“Being Human”: Edward Bond’s Theories of Drama

  • David Allen Midland Actors Theatre, Birmingham
  • Agata Handley University of Łódź
Keywords: Edward Bond, Jung, Holocaust, child development

Abstract

The playwright Edward Bond has recalled the impact of seeing photographs of Nazi atrocities at the end of World War Two: “It was the ground zero of the human soul.” He argues we need a different kind of drama, based in “a new interpretation of what it means to be human.” He has developed an extensive body of theoretical writings to set alongside his plays. Arguably, his own reflections on “what it means to be human” are based in his reaction to the Holocaust, and his attempt to confront “the totality of evil.”
Bond argues we are born “radically innocent.” There is a “pre-psychological” state of being. The neonate does not “read” ideology; it has to use its own imagination to make sense of the world. To enter society, however, the child must be corrupted; its imagination is “ideologized.” Bond claims that “radical innocence” can never wholly be lost. Through drama, we can escape “ideology” and recover our “autonomy.” It leads us to confront extreme situations, and to define for ourselves “what it means to be human.” The terms of Bond’s theory are Manichean (innocent-corrupt, autonomous-ideologized etc.). His arguments are based in the assumption that there is a fundamental “humanity” that exists prior to socialization. In fact, the process of socialization begins at birth. As an account of child development, “radical innocence” does not stand up to close scrutiny. Arguably, however, Bond’s work escapes the confines of his own theory. It can be read, not in terms of the “ideologized” vs. the “autonomous” mind, but rather, in terms of “conscious” and “unconscious.” In Coffee (2000), Bond takes character of Nold on a journey into the Dantean hell of his own unconscious. He does not recover his “innocence,” but, rather, he has to face the darkness of both history and the psyche.

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Author Biographies

David Allen, Midland Actors Theatre, Birmingham

David Allen is currently Artistic Director of the Midland Actors Theatre (MAT). He is the author of Performing Chekhov (Routledge, 2000) and Stanislavski for Beginners (Writers and Readers, 1999). He has written several articles recently on Disney theme parks for the European Journal of American Culture. He has also written a number of articles on Edward Bond, including “The Children” in Edward Bond and the Dramatic Child (Trentham, 2005); “Between Brecht and Bond” in The Brecht Yearbook (2005); and “Going to the Centre: Edward Bond’s The Children” in Studies in Theatre and Performance (2007). He directed a production of The Children for MAT in 2004–05.

Agata Handley, University of Łódź

Agata Handley (PhD) is a researcher and a lecturer in the Faculty of Philology at the University of Łódź. She is the author of Constructing Identity: Continuity, Otherness and Revolt in the Poetry of Tony Harrison (Peter Lang, 2016) and is currently continuing her research on contemporary British literature. The main areas of her academic interest are: literature translation, culture of the English North, contemporary British and Canadian poetry.

References

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Published
2017-10-16
How to Cite
Allen, D., & Handley, A. (2017). “Being Human”: Edward Bond’s Theories of Drama. Text Matters: A Journal of Literature, Theory and Culture, (7), 307-329. https://doi.org/10.1515/texmat-2017-0017