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British theatre underwent a vast transformation and expansion in the decades after World War II. This Companion explores the historical, political, and social contexts and conditions that not only allowed it to expand but, crucially, shaped it. Resisting a critical tendency to focus on plays alone, the collection expands understanding of British theatre by illuminating contexts such as funding, unionisation, devolution, immigration, and changes to legislation. Divided into four parts, it guides readers through changing attitudes to theatre-making (acting, directing, writing), theatre sectors (West End, subsidised, Fringe), theatre communities (audiences, Black theatre, queer theatre), and theatre's relationship to the state (government, infrastructure, nationhood). Supplemented by a valuable Chronology and Guide to Further Reading, it presents up-to-date approaches informed by critical race theory, queer studies, audience studies, and archival research to demonstrate important new ways of conceptualising post-war British theatre's history, practices and potential futures.
Stoppard has often distanced himself from his contemporaries and the central stories of British playwriting. When the new playwriting that caught most critical attention was coming from the political left, Stoppard occupied a position on the right. Stoppard has affiliations with a separate tendency in 1950s and 1960s British drama, that of British absurdism. Later in his career, the success of Arcadia, a play of both ideas and emotions, exerted considerable influence on British playwriting.
Chapter 1: This chapter starts by tracing the development of objectivity in both science and theatre through classical and early modern theatre, in which it was a fairly unimportant epistemic virtue, into the late eighteenth century where objectivity begins to emerge through the idealizations of ‘Truth-to-Nature’ in biology and in literary and theatrical Romanticism. Although some conceptions of scientific objectivity and observation treat these as virtuous by the extent to which they rise above personal or historical bias, the practice and theory of both objectivity and observation have changed through history. Drawing on the work of Lorraine Daston and others, the chapter goes on to show that the emergence of modern (‘mechanical’) objectivity, and a new relationship with observation, mark both nineteenth-century science and Naturalist theatre. Making the comparison explains some of the antitheatrical claims of Naturalist authors and the contradictions of Naturalist practice. As nineteenth-century ‘objectivity’ is superseded, so the theatrical figuration of science gravitates towards areas of ambiguity, chaos, and indeterminacy.
In an article published to coincide with Caryl Churchill's seventieth birthday, playwright Mark Ravenhill remarked, 'of all the major forces in British playwriting, I can think of no one else who is regarded with such affection and respect by her peers'. A decade earlier, in an article attempting to discover 'The Playwrights' Playwright', four of the nine writers surveyed chose Churchill as the playwright who most inspired them. Theatre critic David Benedict places her only behind Harold Pinter and David Hare in the public's affections, while Benedict Nightingale considers her 'the most gloriously original, preposterously gifted of all British dramatists'. In 1999, novelist Margaret Forster chose Top Girls as her 'play of the millennium' and more recently actress Sophie Okonedo when asked which living person she most admired chose Caryl Churchill. A sign of the esteem in which she is held may be found in the fact that the Royal Court Theatre, with which she has been associated since 1972, held not one but two seasons of her work in the 2000s. In 2002, to accompany A Number in the main house, Identical Twins, Not Not Not Not Not Enough Oxygen, and This is a Chair were performed in the Theatre Upstairs, alongside readings of Seagulls, Three More Sleepless Nights, Moving Clocks Go Slow and Owners. In 2008, to mark her seventieth birthday, ten playwrights directed staged readings of ten of her plays: Owners, Light Shining in Buckinghamshire, Vinegar Tom, Top Girls, Three More Sleepless Nights, Ice Cream, The Skriker, Blue Heart, Far Away and A Number.
It's always the content of the work that determines everything - which I say over and over again, and I know you don't believe me, but it's true!
Over the past four decades, David Hare has accompanied his work in theatre with a broad spectrum of other kinds of public intervention. These include his early reviews for the theatre magazine Plays and Players in the late 1960s, his plethora of articles and interviews, his contribution to platform discussions, the prefaces to his published plays, his diary on acting and, most distinctively, the virtuoso lectures and speeches that he has given with increasing frequency, in a variety of speaking contexts, since the late 1970s. Without doubt, Hare's public speaking has functioned time and again to reiterate and elaborate his sense of the purpose and ethical value of theatre in changing political contexts; this, in turn, has helped to fashion his stature as public figure and latter-day 'man of letters' in the tradition of Bernard Shaw and John Osborne.
This essay attempts to fathom the relationship between Hare’s playwrighting and his non-theatrical work, exploring how the latter has expressed a unified set of preoccupations about the nature of his theatre’s engagement with historical and contemporary political realities. Our aim is to examine that which is both notable and intriguing about Hare’s numerous commentaries on performance: namely, the sharply anti-theatrical rhetoric that permeates many of his speech acts. Our hypothesis is that Hare’s long-standing commitment to the pure, transparent and direct communication of subject matter in performance has led to his increasing discomfiture with the mediating discourses of theatre and, consequently, to his reification of the lecture format as the preferred mode of public address both on and off the stage.