Essays on Politics and Literature

By Bernard Crick | Go to book overview

Two
The Political in Britain's Two National Theatres

From James Redmond, editor, Drama and Society ( Cambridge University Press, 1981).

The Royal Shakespeare Company, in its theatres at London and Stratford, meets the obligations of a National Theatre as comprehensively as does that national theatre on the South Bank of the Thames. These obligations were formulated in the National Theatre Committee Handbook of 1909:
i. to keep the plays of Shakespeare in repertoire
ii. to revive whatever else is vital in English classical drama
iii. to prevent recent plays of great merit from falling into oblivion
iv. to produce new plays and to further the development of modern drama
v. to produce translations of representative works of foreign drama, ancient and modern
vi. to stimulate the art of acting through the varied opportunities which it will offer to members of the company.

In considering the intricate relationships between drama and society in Britain in the 1970s, we will naturally regard with special interest the ways in which these heavily subsidised national institutions treat political issues.

I write as a political philosopher who happens to be an addicted theatregoer. I have reviewed some of the plays discussed here, but in conditions of relative leisure. 1 Unlike newspaper reviewers, therefore, I have always been able to read the text or acting script (after the performance, on principle and also to preserve the basic dramatic joy of surprise). And unlike most literary critics, I shall limit myself here to a discussion of specific productions. The choice of plays may therefore seem rather random, but the procedure has some advantages. It should reveal how our national companies perceive politics in plays in general, rather than in the specifically 'political' theatre, or in drama of 'commitment'. One of

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Essays on Politics and Literature
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vi
  • Acknowledgements viii
  • Foreword ix
  • One - Literature and Politics 1
  • Two - The Political in Britain's Two National Theatres 20
  • Notes 47
  • Three - Young Writers of the Thirties 48
  • Four - Koestler's Koestler 62
  • Five - Hannah Arendt: Hedgehog or Fox? 72
  • Six - Beatrice Webb as English Diarist 78
  • Seven - Words 85
  • Notes 92
  • Eight - My LSE 93
  • Nine - Reading The Observer as a complex text 106
  • Notes 116
  • Ten - On the Difficulties of Writing Biography in? General and of Orwell's in particular 117
  • Eleven - Reading Nineteen Eighty-Four As Satire 133
  • Notes 163
  • Twelve - Animal Farm For Schools 166
  • Thirteen - Orwell and English Socialism 192
  • Notes 207
  • Fourteen - On the Orwell Trail 209
  • Notes 224
  • Fifteen - Wedekind's 'Spring Awakening' 225
  • Sixteen - Horvath's 'Tales From the Vienna Woods' 231
  • Seventeen - Pinter's 'No Man's Land' 239
  • Eighteen - Polly By Gaslight 245
  • Nineteen - David Edgar Catches Peter Jenkins' Ear at the Barbican 251
  • Twenty - Barrault at the Barbican 254
  • Index 257
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