Specifics of the British Regime

Regime Change Az Theatre 2

Having focused for some years on projects with an international dimension, I decided earlier this year (2016) to turn my attention to what was happening in the UK. A lot of talk during the Iraq invasion and the 2011 popular uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere was about the idea of ‘regime change’. I set out to see what this might mean here. What was the story of the UK regime? My research took me back to what I considered to be its founding moments in the revolutionary movements of the English Civil War (1641-1660) whose final act might be considered to be the constitutional settlement of 1688. I was setting out to create theatre but I knew it might take a long time. I have started writing drama but also I am accompanying this work with a blog that would outline my thinking as the project moved forward.

Specifics of the British Regime

A regime is a set of organisational processes that come together at a particular place at a particular time. We can imagine that they are like components or practices or institutions or even images.  Some combining factor arises on the basis of local human settlement that holds together a particular version of human society.  What holds a social formation in place is not separate from the elements that, in one way or another, give it a constitution.  It is difficult to come to terms with the nature of this entity which in our imagination can appear to be like a body, a culture, a machine or a system.  In social theory it can be called ‘an imaginary’ (1) or an ‘assemblage’ (2) though I don’t want to ignore the distinctions between these different theoretical notions.

The roots of a regime appear to be in geography or ecology:  these people living on this particular part of the earth at a particular point in time, a variation on, and in interaction with, the human species.

So what account can be given of the one that has arisen on the British Isles.  We cannot be as definite about the time-scale as we can about the location.

The British Isles are relatively easy to identify on a map though the borders between the different nations may not be obvious. England describes the area of the main island that was subject to the Roman invasion of 2000 years ago.  All other major migrations or invasions have been determined by its frontiers.  The domination by London of England, and by England of the British Isles, is due to the extraordinary harbourage offered by the Thames estuary. This is a significant determinant of the regime

As for time-scale, the present determines the way we look at the past. So, for example, if we were facing the extinction of human life on these islands we would tend to start our story with the arrival of human beings here after the last ice age some 11,700 years ago.  However, at the moment, there are more human beings living here than there have ever been.

What is happening now and to what initial processes is our attention drawn?

In general terms, we are witnessing tensions in relations between the nations that make up the British State, between the role of financial services and manufacturing and between the London and the ‘provinces’.  There are uncertainties about the two party system and the role of political parties, also about the nature of the House of Lords.  The military function of the British State has been radically called into question by the inquiries into the ‘war’ on Iraq. This last may be inextricably tied to British dependence on the United States and this offers another underlying tension.

The institutional components that were drawn together in the period after the English Revolution of 1641-1660, particularly in the period leading up to the settlement of 1688, appear to be those that are in crisis now.

The success of London as a capital was focused on finance and banking. There were the networking benefits and the medium term assurances of a centralised intermarrying ruling elite, enhancing trust and contractual security, that connected landed wealth with mercantile enterprise.  This nexus was centred in London. The relationship of government to the imperialist commercially-driven military expansion, crucially organised through the formation of the Bank of England (1694), sealed the advantages of a communications structure that focused on the royal court but wasn’t dominated by it.

Within 20 years of the foundation of the bank the new regime had fought a successful war against the French in North America and Europe, climaxing with the Treaty of Utrecht (1714), had unified Scotland with England and Wales (1707) and had secured the Hanoverian protestant succession and began to construct ‘British’ identity.

Anglican Protestantism offered the basis for a unique national ‘loyalty’ test as well as an ethos suited to capitalism. The unique combination of a monarchic head of state who was both the military commander-in-chief as well as head of the Church of England fastened and refined the regime-building project. The ideological underpinning of a state religion sustained the new regime through the first founding period until, for example, in the earliest years if the 19th century, the need to avow the protestant religion as well as allegiance to the monarch for members of the volunteer militia was dispensed with

The fertile ground made up of financial fluency, protestantism and co-ordinated military and commercial enterprise bred a functioning and compelling model of the human in the figure of the English gentleman and this gave personality and moral coherence to the regime.

War as a profitable venture and as a ‘keynote’ national unifier has played a unique role throughout, from Blenhiem (1704), to Waterloo (1815), to the Somme (1915), to Dunkirk (1940), to D-day (1944), to the Falklands (1982) and to Iraq (2003).  Apart from the massive destruction of the Blitz the wars have always been fought elsewhere. This doesn’t diminish the loss of life and the concentration of production effort.

The country was never invaded and therefore never faced the decisive crises that invasion brings.  Victory was something that was brought home and delivered rather than fought for at home.  This distinguishes the history of the British Isles since 1066 from most other locations.

The development of the British regime has at its core the development of the British state.  State-making and war-making are synchronous. (3) The effect on the administration and style of government of the ‘seniority’ of the British Navy, rather than the continental ‘army’-based regimes is considerable.  The sustained coherence of the British ‘officer’ class in delivering ‘successful’ military adventures abroad has, up until recently, been formative for the regime.

I am only intending here to give some broad and general markers or headings of where my research has taken me. The books that have been central are Britons by Linda Colley (4) and The Enchanted Glass by Tom Nairn (5).


(1) This term was developed by Greek French philosopher Castoriades see The Imaginary Institution of Society [IIS] (trans. Kathleen Blamey). MIT Press, Cambridge 1997 [1987]. 432 pp. ISBN 0-262-53155-0. (pb.)

(2) This term was developed in Deleuze and Gattari’s A Thousand Plateaux see Deleuze, Gilles; Guattari, Félix (1993). A Thousand Plateaus. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. pp. 14, 26–38, 135–139, 149–166, 195, 198, 235–236, 240, 241, 259, 390, 534, 539, 559. ISBN 0-8166-1402-4.

(3) See the work of Charles Tilly 

(4) Colley, Linda Britons, Forging the Nation 1707-1837 Yale University Press 1992

(5) Nairn, Tom  The Enchanted Glass, Britain and its monarchy Century Hutchinson 1988

Welcome to Az Theatre’s new website

This is Az Theatre’s new website.  It has been in development for some time and revises the way Az presents itself to the world with a new mission statement and a new simpler way of displaying our activities. We can make better and quicker changes to content through the WordPress system and it links more effectively with our blog. We are deeply grateful to the wonderful Emma Sangster who has seen through these changes. And to our friendly, ethical, super-sensitive service providers Netuxo.

Here’s what’s happening at Az.

In London we are establishing a group of young people who can work with us to make a creative exchange with the group of young people in Gaza that Theatre for Everybody is working with.  Our best chance so far of doing this is working with a group of alumni from the Islington Community Theatre.  This company is now called Company Three.  Find out about it.

Our work with the Islington Centre for Refugees and Migrants has paused over the summer after the climactic closing sessions when we were working on Bob Marley’s epic COMING IN FROM THE COLD.  This followed a wonderful concert on July 3 2016 at the church in Cross Street that the Centre uses as its base.  This presentation featured songs, the lyrics of which were written during Sita Bramachari and Jane Ray’s writing and art classes.  These lyrics were put to music by Romain Malan who runs the singing sessions and they were performed at the event by the singing group from the classes accompanied by the World Harmony Orchestra. This was the World Premiere for these songs and for the Orchestra.  Read about the work at the Centre.

Progress is also ongoing on the various production projects here in the UK.

Meanwhile in Gaza, Theatre for Everybody are preparing for the full production of their new Arabic adaptation of Tolstoy’s War and Peace.  We are working to produce this with Theatre for Everybody.  Zoe Lafferty is working with Az to create the financial and production infrastructure for this challenging project.  You can keep in touch with Theatre for Everybody through Facebook

That’s the latest news from Az Theatre.



Theatre For Everybody and GAZA DRAMA LONG TERM who are they and what is it


Jamal Al Rozzi and Hossam Madhoun are the Directors of Theatre for Everybody with whom Az Theatre have a ten-year (2009-2019) cultural exchange partnership.  The current phase involves working with a group of 18-30 year olds in Gaza on drama and creative writing and the production of an original contemporary stage adaptation of Tolstoy’s War and Peace. Plus a workshop in London of international artists, including Jamal and Hossam.  This will be based on the extract from the meditation by John Donne that begins: ‘No man is an island’ so we are calling this the NO (HU)MAN IS AN ISLAND workshop. (more about this below)


Our exchange partnership is called GAZA DRAMA LONG TERM. It developed from Az Theatre’s WAR STORIES project which worked with companies from Algeria, Palestine, Serbia, Kosovo, Italy and the UK and at theatre festivals in Romania and Turkey from 2002 to 2007, supported by the European Cultural Foundation and the Arts Council England.

It set out to create cultural exchange between artists and audiences in Gaza and London, to break down isolation and cultivate solidarity and to do so through creative work.  It has created a model of participatory production and has refused to seek support from any government organisation.

GAZA DRAMA LONG TERM has generated work in four phases since 2009: GAZA GUERNICA, GAZA: BREATHING SPACE, GAZA OPENING SIGNS and WAR & PEACE: GAZA (PALESTINE)/LONDON (UK).  It has organised numerous public events in the UK some of which have connected live with Gaza through Skype.

It has been supported by financial contributions from 100s of individuals and over 50 UK theatre artists (including Harriet Walter, David Calder, Maggie Steed, Tara Fitzgerald, David Lan, Jennie Stoller, Philip Arditti, Deborah Findlay, Caryl Churchill, Hassan Abdulrazzak and many more) have made creative contributions and appeared in person at our events that have attracted 100s and 100s of audience members.  It has worked with over a hundred young people in Gaza and has explored theatre for those with hearing disability there and in London as well as linking theatre talent in both places.

It has engaged with London venues: Rich Mix, Soho Theatre and the Globe Theatre and has received support from International Committee for Artists Freedom, International Performers Aid Trust, British Shalom Salaam Trust,  Street Theatre Workshop. It has worked alongside Culture and Conflict, the Shake! Community from Platform Arts.

We are looking for a group of young people here in the UK to make an exchange with the young people there who have come together around and activist journalist project: We Are Not Numbers.  And we are looking for funds to do the War and Peace production and the NO (HU)MAN IS AN ISLAND workshop.

The NO (HU)MAN IS AN ISLAND workshop

A six-day workshop bringing together international stage artists with members of the Theatre for Everybody group from Gaza.

This is a key stage in the ten-year GAZA DRAMA LONG TERM project (2009-2019), a cultural exchange partnership between Az Theatre London and Theatre for Everybody Gaza.

The NO (HU)MAN IS AN ISLAND workshop is planned to happen in London in January 2017 and will offer audiences one or two presentations of work created and devised by the 10 participants directed by Jonathan Chadwick.

The aims of the workshop will be to:

Provide a creative interaction for the artists from Gaza, to meet and work with artists from the UK and other regions
Create as wide an access for audiences in the UK to this major international cultural exchange project.
Provide the GAZA DRAMA LONG TERM project partners with the opportunity to develop plans for the closing phase of the project within an inspirational context.
Act as the central event for the artists from Gaza to meet other groups and individuals who have supported the work (International Committee for Artists Freedom, British Shalom Salaam Trust, International Performers Aid Trust)
Work with other institutions and organisations (e.g. University of Manchester IN PLACE OF WAR project, University of Coventry Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations, British Actors Equity, British Arab Centre) to offer a platform for them to share experiences of working, living and creating theatre in Gaza.