May 16, 2017
Dr Andy Smith, Associate Head of the School of Music and Performance at the University of South Wales, is going to be delivering a paper titled “Which shall prevail?” Doppelgängers and Duality in the work of David Rudkin at the BFI symposium in London on 10 June 2017.
This paper will explore the themes of doubling, duality and doppelgängers in the work of David Rudkin, with specific reference to Ashes (1974), Penda’s Fen (1974) and The Sons of Light (1977). Images and references to doubling abound in Rudkin’s work: the duality of existence through sexuality, Eros and Thanatos, science and religion, the sacred and the profane reoccur as significant thematic and structural forms. Characters such as Stephan in Penda’s Fen and Colin in Ashes sever themselves from communities and families due to unresolved and ambiguous homoerotic desires. In The Sons of Light, this duality is reflected in its spatial environment – a nightmarish evocation of two worlds inhabited by two sets of repressed and deformed societies. Above the ground, an archaic and enclosed religious community mourning the deaths of its drowned children. The other, an underground secret government military complex known as the Pit, a nightmarish world run by sadistic guards who engage in the eroticised torture of escaped slaves. The concept of Manicheanism – an ancient Persian religion that believed the world was a constant battleground between light and dark, good and evil – is key to exploring how Rudkin sets in motion the concept of duality in his drama, incorporating primeval faith, modern psychology and the separation of body and soul. Rudkin’s deployment of dual narratives contains an implicit critique of how normality is constructed in our society, and how violence is ritualised in order to cleanse what is considered profane. Through exploring Rudkin’s use of duality and the influence of Manicheanism in his work, this paper will argue that his epic, poetic and personal evocations of human experience are vital to our understanding of contemporary British drama.