by Robert Leach - £22.00 University of Exeter Press (2006)
paperback ISBN 13: 9780859897600 | ISBN 10: 0859897605
This book is the first in-depth study of Theatre Workshop, perhaps Britain's most influential twentieth-century theatre company. The book sets the company's aims and achievements in their social, political and theatrical contexts, and explores the elements which made its success so important.
Robert Leach has provided the definitive account in this full-length study of Theatre Workshop and the methods of its director from 1945 to 1965, Joan Littlewood. His book provides the historical and political context needed by theatre studies students (both school and university), who frequently encounter Oh What a Lovely War as part of their courses. It is the first critical analysis of the work of Joan Littlewood, Ewan MacColl and Theatre Workshop, including its unique actor training programmes. A book that has been waiting to be written, from a uniquely qualified author...
Theatre Workshop is a burning issue in the study of political theatre. It answers the questions 'Who was Joan Littlewood? Why was she so famous? What was Theatre Workshop?' 'The most exciting theatre company I have ever seen,' according to Sam Wanamaker. Theatre Workshop, heir to the Workers Theatre Movement of the 1930s, was born in the optimism of post-war Labour Britain; highly politically motivated, the company attempted to create radical political theatre which it aimed to take directly to working class communities.
In the course of its political mission, and to further its own appeal, the company were the first British group systematically to apply the ideas of Stanislavsky and Laban to their acting practice. They created a form of fluid, Expressionist-style drama seen especially in the plays of Ewan MacColl, Shelagh Delaney and Brendan Behan, and perhaps most famously in the company's Oh What a Lovely War.
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