A World Elsewhere

Documentary Representations of Social Shakespeare

in Critical Survey
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  • 1 Department of Drama, Theatre and Performance, University of Roehampton
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Documentaries about the use of Shakespeare in applied theatre publicise and endorse the work of practitioners to scholars as well as the general public, and have influenced the growth of academic interest in what this article terms Social Shakespeare: practices in which Shakespeare and social work interact with each other to bring about change. However, in the quest for touching and uplifting individual stories, such media treatments risk ignoring the actual values and strategies governing the work in favour of narratives that normalise social differences through emphasis on the transformative power of Shakespearean theatre, viewed as a sanctified space. Documentaries about three different constituencies – prisoners, young people with learning disabilities, and combat veterans – are examined to determine how far they locate the need for change in society rather than in the individual.

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