Contemporary British-Jewish Theatre
Joint Research Project

The German-Israeli research project ‘Hyphenated Cultures: Contemporary British-Jewish Theatre’ has analysed the ways in which British-Jewish dramatists and directors have influenced and co-created contemporary British theatre and, through this, seeks to initiate an important intercultural dialogue. The three-year project was led by literary- and cultural-studies scholar Prof. Dr. Eckart Voigts (TU Braunschweig) and theatre scholar Dr. Jeanette Malkin (Hebrew University).

The post-WWII landscape of British theatre productions has been shaped to a large extent by dramatists and directors of Jewish cultural heritage (e.g. Harold Pinter, Peter Brook, Tom Stoppard, Mike Leigh, Sam Mendes, Jonathan Miller, Stephen Poliakoff, Steven Berkoff, Ronald Harwood, Nicholas Hytner, Patrick Marber, Julia Pascal). Some of these artists are children of immigrants, who through their work “imported qualities into [the society] which do not and cannot stem from the group itself” (Georg Simmel). A study of how Jewish ethnic and cultural qualities have been inscribed into mainstream contemporary British theatre and drama has not yet been undertaken, perhaps because British-Jewish theatre operates in an area of highly charged socio-political tensions. This project aims to identify and assess these tensions and investigate the role ethnic stereotypes still play across British stages and society – examining dramatist Julia Pascal’s thesis that “constant low-level anti-Semitism […] filter[s] through British society” (2009).

The project has addressed aesthetic and ideological concerns, but will also look at cultural transformations with regard to institutional contexts and frameworks of cultural policies. It provides the first sustained, comprehensive overview of British-Jewish theatre culture and thereby close the gap in current British-Jewish literary and cultural research. The Companion of British-Jewish Theatre since the 1950s is under contract with publisher Bloomsbury.

Objects of Research
    • Analysis of specific Jewish aspects and aesthetics in contemporary British drama and theatre productions
    • Study of the diaspora’s influence on the development of theatrical practices in Britain after WWII
    • Investigation of British-Jewish theatre’s placement within institutional contexts and cultural policies
Aims and Results
    • Publication of a Companion to British-Jewish theatre since the 1950s that will offer a detailed overview of the topic and show the impact of British-Jewish theatre practitioners on contemporary British theatre
    • Hosting an international conference on contemporary British-Jewish theatre and publication of conference proceedings, which took place at TU Braunschweig, 1-2 October 2018
    • Development of an online-database of contemporary British-Jewish theatre which will be made available to the public on the project’s webpage

The project was led by Prof. Eckart Voigts (Literary- and Cultural Studies, TU Braunschweig) and Dr. Jeanette Malkin (Theatre Studies, Hebrew University), who work together with researchers Sarah J. Ablett, Ido Telem, and student assistant Antonie Huff. The project was funded from 2016-2019. Funding for the project was provided by the “Niedersächsisches Vorab” program of the Volkswagenstiftung.

Bildschirmfoto 2016-07-26 um 18.03.03
Sarah J. Ablett, Jeanette Malkin, Ido Telem, Eckart Voigts, Antonie Huff

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