Staging Black Feminisms: Identity, Politics, Performance by Lynette Goddard

By Lynette Goddard

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E. male) terms’ (65). According to Aston, the oppositional potential of bourgeois feminist plays is limited because ‘form and ideological content can be assimilated into dominant artistic and political values’ (65). Similarly, Mary Remnant’s suggestion that ‘[p]lays by women which reinforce or seem to reinforce male values are acceptable’ (Remnant, 1987, p. 9) could begin to explain why the black women’s plays that have reached the British stage only very subtly challenge dominant ideals. Black women performance practitioners are primarily dependent on white-male-led institutions for funding and space, which means Black British Women and Theatre: An Overview 33 that they may feel that they cannot be too explicitly challenging of neo-colonial, hetero-patriarchal value systems.

36 Black women’s theatre in Britain is fraught with the tensions of institutional racism and (hetero)sexism, and encumbered by a lack of resources and practical and academic exclusions. Given these conditions, it is understandable why some critics take a materialist approach to deem all black women’s work feminist for overcoming these difficulties. However, feminist theatre theory has expended a lot of energy in determining feminist qualities within actual plays and performances and black women’s theatre needs to be understood in relation to these debates, which are taken up in the next chapter.

23 The Theatre of Black Women, founded by Rose Bruford graduates Bernadine Evaristo, Patricia Hilaire and Paulette Randall in 1982, was the only professional black women’s theatre company to receive public subsidy and is a crucially important company in the history of the development of black women’s performance in Britain. They uniquely identified their feminist alliance and created shows and workshops aimed at young black women, but their existence was cut short after losing a large portion of their annual funding grant in 1988.

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