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The Making of Theatrical Reputations

Studies from the Modern London Theatre

Yael Zarhy-Levo

Publication Year: 2008

Today’s successful plays and playwrights achieve their prominence not simply because of their intrinsic merit but because of the work of mediators, who influence the whole trajectory of a playwright’s or a theatre company’s career. Critics and academic writers are primarily considered the makers of reputations, but funding organizations and various media agents as well as artistic directors, producers, and directors also pursue separate agendas in shaping the reputations of theatrical works. In The Making of Theatrical Reputations Yael Zarhy-Levo demonstrates the processes through which these mediatory practices by key authority figures situate theatrical companies and playwrights within cultural and historical memory.

To reveal how these authorizing powers-that-be promote theatrical events, companies, and playwrights, Zarhy-Levo presents four detailed case studies that reflect various angles of the modern London theatre. In the case of the English Stage Company’s production of John Osborne’s Look Back in Anger, she centers on a specific event. She then focuses on the trajectory of a single company, the Theatre Workshop, particularly through its first decade at the Theatre Royal, Stratford East, London. Next, she explores the career of the dramatist John Arden, especially its first ten years, in part drawing upon an interview with Arden and his wife, actress and playwright Margaretta D’Arcy, before turning to her fourth study: the playwright Harold Pinter’s shifting reputation throughout the different phases of his career.

Published by: University of Iowa Press

Contents

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pp. viii-

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Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-x

Through the long process entailed in working on this project, in which I have aspired to study an era, locale, and culture somewhat distant and different from my own, I have relied on the help and friendship of many people, to all of whom I am indebted. First and foremost, my deepest gratitude to Tom Postlewait, the series editor, for his invaluable advice and enriching intellectual guidance, as ...

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Introduction

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pp. 1-14

When I began thinking about the puzzling oscillations in the theatrical reputations of specific events, theatre companies, and individual playwrights reflected in various studies of the modern London theatre, Pierre Bourdieu’s intriguing question served as my cue. Who are the figures—individuals or organizations—that authorize theatre companies or playwrights and influence their position on the cultural map? What are the strategies employed by these figures to endow the theatrical work with value and to make it more accessible to audiences...

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Convergent Forces: The English Stage Company and Look Back in Anger

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pp. 15-62

One thing emerges consistently in any study of British theatre in the 1950s: the English Stage Company’s unique role in inaugurating a new era in British theatre. This perception is closely bound up with the claim that the third play performed by this company, John Osborne’s Look Back in Anger, marked a turning point in the evolution of British theatre, a judgment which explains the metaphors that are so frequently invoked to describe the event: watershed, landmark, ground-breaking intervention, turnabout or turning point, renaissance, key-date...

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Divergent Forces: Theatre Workshop

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pp. 63-118

The turns in the theatrical reputation of Theatre Workshop during its active years, as well as the shift in scholarly assessment of the company in the decades following its demise, present an intriguing case. This chapter explores the processes of mediation that shaped Theatre Workshop’s reputation, centering on its first decade in the Theatre Royal at Stratford East, London. Given that its policy and objectives reflected its origins and evolution during the years preceding the company’s move to Stratford East, a brief review of this early history is necessary...

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John Arden: The Playwright Who Wouldn’t Play Ball

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pp. 119-160

John Arden’s early plays are associated with the postwar London theatre, but even early in his career Arden had become involved with fringe and regional activities, eventually shifting the center of his activities outside of London. From the second decade of his career, he wrote most of his plays in collaboration with his wife, the actress and playwright Margaretta D’Arcy. 2 There are puzzling turns in Arden’s career...

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Harold Pinter: Who Controls the Playwright’s Image?

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pp. 161-208

One of the many awards bestowed on Harold Pinter was for his play Betrayal, which won the 1979 Play of the Year award from the Society of West End Theatre. At the ceremony the playwright began his acceptance speech by saying, “I am very surprised. No more, I suppose, than Michael Billington.”3 The audience, startled at first, laughed. Michael Billington—a great advocate of the dramatist and eventually his biographer—had written a harsh review of Betrayal in 1978. Pinter’s barb on such a public occasion was no accident...

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Conclusion

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pp. 209-220

In his memoirs, Oscar Lewenstein recalls that when he suggested George Devine for the post of the first artistic director of the English Stage Company, he presented him as belonging to the “central magic circle.” Lewenstein meant by this that Devine was a practical man of the theatre, familiar with and experienced in the London theatre—an insider— unlike the other members of the board of the newly founded company, who were outsiders...

Notes

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pp. 221-256

Bibliography

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pp. 257-278

Index

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pp. 279-292


E-ISBN-13: 9781587297793
E-ISBN-10: 1587297795
Print-ISBN-13: 9781587296260
Print-ISBN-10: 1587296268

Page Count: 304
Publication Year: 2008

Edition: 1
Series Title: Studies Theatre Hist & Culture

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Subject Headings

  • Theater -- England -- London -- History -- 20th century.
  • Dramatic criticism -- England -- London -- 20th century.
  • Theater critics -- England -- London -- 20th century.
  • Theater -- Production and direction -- England -- London -- 20th century.
  • English drama -- Appreciation -- England -- London.
  • Arden, John -- Criticism and interpretation -- History.
  • Pinter, Harold, 1930-2008 -- Criticism and interpretation -- History.
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