Ideas, forms and development in the British workers' theatre, 1925-1935
This thesis traces the development of British workers' theatre in the period 1925 - 1935, focussing on the institution which eventually constituted itself as the Workers' Theatre Movement, and relating the particular character of this organisation to the nature of British theatre as a whole. Whereas previous studies have ascribed the weakness of this movement, to its political immaturity, or to its failure to make use of highly developed literary forms, the failings of the Workers' Theatre Movement are here related to the division within British theatre between "legitimate" and "variety" forms. The leaders of the Workers' Theatre Movement rejected the styles and subjects of the contemporary West End stage, but found themselves in a problematic relationship to popular theatre or variety forms, which they could not associate with the serious messages which they were trying to deliver. For this reason they looked to the workers' theatres of other countries for a formula by which they could make political theatre, but failed to take advantage of truly popular forms which would be more accessible to British workers. In addition, the Workers' Theatre Movement received little support, whether material or ideological, from the British Communist Party, which had not developed any conception of the importance of cultural issues in its political struggle. However, despite these disadvantages, the Workers' Theatre Movement did manage to produce work of some lasting value, and can beseen to have influenced later positive developments in British theatre.