Thursday, August 03, 2006

All our yesterdays

Want to find out about British history? Look no further than its theatre. As the National Youth Theatre celebrates its 50th anniversary with six new plays marking every decade since the 1950s, Michael Billington examines the concerns - and the blindspots - of Britain's postwar dramatists.
More in The Guardian.
In short, 1960s theatre put large swathes of British life on stage. It also launched, through the emerging fringe, a whole generation of new writers, including Trevor Griffiths, Howard Brenton and David Halliwell. But two vital areas went unexplored. The Royal Court discovered a first-rate Jamaican writer in Barry Reckord, whose Skyvers, dealing with life in a bog-standard comprehensive, was excitingly revived earlier this year. Even so, Britain's simmering racial tensions went largely unrecorded. And, although Caryl Churchill was busy writing radio plays, British theatre - shockingly - remained a male club. The stage did a lot to pin down social change in the 60s - but, if you were female or black, the chances were your voice went unheard.

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