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Ageing as crisis on the twenty-first-century British Stage

posted on 11.01.2022, 15:31 by Sian AdiseshiahSian Adiseshiah
This chapter examines the intersection of crisis and ageing (particularly female old age), and the implications of this intersection as addressed in recent British theatre. Crisis permeates narratives of contemporary life in multiple ways, and is conceptualised here in both the traditional sense of a turning point which demands a decisive change for better or worse, as well as in more recent formulations (such as Lauren Berlant’s notion of crisis ordinariness) that frame crisis as a pervasive ongoing catastrophe. Meanwhile, contemporary framings of ageing often articulate the growth in older populations as a crisis, and indeed ageing itself as both a personal and social crisis. Despite the emergence in recent times of a more affirming image of post-work older age – in the form of the third age – its value of (youthful) healthy, active consumption only works to defer agedness or real old age to the fourth age, thereby displacing gerontophobic conceptions of later life. The case studies are two contemporary plays that dramatise ageing and crises: Lucy Kirkwood’s The Children (2016) and Caryl Churchill’s Escaped Alone (2016). The plays are read through an examination of the relation of crises narratives to older age in conjunction with scrutiny of their dramatic forms and usages of time. The chapter argues that both works use old age to think about contemporary crises and are keen to validate older lives, but the plays differ in their reproduction of gerontophobic assumptions. It contends that while ageing and crisis are coproduced in The Children, in Escaped Alone this coproduction is disaggregated: old women are positioned as the lens through which crisis is examined but they do not form the basis of its constitution.



  • Social Sciences and Humanities


  • English

Published in

Crisis, Representation and Resilience: Perspectives on Contemporary British Theatre


21 - 37 (17)




AM (Accepted Manuscript)

Publisher statement

This book chapter was published in the book Crisis, Representation and Resilience: Perspectives on Contemporary British Theatre. The book's web page is available at

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Book series

Methuen Drama Engage




Clare Wallace ; Clara Escoda ; José Ramón Prado-Pérez


Dr Sian Adiseshiah. Deposit date: 11 January 2022