April_de_Angelis%2C_new.doc - April de Angelis Rebecca...

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April de Angelis Rebecca D'Monté Ironmistress ; Hush ; Playhouse Creatures ; A Laughing Matter; Amongst Friends Introduction April de Angelis was born in London in 1960 to an English mother and Italian father. All of the decisions made about where she trained and worked, as well as the plays themselves, speak of her lifelong concerns with feminism, history, and community, and her work is informed by connections between chronology and narration, power and subjugation. De Angelis was at the Old Vic Youth Theatre as a teenager, before studying at the E15 Acting School in London. She joined Monstrous Regiment as an actress, then as actress/deviser with ReSisters theatre group, and it is no coincidence that the names of these companies also act as forceful political statements. Her first work in 1986 was Breathless , joint winner of the Second Wave Women’s Writing Festival. 1 In 1987 she wrote Women in Law , followed by Me (1988), Wanderlust , and Bombshell (1989). Visitants won the Young Writers for Radio Festival on BBC Radio 4 in 1988, with another radio play, The Outlander , appearing as a two-part serial for Radio 5 in 1991. 2 A year later she was Winner of the Writer’s Guild Award. Like many dramatists of her generation, de Angelis was deeply affected by the Thatcherite policies of the 1980s, and while her 1989 play, Ironmistress , is set in the industrialisation of the Victorian age, it also comments on the ‘ironmistress’ Margaret Thatcher, then ruling the country. From Hush (1992) onwards de Angelis, along with many other of the earlier feminist playwrights started to move beyond representing the oppression of women to a broader and more complex social and political agenda. If Hush charts a disengagement by younger people with the loss of direction by the Left and the lack of anything to take its place, The Positive Hour (1997) shows the legacy of ideological feminism and failures of New Labour, whilst Soft Vengeance (1993), for the disabled-led theatre company, Graeae, melds the personal and political through the bomb injuries suffered by activist Albie Sachs in 1960s Apartheid South Africa. In 1990 she became Writer-in-Residence at Paines Plough, with Crux , a play about Marguarite Porete and a group of free thinking religious women in the Medieval 1
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period. This continues, for de Angelis, an overt concern with history, invariably in the form of literary adaptations and real lives, as a way to show connections of power dynamics across time, or to explore the ‘invisibility’ of women: what early feminist critics have termed ‘her-story.’ Similar plays include Frankenstein (1989), The Life and Times of Fanny Hill (1991), The Warwickshire Testimony (1999), and Wuthering Heights (2008). Perhaps her most celebrated work came in 1993, with Playhouse Creatures . This was about the difficulties faced by the first actresses to appear on the English stage: the film, Shakespeare in Love (1998), covered some of the same issues of gender, sexuality and the theatre, as did Nicholas Wright’s stage work, Warning, Boys at Play (2000), which looked back to the early boy actors. Interest in aspects of theatre and
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