Theatre

Youth Without God

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A prolific playwright, Ödön von Horváth wrote his first novel Youth Without God in 1938, a year before his death. He remained in Germany for a few years after the Nazis gained power, but was a fierce anti-Nazi. Von Horváth had been involved in street fights with the fascists and at various times was in critical dialogue with the German Communist Party (KPD).

Interview: A Haunted Existence

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In 1954 Geoffrey Patrick Williamson was arrested after approaching a fellow train passenger, who was in fact a policeman. On arrest, Williamson gave the names of men he had been sexually involved with, resulting in a spate of prosecutions in Taunton. Theatremaker Tom Marshman talked to Michael Dance about his new show, A Haunted Existence, which explores the story.

Why did you want to focus on the 1950s, a really dark period in British history for LGBT+ people?

The main reason was that I heard the story of Geoffrey Patrick Williamson at an LGBT history conference and I was just so intrigued to know really what happened. I was curious to know about all these men and the witch-hunt that seemed to be alluded to. A lot of my work is involved in exploring different histories and hidden histories.

Top Girls

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Caryl Churchill’s Top Girls, set in 1980s Britain, three years after Thatcher came to power, is a play of binaries. The first two acts uncover the rampant competition and disregard some women have for one another in a world where monetarism and individualism are rife.

Richard II

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This production of Shakespeare’s history play is entirely produced, directed and performed by non-white women — a first for a production on a major British stage. The costumes, set and music are non-specific, sometimes African, Arabic or Indian. Around the theatre are banners made from photos of the cast’s ancestors from across the world.

The play concerns the emerging national identity and it is fascinating how different the many references to gender and race come across with this cast, raising a new commentary about their original meaning.

Scottish theatre’s modern renaissance

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Mark Brown, author of Modernism and Scottish Theatre Since 1969, gives the run down on how Scotland’s particular kind of Reformation stunted the development of dramatic writing for centuries, not really recovering until the early 1900s.

To talk about Scottish theatre in the late 20th and early 21st centuries we must, paradoxically, start in the 16th century. For it was then, amid the ferocious indignation and granite moral certainties of the Calvinist Reformation, that a new course was set for Scottish society and culture.

In the case of theatre, it meant no course at all. For the virulent Protestant reformer John Knox and his fellow Calvinists, the theatre was a cesspit of godless recreation. Consequently, as the roofs were ripped from the Catholic abbeys, the theatres, too, were closed down.

Interview: Women of Aktion

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In this new production by Bent Architect, the stories of revolutionary women who helped bring about the end of the First World War are explored through an imagined collaboration between radical theatre maker Joan Littlewood and German revolutionary playwright Ernst Toller. Socialist Review spoke to the play’s writer and co-director (with Jude Wright), Mick Martin.

What led you to look at women’s stories from the German Revolution?

Professor Ingrid Sharp from Leeds University came to see our 2014 play England, Arise! about the Huddersfield socialist conscientious objectors in the First World War, and she loved it. Her specialist areas of interest are the German anti-war movement and women’s history. She said that the German anti-war movement has not really been looked into, and that German historians tend not to be as focused on women’s history as is the case here.

Every Day I Make Greatness Happen

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Having spent 20 years teaching, I thought that going to see a play about education might be a bit of a busman’s holiday. I was also worried that it might be rather like one of those programmes on television about schools that are so unrealistic as to distract anyone with any knowledge of what happens there. I need not have worried. This excellent and well observed play by Richard Molloy is realistic to the point of painfulness. The frustration, the hope, the joy of what it is like to work or study in the contemporary education system is beautifully shown.

Political theatre returns

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La Maladie de la Mort (The Malady of Death), based upon Marguerite Duras’s 1982 novella (which was, famously, written in the depths of the author’s alcoholism), was one of the highlights of last month’s Edinburgh International Festival. Staged for the leading French company Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord by acclaimed English director Katie Mitchell, it is an atmospheric and discomfiting hour of theatre.

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