London Program: Theatre, Heritage and Urban Life in London

Autumn 2016-2017


Loren Kruger

In 1956, British elites reluctantly confronted the end of Empire, while ordinary Britons were more concerned about contradictions between promises of affluence and the actual experience of austerity. Also in 1956, a new theatre opened in the as-yet unfashionable frontier of London’s theatre district; the Royal Court saw itself as a vanguard breaking class and gender taboos. These two currents converged in The Entertainer (1957), John Osborne’s play about the post-imperial moment in Britain We will use this play, its film version, and the theatre and its personnel (including Laurence Olivier who later ran the National Theatre) as a point of departure for studying the dramatic representation of history and urban life in key London sites, including the National’s opening state of the nation play, Weapons of Happiness (1976). The first two weeks of the course also include analyzing current productions at both theatres, along with critical texts on the impact of theatre (on tourism and gentrification, for instance). The third week, depending on shows on offer in 2016, may include one of several other theatres connected to the state of the nation and its transnational inheritance. (D)