Rattling the 'Iron Lady'

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Carswell, Lorna
Issue Date
BA (Hons) Arts
Dublin Business School
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“The feminists hate me, don’t they? And I don’t blame them. For I hate feminism. It is poison”. Margaret Thatcher. This thesis will discuss how the neoliberal discourse and policies of the first and only British female Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher affected women and examine the innovative techniques applied by two feminist dramatists Sarah Daniels and Caryl Churchill in explicating the consequences of her leadership; principally the effect upon women and the family. It will review Daniels’ political position and discuss Thatcherism with reference to her plays, Ripen Our Darkness (1981), The Devils Gateway (1983) and Neaptide (1984). It will then consider the political position of Caryl Churchill and review her socialist feminist views on Thatcherism through a critique of her plays Cloud Nine (1979) and Top Girls (1982). Furthermore this thesis will elucidate how these ladies utilized the theatre to place women centre stage and as a tool to ‘rattle’ this ‘Iron Lady’s’ agenda. Finally, it will concur that anarchic feminist theatre ‘extends feminism’s conscious challenge of familiar and unexamined patterns…[it approaches] the play from a standpoint of what it is as well as what it is about’ (Kritzer, 1991, p. 12). Daniels and Churchill work to challenge the patriarchal and neoliberal structures that Thatcherism facilitated and endorsed. Their feminist dramaturgy is a critique of the established gender and cultural norms of women’s ‘place’ in society. They use the function of the family to explicate the sociopolitical landscape under Thatcher’s reign.