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Joan Littlewood and the People's Theatre

Rain Dog 10 May 16 - 06:35 AM
MGM·Lion 10 May 16 - 01:18 PM
punkfolkrocker 10 May 16 - 01:42 PM
MGM·Lion 10 May 16 - 02:39 PM
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Subject: Joan Littlewood and the People's Theatre
From: Rain Dog
Date: 10 May 16 - 06:35 AM

BBC Radio 4 Extra repeated this programme on Saturday 7.5.16. It was originally broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in September 2014

Joan Littlewood and the People's Theatre

Such a woman might easily have been burned as a witch." Kenneth Tynan

When Sir Richard Eyre was head of the National Theatre he wrote to Joan Littlewood asking if he could put on a production of her masterpiece, Oh What a Lovely War. He got a postcard in reply. Something to this effect: Dear Richard...I don't know what you're doing in that should blow it up.

To her core, Joan Littlewood was an anti-establishment figure. This programme illustrates her determination to create a theatre for everybody, touring villages and towns in Northern England for nearly a decade and then - when the company settled in East London - sending letters to the local trade unions to advertise the theatre to working people.

Did she succeed in attracting the audiences she wanted? Sir Richard Eyre gives his take on this question, along with Professor Nadine Holdsworth and critic Michael Billington.

The programme pieces together a selection of the best archive from Joan's career. The actors she trained - Victor Spinetti, Avis Bunnage, Brian Murphy - explain why working for Joan was different to working with other directors. Murray Melvin, still going strong and curating the archive at Stratford East, introduces us to the Theatre Royal where Joan directed her company for over 20 years.

Here at the Theatre Royal, Joan created the shows which made her name - Brendan Behan's The Hostage, Shalegh Delaney's A Taste of Honey, Frank Norman's Fings Ain't Wot They Used T'Be, and of course Oh What a Lovely War. The programme gives a taste of these shows and how they succeeded in being controversial, innovative, and entertaining at the same time.

Produced by Isabel Sutton
A Just Radio production for BBC Radio 4.

Joan Littlewood and the People's Theatre

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Subject: RE: Joan Littlewood and the People's Theatre
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 10 May 16 - 01:18 PM

Re the story of her response to Sir Richard Eyre's polite and indubitably complimentary request:-

Yet another example of a phenomenon that so often exercises, and of which Ms Littlewood, for all her indisputable directorial brilliance, was so prime an example --

viz —— why do so many well·meaning would-be do·gooders seem to think that being a 'progesssive' intrinsically and of itself bespeaks the necessity for constantly displaying the manners of an ill-bred guttersnipe? Whom do they imagine themselves possibly to be impressing by such idiotic attitudinising? What benefit to their selfrighteously oh-so-virtuous social causes do they imagine such uncivilised antisociability will convey?

Genuinely puzzled.....!


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Subject: RE: Joan Littlewood and the People's Theatre
From: punkfolkrocker
Date: 10 May 16 - 01:42 PM

Blimey guv.. if that's how you react to a quickly dashed off cheeky postcard..

What else would you have left if she'd gone straight round and kicked him in the wedding tackle,
then set light to the building herself...!!!??? 😜

[ Happy 84th btw.... 😎 ]

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Subject: RE: Joan Littlewood and the People's Theatre
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 10 May 16 - 02:39 PM

Many thanks, pfr...

It was a bit of an ungracious response, eh wot·wot?, whichever way you slice it. Tho mebbe a bit tongue-in-cheek at that...

...but my question does still nag away, as to why 'progress' should always be so much equated with boorishness. Reminded of the 'bearded gentleman' in the bohemian club in Dorothy L Sayers' Strong Poison, who, in response to Lord Peter's mentioning that nervousness can be detrimental to the manners, "suddenly and loudly" exclaims "Manners are for the bourgeois".


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