiar to the stage and the techniques of the theatre. This enabled them to stage often unexpected and highly dramatic productions. Harold Pinter, Arnold Wesker, John Osborne, John Arden, Edward Bond, Charles Wood, Joe Orton were some of the prominent members of the group.

            The introduction of highly sensational scenes put these dramatists apart. By producing fantastic and outrageous content, they surprise and shock the audience. The most unexpected things were performed on the stage. The arrival of Uncle Tom in N F Simpsons Resounding Tinkle is an example of the surprising effect of these performances. In the play, a character informs the audience of the appearance of Uncle Tom. As the audience expects the character, a tall, dark attractive woman appears on the stage and the viewers are forced to give up their preconceived notions of reality. In Arnold Wesker’s Four Seasons, a woman bares her breasts in order to be embraced. The scene from Edward Bond’s Saved also testifies this love of the sensational. In the play, a baby is stoned to death in its perambulator on the open stage.

              They dared to dramatize the problems of their time on the stage. Their plays dealt with contemporary issues such as homosexuality, prostitution, abortion, violent or casual deaths, disfigurement etc…The concern for the underdogs can be seen in the works of John Arden and Arnold Wesker. They presented issues related to housing projects, ways of bureaucracy, slum clearance, problems of local government etc….

                They were rooted in theatre and many of them were actors. This enabled them to explore the possibilities of the stage and they introduced new dramatic technique such as song, dance, pantomime and television commercials. It is also to be noted that these dramatists were nor united by any particular ideology so that they approach issues from various angles. The theatergoers were encouraged to form their own conclusions.

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