Post-War Theatre: Some Contemporary Currents

  • Tim Brassell


Before turning to Stoppard’s plays, and in particular to his first major achievement, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, it is important to establish, in broad terms, the nature of the theatre which he entered with such a flourish. According to the critical orthodoxy established by John Russell Taylor, the London opening of Rosencrantz in April 1967 came some eleven years after the revolutionary impact of Osborne’s Look Back in Anger, but the West End bill of fare at that time shows scant evidence of this new theatrical age, offering a wide array of musicals (Hello Dolly, Fiddler on the Roof, Oliver, Charlie Girl, etc.), two ‘classics’ (The Rivals with Ralph Richardson at the Haymarket, The Three Sisters at the Royal Court), two twentieth-century British revivals (Shaw’s Getting Married and Coward’s Fallen Angels) and just three new plays: John Mortimer’s The Judge at the Cambridge, Joe Orton’s second great success, Loot, at the Criterion (Entertaining Mr Sloane was his first, in 1964) and Relatively Speaking, Alan Ayckbourn’s West End debut, at the Duke of York’s. Although the prime goal of many of the new writers since the late 1950s has no longer been the performance of their plays on the stages of the West End, this unquestionably represents a poor showing. Only the mild outrageousness of subject matter of Loot (in its satirical treatment of death) and The Judge (a discreet tale of prostitution) distinguishes the list from what might have been found in the early’50s. Furthermore, it is barely different from a typical West End billing of the early ’80s!


Native Tradition Poor Showing European Theatre Fourth Wall Revolutionary Theatre 
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© Tim Brassell 1985

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  • Tim Brassell

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