Rogues & Vagabonds

theatre, film & tv past and present 2001-2008 & 2013…

Stephen Unwin • Theatre Then and Now

Republished from Facebook with the kind permission of its author, the director, writer and teacher Stephen Unwin.

The deaths this year of Bill Gaskill and now Howard Davies have made me think about the theatre they came to stand for. With its roots in the Royal Court of the 1960s and, before that, the Berliner Ensemble of the 1950s, theirs was sometimes seen as a uniquely English kind of ‘poetic realism’. There are very few of that generation still working and it’s a tradition that is fading fast.

There were, of course, individual differences but some things were fundamental: careful story telling and a sense of change; a commitment to the spoken word and the cadences of the language; above all, scrupulous representation of class, power and society. Good casting was fundamental and respect for human scale in design was essential. It was a theatre which saw everyone on stage as equally interesting, and attended to the realities of privilege and labour, authority and exclusion, culture and background, with wit and affection, but also real seriousness.

Inevitably, it didn’t engage with some of the questions that face us today—above all, race, gender and disability—but it was interested in economic and social injustice, and brought that political commitment to productions of the classics as much as to new work. And so it’s a mistake, I think, to overlook just how progressive the best of this work was, how thoughtful it was, how engaged it was in the possibility of change, and how much it dreamt of a ‘better world than this’.

Brecht was, of course, the biggest influence. Fighting the charge that he was a ‘formalist’, he quipped that the real formalists were those who insisted on only one form; but he also joked that the Nuremberg rallies were ‘impressive theatre,’ and his formal innovations were always tied to his wider concerns. Theatrical fashions change, and new engagements with new kinds of problems—and, especially, new audiences—are inspiring. But we should be careful not to mistake new form for new content, or imagine that stylistic innovations are always accompanied by progressive thinking. History shows us that they don’t necessarily travel in the same direction. Just look at Donald Trump.

© Stephen Unwin

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

The Secret Barrister

Independent Blogger of the Year, The Comment Awards 2016 & 2017

Heritage Calling

A Historic England Blog

British Pathé

Updates from the Archive on WordPress

Homeless up north

My experiences of my time sleeping rough on the streets of North east England

Free Vintage Illustrations

Free full-color vintage illustrations in the public domain! Curated from postcards, books, ads, and more antique media from the 19th to early 20th-century.

Disappointed Idealist

Ranting from the chalkface

Notes from the U.K.

Exploring the spidery corners of a culture and the weird stuff that tourist brochures ignore.

Rethinking Life

Art and the philosophy of life

Edinburgh Eye

Equality, cats, and tea.

Silver Screenings

Ruth's Old Movie Reviews

Music Hall Alice

All things Music Hall...

Those Who Will Not Be Drowned

Mainly about history.

Country Woman Paints @ Country Woman Studio

💙I moved to my new site. Link is below! Please come say hello

rebel notes

david rosenberg

Colossal

theatre, film & tv past and present 2001-2008 & 2013...

The Immortal Jukebox

A Blog about Music and Popular Culture

Ace World & Blogger News

This site has been designed to provide reports together with news events as they happen when they happen across the world of bloggers and news sites

Dave Plummer Saxophonist

Wedding & Events Saxophonist - Isle of Wight & Hampshire

writerchristophfischer

Books, Reviews and bookish thoughts

Mallory James

Writer - Author - Historian

Iris Theatre

Supporting the next generation of professional theatre practitioners

thekeystonegirlblogs

The site for 'Madcap Mabel' - Mabel Normand

AADD-UK

The site for and by adults with ADHD

Scandalous Women

theatre, film & tv past and present 2001-2008 & 2013...

FRENCH PAINTERS

theatre, film & tv past and present 2001-2008 & 2013...

VINTAGE PHOTOGRAPHY

theatre, film & tv past and present 2001-2008 & 2013...

ART BLOG

theatre, film & tv past and present 2001-2008 & 2013...

Woman the fuck up

Hear me roar. Writer, mother, actress, maker of beautiful things, witch. Not taking any more shit and neither should you.

solentaviatrix

Dedicated to Women Pilots of the Solent

Improbability Archivist

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams, Doctor Who,

WCH On This Day

Working Class History anniversaries every day

janetbotanics

Yoga classes and aromatherapy products in Andalusia, Spain.

1stangel.co.uk/loisbryanphotography/

LOIS BRYAN Photography and Digital Art

History And Other Thoughts

theatre, film & tv past and present 2001-2008 & 2013...

THE VIRTUAL VICTORIAN

theatre, film & tv past and present 2001-2008 & 2013...

Catherine Meyrick

Historical Fiction with a touch of Romance

Lucy Brazier

Writer, Author & Maker of Mischief

juxtaposed

Subject to change.

%d bloggers like this: