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Changing Performance

Culture and Performance in the British Theatre since 1945


David Keith Peacock

This book examines changes in performance practice in mainstream British theatre since 1945 which focus on the attempt by directors and companies to replace the realism of inter-war theatre with more physically and vocally expressive acting and ensemble approach to production processes. The aim was to replace the capitalist line-management approach of the commercial theatre with a more democratic collaborative structure that would encourage contribution to the creation of the performance text by the director, writer, actors, designers and technicians. Theatre is viewed as a mode of socio-cultural practice and its evolution in Britain during the second half of the twentieth century is explored in the context of changes in cultural perception, state subsidy, the social status of theatre, technology, and aesthetic influences from abroad. The study focuses not on dramatic texts but on mainstream productions that represent stages in an aesthetic evolution. They include Terence Rattigan’s The Browning Version (1946); Theatre Workshop’s A Taste of Honey (1958) and Oh What a Lovely War (1963); The Royal Shakespeare Company’s The Caucasian Chalk Circle (1962), The Wars of the Roses (1963), The Theatre of Cruelty Laboratory (1964), The Marat-Sade (1964) and US (1966); Steven Berkoff’s Metamorphosis (1969) and Complicite’s The Three Lives of Lucy Cabrol (1994).
Contents: Performance Aesthetics: The Introduction – The Post-War Years: Illustration of the realist theatre between 1945 and 1956 – Joan Littlewood and Theatre Workshop: a discussion of performance aesthetics – The Royal Shakespeare Company 1960-1964: the ensemble work of a permanent company and an Ensemble – Body and Sensation: Peter Brook’s non-naturalistic production approaches – Physical Theatre: its development in Britain from the late 1960s to the mid-1990s – An afterword that describes the pattern of evolution that has emerged from the study.