The Royal Court Theatre 1968-1975: Fraught and Fruitful Years

Healy, Susan Ann (2018) The Royal Court Theatre 1968-1975: Fraught and Fruitful Years. PhD thesis, University of Lincoln.

The Royal Court Theatre 1968-1975: Fraught and Fruitful Years
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Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Item Status:Live Archive


From the establishment of the English Stage Company at The Royal Court Theatre in 1956
through to the late 1960s, the Court was widely viewed as a champion of theatrical
freedoms and progressive ideals, playing a decisive role in the abolition of censorship as
exercised by the Lord Chamberlain until 1968. Narratives of the ensuing 1968-1975 period
tend to recount an era when the Court was out of step with contemporary developments in
theatre and blame is frequently placed on intergenerational tensions between the Court’s
established management and a band of emerging English male playwrights who claim to
have been unsupported by the theatre at this time.
This study goes against the received scholarly grain concerning these years at the
Court, and maps an alternative reading of this narrative. This thesis provides evidence that
the Court of the early 1970s experienced a time of significant seed-sowing, that these were
years in which the Sloane Square institution experimented with alternative theatre and
enthusiastically programmed subaltern and female playwrights, and that this was a move instep
with contemporaneous international trends in theatre. By revealing this understanding
of events, the thesis contends that the artistic directorship of Oscar Lewenstein (1972-1975)
was a direct reaction against an elitist culture at the Court and an institutional habitus which
was rooted in and informed by the decline of the British Empire and a related fear of the
foreign. This thesis proposes that the subsequent occlusion of this version of events is due in
great part to the consistent and ongoing privileging of negative accounts of the period by the
emerging young white English male playwrights of the era, over the more positive
commentary provided by their subaltern and female counterparts who were empowered
under Lewenstein’s aegis.

Keywords:Royal Court Theatre, 1968-1975, Oscar Lewenstein, Sloane Square, Court early 1970's
Subjects:W Creative Arts and Design > W440 Theatre studies
Divisions:College of Arts > School of Fine & Performing Arts > School of Fine & Performing Arts (Performing Arts)
ID Code:34718
Deposited On:15 Jan 2019 09:43

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