|Speculatrix cover, design by Ben Anslow|
Jacobean London saw riots, a disconnect between rich and poor and the beginnings of money represented through bonds: the period provides a rich and powerful way of looking at where we are now.
In this haunted work, history, tragedy and comedy roil in energised and dynamic engagement with language of the early modern period, bringing it confrontingly into the here and now through a lens of gender, the gaze fixed on the stage of the poem, intrigue, injustice and the city of London. The linguistic goalposts might shift, though the mouth might still speak 'Elizabethan', and the relationship between subject and object will still demand explication with the verbal tools at hand. This brilliant work taps into the materials of early modern theatre and problematises patriarchal impositions on the 'heritage' of language - not glibly, but with zeal and razor-sharp insight. The London riots, the machinery of capital and city, the failure of ideology, the undercurrent of revenge and deliverance, all warp in these frequently dialogic poems to reveal a theatre of the contemporary in which language is macabre, brutalised, and yet generating possibilities of insight into the condition of survival. A formalist in a fresh way, Chris McCabe's 'play-poems' are compactions of history and place, manifestations of the violent struggle for identity towards which many of us are impelled. This poetic work is long overdue. It's one we need.
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