Essays on Politics and Literature

By Bernard Crick | Go to book overview

Fifteen
Wedekind's 'Spring Awakening'

From the Times Higher Education Supplement, 21 June 1974.

WENDLA: Why have you made my dress so long, mother?

FRAU BERGMANN: You're fourteen today.

WENDLA: I'd rather not have been fourteen, if I'd known you'd make my dress so long.

FRAU BERGMANN: Your dress isn't too long, Wendla.

What next. Can I help it if my child is four inches taller every spring? A grown child can't still go around dressed like a little princess.

If I were Ronald Butt, the good Lord Longford or Mrs Mary Whitehouse, I would be out there picketing the National Theatre Company for staging the first uncut version in English of Frank Wedekind's Spring Awakening. For it is surely the worst thing that has happened, from their point of view, since the abolition of censorship in the British theatre.

The English Stage Society gave it two Sunday club performances in 1963 in Tom Osborn's translation, and after two years of negotiations the Lord Chamberlain granted it a licence for public performance on condition that 'there was no kissing, embracing or caressing' between two schoolboys in the vineyard scene, nor use of the words 'penis' or 'vagina', and that an alternative was found to a scene of group masturbation in a boys' reformatory -- one wonders that he allowed the girl's death at the hands of an abortionist (but, after all, it was tactfully off-stage and she did die). At that time, in 1965, the National Theatre turned it down -- a spokesman is said to have said, 'all right for some poky experimental theatre in Sloane Square' (not mentioned in its otherwise totally emancipated programme notes); but now they have made great amends to a great play, and in a new translation by Edward Bond.

By dragging up the ghost of the Lord Chamberlain, I have contrived to mention every superficial aspect of the play which attracts both the censorious and the half-liberated salacious. In

-225-

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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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