The Theatre of Fake News

The Theatre of Fake News

By James Moran

Anthem Studies in Theatre and Performance

This book examines the topic of ‘fake news’ through the lens of theatre and drama, looking at the way in which issues of audience, authorship, and accuracy are intertwined.

Paperback, 74 Pages


June 2022

£15.95, $19.99

  • About This Book
  • Reviews
  • Author Information
  • Series
  • Table of Contents
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About This Book

This book begins by defining the term ‘fake news’, a term which has come to great public prominence since the start of our current millennium. Fake news, broadly defined, is used to describe ‘false, often sensational, information disseminated under the guise of news reporting’. By giving some high-profile examples, this volume shows how the concept differs from lying and propaganda on one side and then from postmodern arguments about the relativism of all knowledge on the other. The book outlines the way that various national governments have become concerned with the concept in recent years, and points to contemporary worries about the behaviours of social media, about manipulation by both state and non-state actors, and about the developing technological capacity that allows almost any individual to produce ‘deep fakes’ that are virtually indistinguishable from genuine photographs or film footage.

The volume explains why fake news can be productively examined through the lens of theatre and performance. We see how various forms of theatre have shared the epistemic function of the news: that is, to furnish the public with reliable factual information, and the book includes discussion of theatre-makers who have attempted to use theatre in this way.

This book also traces the way that the concerns of our own historical moment about fake news echo the repeated worries expressed throughout theatrical history. The examples selected in this section of the book are therefore taken from the canonical high-road of Western theatrical texts, by figures such as Shakespeare, Bertolt Brecht, Henrik Ibsen, Lorraine Hansberry, Joan Littlewood, and Sarah Kane.


 ‘It is quite simply brilliant; highly scholarly but very readable, deeply critical but accessible, really intelligent and beautifully written. James Moran takes us on the dark journey of fake news, its histories, and contemporary applications and how our theatre makers have responded, often in ingenious ways, to our designed stupidification. Highly recommended!’ —Dr Gary Anderson, Associate Professor of Drama, Liverpool Hope University, UK.

‘James Moran analyses tensions among fictions and public life, from teatron to cyber-space, exposing unexpected conflicts, connections, and continuities. He re-frames, not only how we understand a phrase appropriated by Donald Trump, but the lively interplay of audiences, theatre, and news, from Shakespeare to Littlewood, Arnold Wesker to Lucy Kirkwood.’ —Victor Merriman, Professor of Critical Studies in Drama, Department of English, History, and Creative Writing, Edge Hill University, UK.

‘This is an astute and cogently argued book. In providing readings of an impressive array of plays, James Moran shows that while journalism has at times failed to maintain an allegiance to upholding the truth and holding those in power to account, theatre has often served as an effective media critic.’ —Brad Kent, Professor of British and Irish Literatures at Université Laval, Quebec.

Author Information

James Moran teaches English at the University of Nottingham.


Anthem Studies in Theatre and Performance

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements; Part One: Performing Fake News; Part Two: Fake News and the Western Dramatic Tradition; Bibliography; Index 


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