Metatheatre as a political tool in Yugoslav drama in the 1980s and 1990s

Heaney, Dušanka Radosavljević

January 2003

Thesis or dissertation

© 2003 Dušanka Radosavljević Heaney. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

The wars in the Balkans in the 1990s inspired great interest in the historical, socioeconomic and political aspects of the disintegration of the former Yugoslavia. These accounts often referred to the actual events as the ‘Yugoslav tragedy’. Yugoslav theatre, meanwhile, received comparatively negligible attention.

An overview of Yugoslav drama in translation points to an interesting trend. The plays which made it to Western Europe, particularly in the 1980s, were plays with a definite metatheatrical dimension. At the same time in Yugoslavia, metatheatre spontaneously became the most effective means of socio-political re-examination. The metatheatrical trend re-occurred with a very different function in the 1990s when the everyday Yugoslav reality was highly theatricalised in the media controlled by the Milosevic regime. In both 1980s and 1990s Yugoslavia, metatheatre essentially sought to examine the collective audience preconceptions.

Yugoslavia’s most renowned contemporary playwright, Dušan Kovadevic, is the author of four metaplays studied in this thesis. Other internationally acclaimed Yugoslav metaplays of the period 1980-1999 studied here include Slobodan Snajder’s The Croatian Faust. Ljubomir Simovid’s The Travelling Theatre Sopalovic. Nenad Prokid’s The Metastable Grail. Biljana Srbljanovic’s Family Tales as well as Goran Markovic’s A Tour and Nebojša Romcevic’s Caroline Neuber. Contextually, the thesis also features analyses of older Yugoslav metaplays such as Ivo Brešan’s The Stage Play of Hamlet in the Village of Lower Jerkwater and Dušan Jovanovic’s Act a Brain Tumour or Air Pollution.

The thesis is by no means a definitive overview of Yugoslav theatre and its contexts but primarily an exploration of the metatheatrical device, its political significance and its features in Yugoslavia of the 1980s and the rump-state of Yugoslavia in the 1990s.

Department of Drama, The University of Hull
Meech, Anthony
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