British Avant-Garde Theatre by Claire Warden (auth.)

By Claire Warden (auth.)

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Unity 1936–1940) For a company sear ching for a real working-class audience, such a connection between lived experience and the theatre must have appeared extremely attractive and exciting. Being able to bring real voices to the stage, to provide a platform for debate and reasoned argument meant that the Living Newspaper became a vital part of Unity Theatre’s repertoire. Whereas Busmen focused on an historical event, albeit from an extremely recent histor y, Theatre Union’ s Last Edition (Manchester 1940) revelled in its contemporaneous flexibility .

The song at the end of the fifth picture of Masses Man 36 British Avant-Garde Theatre perhaps best illustrates Toller’s commitment to political struggle and his dedication to leading the workers as a ‘proletarian poet’: Arise, ye Masses, seize the hour: The world needs turning upside down, We slaves shall grasp the reins of power . (2000, p. 171) Though this moment of agitational unity is broken up by the Officers who take the revolutionary Sonia Irene (Woman) away, a powerful sense of solidarity has already been built up.

Interest in cinema was growing steadily during the early decades of the twentieth centur y. Through the journal, Close Up (1927–33), a new way of understanding and describing the cinematic appeared. It became, ‘a model for a certain type of writing about film – writing that was theoretically astute, politically incisive, critical of films that were simply entertainment’ (Donald, Friedberg and Marcus 1998, p. 3). New ways of thinking about film directly addressed the concerns expressed by Eliot.

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