First published by Contemporary Drama in English (2011)

Photo by Devonyu/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by Devonyu/iStock / Getty Images

This article explores the politics of disrupted and misappropriated narratives in Mark Ravenhill’s monodramas Product (Traverse 2005) and The Experiment (Southwark Playhouse 2009).

These texts, in which a single speaker tells the audience a story, were of initial interest to me because in the original productions of both the role of the speaker was performed by Ravenhill himself. Watching Ravenhill perform in both pieces, I had the distinct sense of him performing himself, the writer, engaged in the process of constructing a story for us and highlighting for us the shortcomings of this process of dramatic narration. I found myself reading both performances as moments in which the writer, Ravenhill was commenting on the process of narration itself.

The subject matter of both of these monodramas concerns harmful acts. In The Experiment, we are told the story of a man who finds himself involved in some experiments on children, while in Product we are told the story of a suicide bomber.  This article will argue that both these monodramas can be read as questioning the commonly held assumption that the dramatic narrative has value to society because it is a medium through  which we can come to understand both other people and the reasons for any harmful actions they commit. It will position the dramatic narrative as a structure which society utilises to judge the acceptability or unacceptability of people’s actions and examine the idea that the narration of a harmful act makes it more acceptable to us. It examine the ways in which the process of narration in the Western dramatic narrative, rather than enabling us to see the world through the eyes of Others, reconfigures the actions of Others within a viewpointthat is entirely our own.


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This article was originally published in: Contemporary Drama in English. Volume 18, Pages 141-154, 2011.