UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Edward Bond’s theatre for social change : its development in relation to a Brechtian standard Tully, Betty Marie


This thesis is primarily concerned with Edward Bond's attempt to use the theatre to change society. Bertolt Brecht attempted to use the theatre in the same way and, indeed, to many observers, Bond's work appears to resemble that of Brecht. Therefore as a critical device to understand Bond better, Brecht, with the qualifications outlined in the introduction, is set up as a kind of standard against which Bond's development can be measured. In attempting to use the theatre to change society, Brecht and Bond are obliged to write plays which achieve at least three basic theatrical goals. First, the plays must engage the spectator. To do this, Brecht and Bond rely on techniques familiar to all playwrights. Thus the plays have characters with whom the spectator can feel empathy, a growing sense of aesthetic wholeness, and a wide range of sensuous stimulation. In engaging the spectator, however, Brecht and Bond are always aware that engagement itself is not an end. It is a means of getting the spectator's attention in order to guide him towards something more. All of this material constitutes chapter one. Chapter two concentrates on the second theatrical goal. The plays must expose the fundamental problem of society in such a way as to convince the spectator that social change is necessary and possible. Brecht and Bond agree on the fundamental problem of society: it is the class structure. Their plays are intended as a accurate characterization of society, stressing both its evilness and it's changeability. The third chapter, and the most important in an appreciation of Brecht and Bond, deals with the third goal. The plays must provide behavioural models the spectator can use in working for social change. Brecht and Bond work with "attitude models" and "action models". The proper functioning of the attitude model results in the ideal response both playwrights want: Brecht calls his a critical attitude, Bond, a rational understanding. This response begins to develop in the theatre and is expected to carry over into the life situation when the performance is over. Action models are intended to influence the spectator's life behaviour more directly, providing him with actual models he can imitate or reject. Both Brecht and Bond try to encourage the transfer of these models from the theatre to the life situation by considerably modifying the conventional resolution. In the conclusion the influence of Brecht and Bond on the development of dramatic literature and the theatre is discussed. Finally, some effort is made to evaluate the success of their attempt to use the theatre to change society.

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