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Book Reviews aspontaneous flexibility. never wasted a moment, criticised endlessly. ruthlessly. but kindly. was endlessly patient and demanding, with a very occasional word of praise which would alleviate one's despair in living up to the all-around perfection which he sought. Barker once wrote that only "from a study of the craft [of theatrical art] will a right understanding of art emerge." These four valuable works offer a thorough resource for study of the art of Harley Granville Barker and should inspire what Barker himself considered an essential understanding of the craft, as wel1 as the art, of the theatre. JAMES FISHER, WABASH COLLEGE PHILlPROBERTS. The Royal Court Theatre. 1965-1972. New York: Routledge & Kegan Paul 1986. Pp. X, 192, illustrated. $39.95; $18.95 (PB). The English Stage Company burst into prominence in the mid-I950S with the "angry youngman" dramas bestexemplified by John Osborne's Look Back in Anger. Under the guidance of George Devine. the ESC regenerated and redirected contemporary British drama. Philip Roberts's history of the ESC at the Royal Court Theatre between 1965, the year of Wil1iarn GaskiU's appointment as Artistic Director, and 1972, the year of Gaskill'sresignation under fire. is a well-documented and fascinating behind-the-scenes view of this unique and long-running specialist production organization. Roberts chronicles the struggles of the theatre, iHuminating its strong commitment to new plays. Gaskill. as well as Anthony Page and Lindsay Anderson (who fanned a triumvirate with Gaskill between 1969 and 1972) weathered battles with censors and critics, as well as periodic acrimonious internal conflicts and unfavorable comparisons with the preceeding "golden age" of Devine (1956- 1965). Many of the ESC's problems in this period stemmed from a widely perceived lack of a distinct and clearly articulated policy. But in his introduction Roberts quotes director Michael Blakemore who astutely recognized that "the policy of a theatre is dictated less by statements of intent, no matter how complex or considered, than by those day-ta-day crises that arrive on someone'S desk at eleven in the morning demanding a solution by three in the afternoon" (p. I). Roberts cogently follows not only the backstage day-to-day work of the company and critical response to its operation, but also offers revealing analyses of several of the most significant plays·produced by the company. Whole chapters are devoted to the most controversial and representative of the ESC's productions, and it is perhaps not surprising that Roberts's investigation of Edward Bond's Saved, produced at the Royal Court in 1965. proves the most tantalizing (Roberts wrote the excellent Methuen study of Bond's plays, BOlld 011 File) in both its production and censorship problems. T.he language and violence of the plays generated a critical furor that was intensely hostile ("this reVOlting and distasteful play," "a concocted opportunity for vicarious beastli- lBook Reviews ness," "patently designed with DO P~ above mere titillation" [po 29]), and divided its audience's reactions, as one flf. st-nigbter remembered: I've always felt the stories of the opening ofIbsen'5 Ghosts and the first perfonnance of Stravinsky's The Rite ofSpring to be exaggerated romance justified by theatrical license. That night at the Royal Court I came to believe their veracity. There was verbal intenuption and abuse in the cawse of the play, and there was the odd physical punch-up in the foyers at the interval and afterwards. The cause was in particular the scene in which the baby was stoned to death ... (p. 40). Roberts notes, with some irony. the radical change in standards of the intervening twenty years. When Saved was revived in 1984 it was well received and the "tone of the reviews ranged from the respectful to the adulatory" (P.29). In other chapters Roberts deals in depth with productions that similarly aroused controversy on political, moral, and aesthetic grounds. With the appearance of Saved, and continuing with the rare production of D .H. Lawrence's The Daughter·in·Law in 1967, David Storey's The Changing Room in 1971 , and Howard Brenton's Magnificence in '973 (all explored in individual chapters), the ESC almost singlchandedly fought the necessary...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5286
Print ISSN
0026-7694
Pages
pp. 468-470
Launched on MUSE
2013-07-03
Open Access
No
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