Thatcherism, and the Spectacle of Politics: Hanif Kureishi’s Theatre

  • Lucia Esposito University of Teramo
Keywords: political theatre, hegemony, performance, Thatcher, Kureishi


This article focuses on the impact of Thatcherism, especially of Margaret Thatcher’s ideological construction of politics in images, on the British cultural and artistic context of the end of the ‘70s and beginning of the ‘80s. Specifically, the article aims at showing the way in which thatcherite policies and ideas, which were for the most part hated by the intellectual circles, were opposed through forms of open political dissent such as fringe theatre. The ‘fringe’ had the purpose not only to represent politics, but also to turn the recurrent – and thatcherite – trope of ‘politics-as-performance’ into ‘performance-as-politics’, and thus to become a means of social transformation. As an example, this study analyses Hanif Kureishi’s 1983 drama Birds of Passage. In the work controversial issues such as Thatcher’s repressive policies about immigrants, the welfare state, and social protests are the focal points of a discussion which stems from an understanding of popular culture, and of theatre, as a contested terrain. Within the theoretical framework of Cultural Studies – whose methodological approach is mainly adopted in this study – theatre is in fact conceived by Kureishi as a place of negotiation and defiance of hegemonic paradigms and meanings.


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biography

Lucia Esposito, University of Teramo
Lecturer in English Literature, Faculty of Communication Sciences


Antonello, Pierpaolo, “I due corpi del Divo – Le maschere del politico: Andreotti, Thatcher, Elisabetta II”, Bianco e nero, LXXIV.576-577 (2013): 160-167.

Ashcroft, Bill - Griffiths, Gareth - Tiffin, Helen, The Empire Writes Back. Theory and Practice in Post-Colonial Literatures, London and New York, Routledge, 1985.

Auslander, Philip, Presence and Resistance: Postmodernism and Cultural Politics in Contemporary American Performance, Ann Arbour, University of Michigan Press, 1994.

Buchanan, Bradley, Hanif Kureishi, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan, 2007.

Cattani, Francesco, “La letteratura black British”, Silvia Albertazzi, La letteratura postcoloniale. Dall’Impero alla World Literature, Roma, Carocci, 2013: 169-175.

Carlson, Marvin, Performance. A Critical Introduction, London and New York, Routledge, 1996.

Chambers, Iain, “Prefazione all’edizione italiana”, James Procter, Stuart Hall e gli studi culturali, Milano, Raffaello Cortina Editore, 2007: VII-XVIII.

Child, Ben, “Meryl Streep praises Margaret Thatcher as ‘figure of awe’”, The Guardian, 09.04.2013, 2013/apr/09/meryl-streep-margaret-thatcher-figure-awe, online (ultimo accesso 30/04/2015).

Ciocca, Rossella, “Prove d’identità. Riti di passaggio in The Black Album di H. Kureishi”, Rites of Passage: Rational/Irrational, Natural/Supernatural, Local/Global, Eds. Carmela Nocera - Gemma Persico - Rosario Portale, Soveria Mannelli, Rubbettino, 2003: 277-284.

Dahl, Mary K., “Postcolonial British Theatre. Black Voices at the Center”, Imperialism and Theatre. Essays in World Theatre, Drama and Performance, Ed. J. E. Gainor, Florence, KY, Routledge, 1995: 37-53.

Elia, Adriano, Hanif Kureishi, Firenze, Le Lettere, 2012.

Erickson, Jon, “Defining Political Performance with Foucault and Habermas: Strategic and Communicative Action”, Theatricality, Eds. Travis C. Davis - Thomas Postlewait, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2003: 156-185.

Evans, Eric. J., Thatcher and Thatcherism, London and New York, Routledge, 1997.

Gairola, Rahul K., “A Critique of Thatcherism and the Queering of Home in Sammy and Rosie Get Laid”, South Asian Review, 32.3 (2011): 123-137.

Guerra, Sergio, “Borderline di Hanif Kureishi e il suo rapporto con la Black British Culture”, Linguae, 1 (2008): 61-73.

Hall, Stuart, “New ethnicities” (1988), Stuart Hall: Critical Dialogues in Cultural Studies, Eds. David Morley - Kuan-Hsing Chen, London, Routledge, 1996: 441-449.

Id., “Old and New Identities, Old and New Ethnicities”, Culture, Globalization and the World-System: Contemporary Conditions for the Representation of Identity, Ed. Anthony D. King, London and Basingstoke, Macmillan, 1991: 48-49.

Id., “Gramsci and Us”, The Hard Road to Renewal: Thatcherism and the Crisis of the Left, London, Verso, 1988a: 161-173.

Id., “The Toad in the Garden: Thatcherism among the Theorists”, Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture, Eds. Cary Nelson - Lawrence Grossberg, Urbana and Chicago, University of Illinois Press, 1988b: 35-73.

Id., “The Great Moving Right Show”, Marxism Today, January (1979): 14-20.

Hall, Stuart et al. (eds.), Policing the Crisis, London, Macmillan Press, 1978.

Hall, Stuart - Jacques Martin (eds.), The Politics of Thatcherism, London, Lawrence and Wishart, 1983.

Hoggart, Richard, The Uses of Literacy. Aspects of Working-Class Life, Harmonsdworth, Chatto and Windus, 1957.

Kaleta, Kenneth C., Hanif Kureishi. Postcolonial Storyteller, Austin, TX, University of Texas Press, 1998.

Kershaw, Baz, Politics of Performance. Radical Theatre as Cultural Intervention, London, Routledge, 1992.

Kureishi, Hanif, et al., “Margaret Thatcher: Acceptable in the 80s?”, The Guardian, 11.04.2009, 11/thatcher-and-the-arts/print, online (ultimo accesso 15/04/2015).

Id., “Introduction”, Hanif Kureishi: Plays 1, London, Faber and Faber, 1999: vii-xx.

Id., “Birds of Passage” (1983), Hanif Kureishi: Plays 1, London, Faber and Faber, 1999: 169-219.

Id., “Borderline” (1981), Hanif Kureishi: Plays 1, London, Faber and Faber, 1999: 91-168

Id., My Beautiful Laundrette and Other Writings, London, Faber and Faber, 1996.

Id., “The Rainbow Sign” (1986), London Kills Me: three Screenplays and Four Essays, Harmondsworth, Penguin, 1992: 3-37.

Id., “Eight Arms to Hold You” (1986), London Kills Me: three Screenplays and Four Essays, Harmondsworth, Penguin, 1992: 355-373.

Id., “Dirty washing”, Time Out,795, 14–20 November (1985): 25-26.

Loomba, Ania, Colonialism/Postcolonialism, London and New York, Routledge, 1998.

Lynch, Philip, Politics of Nationhood: Sovereignity, Britishness, and Conservative Politics, New York, Palgrave Macmillan, 1999.

McKenzie, Jon, Perform or Else: From Discipline to Performance, London and New York, Routledge, 2001.

McKenzie, Jon, “Gender Trouble: (The) Butler Did It”, New York and London, New York University Press, 1998: 217-235.

Moore-Gilbert, Bart, Hanif Kureishi, Manchester, Manchester University Press, 2001.

Patterson, Michael, Strategies of Political Theatre: Post-war British Playwrights, West Nyack, Cambridge University, 2003.

Postman, Neil, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business, New York, Viking Penguin, 1985.

Quart, Leonard, “The Politics of Irony: The Frears-Kureishi Films”, Re-viewing British Cinema 1900-1992. Essays and Interviews, Ed. Wheeler Winston Dixon, Albany, State University of New York Press, 1994: 241-248.

Ranasinha, Ruvani, Hanif Kureishi, Devon, Northcote House, 2002.

Rushdie, Salman, “The New Empire within Britain", New Society, 9 Dec. (1982): 417-420.

Sen, Asha, “Re-Writing History: Hanif Kureishi and the Politics of Black Britain”, Passages, 2.1 (2000): 61-80.

Storey, John, “Becoming British”, The Cambridge Companion to Modern British Culture, Eds. Michael Higgins - Clarissa Smith - John Storey, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2010: 12-25.

Thomas, Susie, Hanif Kureishi: A Reader’s Guide to Essential Criticism, Basingstoke and New York, Palgrave Macmillan, 2005.

Turner, Victor, “Introduction”, From Ritual to Theatre, New York, PAJ, 1982: 7-19.

Williams, Raymond, “Drama in a Dramatized Society” (1974), Writing in Society, London, Verso, 1983: 11-21.

Young, Robert, Postcolonialism: An Historical Introduction, Oxford, Blackwell, 2001.

Yousaf, Nahem, The Buddha of Suburbia. A Reader’s Guide, New York and London, Continuum, 2002.

How to Cite
Esposito, L. (2015). Thatcherism, and the Spectacle of Politics: Hanif Kureishi’s Theatre. Between, 5(10).