Kings, Celebrities and Working Mums: Kjartan Poskitt’s Plays for Young Actors as History and Entertainment
After postmodern approaches called into question the foundations of academic history in the 1970s and 1980s, recent studies have identified a new boom in popular history formats such as historical novels, costume drama and TV documentaries. This trend has also spurred new theoretical approaches towards (popular) history, which are both a continuation and a reaction to postmodern theories. On the basis of these, this paper analyses two plays by the British writer and comedian Kjartan Poskitt – Henry the Tudor Dude: A Musical Play (1995) and Nell’s Belles: The Swinging Sixteen-Sixties Show: A Musical (2002)—both aimed at young amateur actors. These two plays present panoramic views of the lives of the English kings Henry VIII and Charles II, respectively, and show their objects in a highly entertaining and irreverent light, concentrating on their flamboyant private lives and personal failures. The paper demonstrates how these plays approach the dual aims of teaching and entertaining that are so typical of both children’s literature and popular history in general. Moreover, it argues that though the plays represent a new development in the previously neglected field of historical drama for the young, they can also serve to demonstrate recent theoretical approaches towards (popular) history.