Theatre in Wales

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Looking Back on Theatre History

Theatre History Book

A Selection , Theatre in Wales and World , August 12, 2021
Theatre History Book by A Selection At the turn of the century young people could study and learn theology and drama in universities. One of television's most popular policemen is a graduate in theology. No more; departments of theology and drama moved to becoming religious studies and theatre studies.

There was a gain to both. A geographical limitation was removed; scholarly eyes looked more broadly at the world. And there was a loss. To make a claim to write about art with authority needs a few things. The experience is aesthetic, its effect physiological and psychological. To travel with little knowledge of them is of no advantage.

And history. History was largely done away with, criticism beginning with Walter Benjamin rather than Aristotle or Longinus. But history is implicit in theatre in the same way it is in an individual. Each re-working on a stage is, in a small way, an act of self-consciousness of what has played out in other times and other places.

Gombrich caught it nicely in his essay “Meditations on a Hobby Horse”:

“For that strange precinct we call “art” is like a hall full of mirrors or a whispering gallery. Each form conjures up a thousand memories and after-images. No sooner is an image presented as art, than by this very act, a new frame of reference is created which it cannot escape.”

Art is the refutation of time. Things have changed since 429 BCE when Sophocles made second place at a festival with “Oedipus Rex”. A little known nephew of Aeschylus was the winner. But some things are unchanged. It is the art of contested purpose. Charmian Savill in the current Planet: “Theatre is not our friend: it is a cruel vessel, exposing our fault-lines.” Psychologically, to be made aware of duality makes for wholeness over singularity of perception.

From the books below a few bits of spice:

Darren Henley: “I don't understand the distinction some make between “great” and “popular” he writes. ”There are works of art that are ahead of their time, but few artists have striven not to be read, or to have their work leave people untouched. The greatest art is the most human. Given time, it will always reach its audience.”

Lee Hall: “Accessible”is a lie perpetrated by those who want to sell us shit. Culture is something we share and we are all the poorer for anyone excluded from it.”

Peter Bazalgette’s first speech as Arts Council Chair. “The arts create shared experiences that move us to laughter or to tears.”

A trio from Michael Billington: “To create a separate area of theatre that is primarily “visual”, and to endow it with a sanctified purity as many as its apologists do, is simply to create a meaningless ghetto. And it is essentially conservative.”

Theatre: “a public service to be interpreted, evaluated, and fought for with whatever critical passion one can muster.”

“Critics are haunted, solitary theatre-nuts who cannot be willed into existence by editorial magic.”

John Major: “The flops, the let-downs, the days without work, the lash of critical opinion. It was not until years later, with the political critics poised, invective flowing and the national audience restive, that I fully understood all the emotions that had been so familiar to them.”

20 November 2020 “100 Years of the Labour Party and the Arts”

05 November 2020 “A Dirty Broth” J O Francis, Caradoc Evans.

30 October 2020 Nicholas Ridout “Theatre and Ethics”

18 December 2018 Christopher B Balme “The Cambridge Introduction to Theatre Studies”

20 November 2018 Darren Henley “The Arts Dividend”

28 February 2018 Alan Phillips “the Cinemas of West Wales”

28 November 2017 P H Burton “Granton Street”

25 October 2017 Mary Owen “J O Francis”

13 November 2015 Angela V John “the Actors' Crucible”

10 December 2012 John Major “My Old Man”

20 August 2011 Sheridan Morley “Theatre's Strangest Acts”

29 December 2010 Benedict Nightingale “An Introduction to 50 Modern British Plays

27 December 2010 Benedict Nightingale “An Introduction to 50 Modern British Plays

01 December 2010 Michael Billington “One Night Stands”

01 October 2010 Nadine Holdsworth- “Theatre and Nation”

29 August 2010 Michael Billington “One Night Stands”

01 August 2010 Kenneth Tynan “Theatre Writings”

10 August 2009 Robert Brustein “Theatre of Revolt”

06 April 2009 Robert Brustein “Seasons of Discontent”

05 April 2009 Robert Brustein “Seasons of Discontent”

17 December 2007 Michael Billington “State of the Nation”

16 December 2007 Michael Billington “State of the Nation”

15 December 2007 Michael Billington “State of the Nation”

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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