Social drama in France in the new subsidised theatres (1946-1968), with special reference to the work of Gabriel Cousin
A fresh impetus was given to the development of provincial theatre in France immediately after the Second World War by the establishment of five subsidised Centres Dramatiques Nationaux in Colmar, Saint-Etienne, Toulouse, Rennes, and Aix-en-Provence. Largely influenced by the proposals of the pre-war Cartel group of theatre directors for decentralising and democratising French theatre, the directors of these new Centres set about capturing audiences hitherto unfamiliar with the theatre in the culturally barren provinces. During the nineteen-fifties, more experimental forms of theatre, frequently based on the recently-experienced Brechtian epic drama, were gradually introduced into the otherwise traditional repertoires of the new companies. With the creation of a Ministere des Affaires Culturelles under the Fifth Republic in 1958, a further expansion of the decentralisation programme was planned. In the following decade, four new Centres Dramatiques, eleven Troupes Permanentes, and nine Maisons de la Culture were set up, thus bringing the majority of the French population within reach of some form of theatrical activity for the first time. A corresponding increase in the output of plays by a new generation of young dramatists led to a spate of works dealing predominantly with socio-political themes. Typical of this new generation is Gabriel Cousin, whose career as a dramatist began with an intense love of sport and an interest in the art of movement. Like many of his contemporaries, Cousin became inspired by both the theoretical writings and the practical theatre of Artaud, Copeau, and Brecht. His own plays---on such themes as racism, Third World famine, the nuclear threat, and the alienation of Man by his work---show him to be a key figure among the group of social dramatists who sought to arouse in their audiences a 'prise de conscience' of contemporary social ills. Cousin's theatre is thus characteristic of much of the work produced in the new subsidised provincial theatres of France in the post-war era.