Ann Saddlemyer Award/ Le prix Ann Saddlemyer

The Ann Saddlemyer Award is given annually to the best book in English or French published in the previous year./ Le prix Ann Saddlemyer récompense chaque année le meilleur livre publié en anglais ou en français l’année précédente.

2017 Winner:

Rick Cousins. Spike Milligan’s Accordion: The Distortion of Time and Space in The Goon Show. Leiden, Boston: Brill Rodopi, 2016.

The Ann Saddlemyer Award honours a monograph published during the past year that exemplifies the strength of theatre scholarship in Canada. The winner of the award for 2016 is Spike Milligan’s Accordion: The Distortion of Time and Space in The Goon Show by Rick Cousins. Cousins's book makes a significant contribution to 20th-century theatre history especially in relation to the impact and aftermath of World War Two, theoretical physics, and theatre of the absurd. In addition, Cousins's book treats a neglected genre: theatre scholarship seldom addresses radio performance and radio comedy still less frequently.

Cousins's study cogently locates Spike Milligan in his artistic context and explores his links to artists who preceded and followed him, identifying echoes of Jarry as well as anticipations of postmodernism. He demonstrates that the bizarre situations and plot twists Milligan created warrant comparison with the nonsense literature of Lear and Carroll, and with the canonical absurd of Beckett and Ionesco. Arguing that these comparisons, however, "are both apt and misleading," he defines the distinctive absurdity of The Goon Show and shows it to be the product of its very uncertain time, an era in which Britain was losing its empire and nuclear war threatened to end human history. Originally broadcast on the BBC between 1951 and 1960,The Goon Show, he argues persuasively, is a direct challenge to the status quo of the post-war world, "an act of comic civil disobedience," and "a transfer of the very real doomsday fears of the 1950s to more mundane, or more outlandishly fictional, frames of reference." Cousins amends the received history of the theatre of the absurd, explores tensions between high and low culture within the BBC, and demonstrates the influence of Milligan's wartime experiences on his comic imagination.

The central thesis of Cousins's study -- the basis of Spike Milligan's time and space distortions in theoretical physics -- is convincingly developed and always grounded in a precise understanding of the role structure plays in Milligan's "deceptively amorphous-looking comedy." The Goon Show's distortions of time depend upon a narrative framework used as backdrop. Similarly, accordion expansions and contractions of space use to advantage the potential for fluidity in the implied spaces of radio theatre. Astonishingly allying advanced physics with a school-child's world view, Cousins deftly uses developmental psychology in order to show that Milligan's unruly time and space distortions in a sense return us to the perceptions of a young mind as yet untutored in the spatial and temporal constituents of the status quo.

Cousins's writing style inventively mimics aspects of The Goon Show, a playfulness that will amuse readers who are fans of Milligan, and that also demonstrates Cousins's practical understanding of his subject based on his experiences as a comedy writer, actor, and radio producer. Cousins explicates Milligan's comedy without killing the fun.

***

Le prix, pour l’année 2016, va à Spike Milligan’s Accordion: The Distortion of Time and Space in The Goon Show de Rick Cousins. Le livre de Cousins contribue de façon importante à l’histoire du théâtre du 20e siècle, particulièrement en ce qui a trait à l’impact de la Seconde Guerre mondiale, la physique théorique et le théâtre de l’absurde. En outre, l’ouvrage aborde un genre négligé puisque les études théâtrales s’intéressent peu aux performances radiophoniques, et encore moins à la comédie radiophonique.

L’étude de Cousins replace astucieusement Spike Milligan dans son contexte artistique, et explore ses liens avec les artistes qui l’ont précédé, y relevant des échos de Jarry et des balbutiements postmodernistes. Il montre également en quoi les situations bizarres et les rebondissements imaginés par Milligan méritent d’être comparés avec la littérature nonsense de Lear et Carroll, ainsi qu’avec les canons de l’absurde de Beckett et Ionesco. Reconnaissant par contre que ces comparaisons « sont à la fois pertinentes et trompeuses », il cerne le caractère distinct de l’absurde de The Goon Show, et montre en quoi il s’agit du produit d’une époque d’incertitude où la Grande-Bretagne était en train de perdre son empire, et où la guerre nucléaire menaçait de mettre fin à l’humanité. Cousins postule de façon convaincante que The Goon Show, au départ diffusé sur les ondes de la BBC entre 1951 et 1960, constitue un défi direct au statu quo de l’après-guerre, « un acte de désobéissance civile comique » et « un transfert des craintes réelles de l’anéantissement dans les années 1950 vers des cadres de référence plus triviaux ou ridiculement fictifs ». L’histoire généralement reçue du théâtre de l’absurde s’en voit modifiée en même temps que sont explorées les tensions entre les couches supérieure et populaire de la culture de la BBC, et qu’est explicitée l’influence de l’expérience de guerre de Milligan sur son imagination comique.

2017 Committee: Nancy Copeland (Chair), Sheila Rabillard, Susan Knutson


Past Winners

2016 - Nicole Nolette, Jouer la traduction : théâtre et hétérolinguisme au Canada francophone. U of Ottawa Press, 2015.

2015 - Laura Levin, Performing Ground: Space, Camouflage, and the Art of Blending In. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014.

2014 - R. Darren Gobert, The Mind-Body Stage: Passion and Interaction in the Cartesian Theater. Stanford UP, 2013.

2014 - (Honorable Mention) Virginie Magnat, Growtowski, Women and Contemporary Performance: Meetings with Remarkable Women. New York: Routledge, 2014.

2013 - Heather Davis-Fisch, Loss and Cultural Remains in Performance: The Ghosts of the Franklin Expedition. New York: Palgrave 2012.

2013 - Jenn Stephenson, Performing Autobiography: Contemporary Canadian Drama. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2013.

2013 - Honorable Mention: Kirsty Johnston, Stage Turns: Canadian Disability Theatre. Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2012.

2012 - Alan Filewod, Committing Theatre: Theatre Radicalism and Political Intervention in Canada. Toronto: Between the Lines, 2011.

2011 - Erin Hurley, National Performance: Representing Quebec from Expo 67 to Celine Dion. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2010.

2011 - Magdalena Kazubowski-Houston, Staging Strife: Lessons from Performing Ethnography with Polish Roma Women. McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2009.

2010 - Candida Rifkind, Comrades and Critics: Women, Literature & The Left in 1930s Canada. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2009.

2009 - Sherrill Grace, Making Theatre: A Life of Sharon Pollock. Vancouver: Talonbooks, 2008.

2008 - Michael McKinnie, City Stages: Theatre and Urban Space in a Global City. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2007.

2007 - Louise Ladouceur, Making The Scene: La traduction du théâtre d’une langue officielle à l’autre au Canada. (Québec: Editions Nota bene, 2005)

2005 - Kym Bird, Redressing the Past: The Politics of Early English-Canadian Women’s Drama, 1880-1920. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2005.

2005 - Honorable Mention: Ric Knowles Reading the Material Theatre Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2004.

2003 - Alan Filewod, Performing Canada: The Nation Enacted in the Imagined Theatre. Textual Studies in Canada Monograph Series: Critical Performance/s in Canada, 2002.

2003 - Honorable Mention: Diana Brydon & Irena R. Makaryk eds. Shakespeare in Canada: A World Elsewhere? Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2002.

2001 - Ric Knowles, The Theatre of Form and the Production of Meaning: Canadian Dramaturgies. Toronto: ECW Press, 1999.

1999 - Leonard E. Doucette, The Drama of Our Past: Major Plays from Nineteenth-Century Quebec. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1997.

1997 - Paula Sperdakos, Dora Mavor Moore: A Pioneer of Canadian Theatre. Toronto: ECW Press, 1995.

1995 - Gilbert David et Pierre Lavoie, eds. Le Monde de Michel Tremblay: Des Belles-soeurs à Marcel poursuivi par les chiens. Montréal: Lansman, 1993.

1994 - Rémi Tourangeau, Fêtes et spectacles du Québec: Région du Saguenay-Lac- Saint-Jean. Québec: Nuit Blanche, 1993;

1993 - Diane Bessai, The Canadian Dramatist volume 2: Playwrights of Collective Creation. Toronto: Simon & Pierre, 1992.

1992 - Denis Johnston, Up the Mainstream. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1990.

1991 - Anni Brisset, Sociocritique de la traduction: Théâtre et altérité au Québec (1968- 1988). Longueuil: Préambule, 1990.

1990 - Chantal Hébert, Le burlesque québécois et américain. Textes inédits. Québec: Presses de l’Université Laval, 1989.

1989 - Bronwyn Drainie, Living the Part: John Drainie and the Dilemma of Canadian Stardom. Toronto: Macmillan, 1988

1989 - Jean-Luc Bastien & Pierre MacDuff, eds. La Nouvelle Compagnie théâtrale. En scène depuis 25 ans. Montréal: VLB, 1988.