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Thatcher's Theatre — or, After ‘Equus’

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  15 January 2009


A dozen years after the political and theatrical watershed of 1956 came those further shifts in social thinking of 1968. which were also reflected in major changes on the theatrical scene. Another twelve years on, any theatre people who were expecting such a collision of events in 1980 appeared to be waiting in vain. Yet, in retrospect, the impact of that first full year of a new kind of Conservative government can be seen as no less decisive, though its effects on the theatrical scene are only now beginning to make a kind of negative sense. Here, Vera Gottlieb argues that the tone of ‘Thatcher's theatre’ was already being set by such earlier plays as Peter Shaffer's Equus, in which she detects both the despair of rational solutions and the willing subjection to supposedly implacable forces that have since become characteristic of our national theatre as of our national mood. Vera Gottlieb. who is Principal Lecturer in Drama at Goldsmiths’ College. University of London, is the author of Chekhov and the Vaudeville (Cambridge, 1982), is presently collaborating with Peter Holland on a study of Stanislavsky as director, and has been co-author and director of Red Earth (Hampstead, 1985) and Waterloo Road (Young Vic Studio. 1987).

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1988

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Notes and References

1. Ford, Christopher, ‘The Equus Stampede, The Guardian, 20 04 1976Google Scholar.

2. Simon, John, New York Magazine, 11 11 1974, p. 118Google Scholar, quoted in File on Shaffer, compiled by Cooke, Virginia and Page, Malcolm (Methuen, 1987), p. 56Google Scholar.

3. Sanford Gifford, ‘Psychoanalyst Says Nay to Equus’, File on Shaffer, p. 55.

4. Brecht, Bertolt, ‘Speech to Danish Working-Class Actors on the Art of Observation’, in Brecht, Poems: Part Three, 1938–1956, ed. Willett, and Manheim, (Methuen, 1976), III, p. 235Google Scholar.

5. Churchill, Caryl, in Theatre Quarterly, Vol. VI, No. 24 (1976), p. 40Google Scholar. Also see Trevor Griffiths's response in the same discussion.

6. Billington, Michael, The Guardian, 1 12 1986Google Scholar.

7. See Chambers, Colin and Prior, Mike, Playwrightś Progress: Patterns of Postwar British Drama (Amber Lane Press, 1987), p. 82Google Scholar.

8. Edgar, David, in Theatre Quarterly, Vol. VIII, No. 32 (1979), p. 28Google Scholar, quoting ‘Grant Aid and Political Theatre’, in Wedge, Summer 1977.

9. Faust, Wolfgang Max, in Wolkenkratzer, Art Journal, Frankfurt (Main), No. 3 (1987); Wozu noch Theater?, p. 42Google Scholar.

10. Brecht, , ‘Can the Present-Day World be Reproduced by Means of Theatre? (1955), in Brecht on Theatre, trans. Willett, John (New York, 1964), p. 274Google Scholar.