What is religious drama?

This was the question posed by E Martin Browne, the Society’s second President and the first director of all T S Eliot’s plays:

‘What is the scope of Christian drama? Is it to be confined to “religious” subjects, the Bible, lives of saints and the theological implications of life and death? Or is it to range the world of human relationships with the transforming mind of the Christ-centred writer?’

Perhaps the most common response to such a question would be “plays about religion” or,  more specifically, “dramatizations of the Bible”. This kind of religious drama certainly has an important place, whether in church or street or television. It has a long history in this country, from medieval times when audiences shared in the faith played out before them, up to the present when it may be strange to many people. The 20th century revival of religious drama was inspired by the need to represent the old stories in fresh ways and contemporary language.

Exploring Faith through Drama

However there is another kind of religious drama which explores faith itself, through plays which may not explicitly mention religion but ask more open-ended questions about the meaning of our lives. They have been described as not so much “faith-based drama” as “faith-inquisitive drama”.  They can be located widely in time and space – or even beyond – exploring social, ethical and spiritual themes. Often they leave the end open for audiences to make up their own minds – sometimes to reach conclusions they did not expect.

Plays available from Radius, and those specifically commissioned and written for Radius, include both faith-based stories told from new perspectives and stories that “illuminate the human condition”, to quote again from Martin Browne.