- Voice and New Writing, 1997–2007: Articulating the Demos by Maggie Inchley
Maggie Inchley’s monograph has an ambitious dual remit: first, “to demonstrate the ways that the inclusion of marginalised, diverse or rarely heard voices” in British theatre during the period 1997 to 2007 could be claimed to “articulate and scrutinise society”; and also to foreground “more generally the value in attending to the voice as a tool of both creative and reflective practice” in theatre (145). Thus Inchley’s book impressively attends, simultaneously and interweavingly, to how the concept and practice of the voice is characterized in physiological terms, “creating sound through the manipulation and exhalation of air through the vocal apparatus,” and in metaphorical and political terms, “allowing the human person to extend beyond itself or be invoked as a symbolic presence—a ‘voice’ in political and cultural discourses” (1).
Inchley aptly notes how “the voice is a complex, interdisciplinary tool,” yet is often overlooked in “scholarly practice in the study of drama and performance—perhaps partly because of this very complexity” (ibid.); rather, recent scholarly emphases on body and gaze tend to obscure, or mute, the dimension of vocal performance (12). This involves her in critical considerations of the assumptions and objectives of theatre theorists John McGrath, Raymond Williams, and Aleks Sierz, as well as practitioner-theorists Cicely Berry, Patsy Rodenburg, and Kristen Linklater, and critical theorists such as Michel Foucault, Pierre Bourdieu, and Judith Butler, whose work “challenges the idea that the voice can express a self that is ‘free’ or separate from society” (7).
As she negotiates these perspectives, Inchley is clear about her own: “I believe that new writing of a primarily realistic mode can challenge traditions of cultural ownership and dominant practice by articulating the reality of marginalised communities” (3). She is invigoratingly critical about how the British Blair government paid lip service to empathy toward “diverse voices” as “a fundamental principle of citizenship in an evolving and devolved society” (2), deducing how New Labour’s ostensible transparency, emotionally direct authenticity, and “claim to use dialogue [were] a matter of presentation, its real behaviour ‘univocal’ and ‘monological’” (true of all institutional, top-down management-speak, including that deployed increasingly in universities) (31). Inchley traces this strategy to Anthony Giddens’s Foucauldian objectives: “a convergence between personal intimacy and the political representative process, and the affirmation of transparency as a dominant norm” (10).
Inchley views more favorably McGrath’s intention to advance “the value of marginalised voices in providing society with a means of self-scrutiny,” voices “positioned within a demos—inside a democracy of participants—implying the legitimisation of voices in dialogue with others, but also, crucially, the capacity of these voices to challenge and change the constituency of that dialogic sphere itself” (5; emphasis in original). Indeed, Inchley’s book is subtitled “Articulating the Demos,” but the term demos only receives exposition on two other pages (3, as indexed, and 100, not). I suggest that the specifics of the terms, interpretative processes, and interests of “the role of theatre as a representative artistic and political sphere with the ability and legitimacy to articulate and scrutinise the demos” might therefore have received further interrogation (100; emphasis added).
Notwithstanding that criticism, I admired and enjoyed Inchley’s searching analyses of varying theatrical mediations (interpretations) of young people, cultures, and taboos (such as the infanticidal female protagonist), and her contexts for insisting that “the voice seems to offer possibilities of subversion, resistance or challenge, as well as agency and transformation” (8). It is a tribute to her analyses that I frequently wanted her to extend the scope [End Page 483] and terms of the discussion beyond her nominated timeframe and groups, and look forward to how her future work and theoretical arcs might address “the Northern Irish, the Welsh, the disabled, or religious groups” (136), as well as extending beyond social realism. For example, Inchley praises debbie tucker green’s work as “profoundly discomforting” in ways that imply “a critique of racial or other bounded categories of identity” (17). However...