'Killing joy as a world making project' : anger in the work of debbie tucker green

Reid, Trish (2018) 'Killing joy as a world making project' : anger in the work of debbie tucker green. Contemporary Theatre Review, 28(3), pp. 390-400. ISSN (print) 1048-6801


Since her debut in 2003 with born bad and dirty butterfly, the black British playwright debbie tucker green has been a consistently experimental and angry voice on the English stage. Characterized by heightened demotic poetry and a refusal of the certainties of social realism, her work has been determinedly woman-centred, provocative, political and angry. This essay, which focuses primarily on tucker green’s short play hang (2015), is concerned with her uses of anger. Its title is drawn from Sara Ahmed’s blog feministkilljoys. Over a number of years Ahmed has argued that in contemporary culture, happiness – which she takes to mean feelings of pleasure and contentment – is implicitly linked to particular kinds of life choices: heterosexuality, marriage, having children, and so on. Working at the intersection between queer, feminist and critical race theories, Ahmed shows that such happiness comes at a cost because it is fragile and restrictive, and importantly, because it conceals the unhappiness it produces. She identifies the figure of the feminist killjoy as one who ‘brings other[s] down, not only by talking about unhappy topics such as sexism but by exposing how happiness is sustained by erasing the signs of not getting along’. The feminist killjoy kills other people’s joy for good reason: to remind them that unhappiness is a necessary bi-product of culturally prescribed visions of happiness. In this essay I suggest that debbie tucker green makes a striking and meaningful contribution to this discourse, by staging black women who kill joy by articulating their resistance via angry resolve, belligerence and intransigence.

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