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9 - The Court Theatre

from PART II - THEATRE

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 October 2015

Sos Eltis
Affiliation:
Brasenose College, Oxford
Brad Kent
Affiliation:
Université Laval, Québec
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Summary

On 7 July 1907 a dinner was held at the Criterion restaurant in London to celebrate three successful seasons of avant-garde repertory at the Court Theatre under the artistic direction of Harley Granville Barker and the financial management of J. E. Vedrenne. In his speech, Barker praised Shaw as ‘an inspiration’, first among the theatre's authors, adding that ‘I might call him the goose that has laid the golden eggs, if I could not find another more suitable metaphor by thinking of him as our Ugly Duckling’. Shaw's drama had indeed been the foundation stone of the Court's repertoire: 701 of the 988 performances staged over the three years it ran, from 1904 to 1907, were of Shaw's plays, including 149 performances of You Never Can Tell, 121 of John Bull's Other Island, and 176 of Man and Superman. His plays crucially enabled the seasons to run at a small profit, a position that Shaw happily accepted, writing to Eleanor Robson in August 1905 of the theatre's financial position that ‘nothing they have done has paid except my plays. By the help of my plays & the guarantee they carry they are able to give matinées of good plays which give the theatre its standing as the artistic and intellectual London theatre; but these matinées barely pay expenses at best; and without my support the enterprise must collapse’ (CL II: 550). As Barker declared with justified pride, the Court seasons also saw Shaw's emergence as ‘the Swan of Adelphi Terrace’, a popular and admired playwright whose plays were finally recognised as even more effective and entertaining on stage than they were in print.

The Court's repertory of new plays and translations by British and European playwrights was the brainchild of Barker, and the realisation of ideas he had first developed in a letter to theatre critic William Archer in 1903. Private theatre societies, such as J. T. Grein's Independent Theatre, Archer's New Century Theatre, and, above all, the Stage Society, had done crucial work in staging plays not attempted by West End managers, including radical works that had been refused a public performance licence, of which they offered matinée performances to private subscription audiences.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2015

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References

‘The Complimentary Dinner to Mr. J. E. Vedrenne and Mr. H. Granville Barker: A Transcript of the Proceedings’, The Shaw Review Vol. 2, No. 8 (May, 1959): 17–34.
Kennedy, Dennis. Granville Barker and the Dream of Theatre. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985.Google Scholar
MacCarthy, Desmond. The Court Theatre 1904-1907: A Commentary and Criticism. London: A.H. Bullen, 1907.Google Scholar
Purdom, C. B.Bernard Shaw's Letters to Granville Barker. London: Phoenix House, 1956.Google Scholar
Salmon, Eric, ed. Granville Barker and his Correspondents: a selection of letters by him and to him. Detroit, MI: Wayne State University Press, 1986.Google Scholar
Woodfield, James. English Theatre in Transition, 1881-1914. London: Croom Helm, 1984.Google Scholar

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  • The Court Theatre
  • Edited by Brad Kent, Université Laval, Québec
  • Book: George Bernard Shaw in Context
  • Online publication: 05 October 2015
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781107239081.011
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  • The Court Theatre
  • Edited by Brad Kent, Université Laval, Québec
  • Book: George Bernard Shaw in Context
  • Online publication: 05 October 2015
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781107239081.011
Available formats
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Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

  • The Court Theatre
  • Edited by Brad Kent, Université Laval, Québec
  • Book: George Bernard Shaw in Context
  • Online publication: 05 October 2015
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781107239081.011
Available formats
×