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Title: Tradition, innovation and politics : the stage work of Ewan MacColl and Theatre Workshop
Author: Altree, Claire
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2007
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The plays of Ewan MacColl have largely been overlooked by theatre historians and practitioners alike; the primary objective of this thesis is to reappraise this body of work and, more broadly, to re-examine British Modernism and the genealogy of left-wing engaged theatre. The thesis questions the idea of popular culture and suggests MacColl’s work represents a search for a new popular culture that challenges the dominance of uncritical and, according to him, negative elements of current working class culture (most cinema, pop music, gambling, bingo etc) that control thought and encourage the status quo. In order to present a different appraisal of British twentieth century theatre, this thesis examines MacColl’s primary innovations. He incorporates a broad range of conventions into his work, beginning with agitprop, a genre that gave his company the flexibility and spontaneity of a political rally. His canon of work reveals the playwright’s interaction with a variety of conventions from the European and American avant-garde; movements such as Epic Theatre, Constructivism, Expressionism and contemporary dance are juxtaposed with older forms to create an innovative theatrical genre that remains unparalleled within British theatrical history. Examining the influence of these movements with specific reference to the ideas of figures such as Meyerhold, Appia, Brecht, Vakhtangov and Laban, this thesis contends that MacColl’s plays mark a constant search for a form of critical realism, a suitable method for examining contemporary society and advocating socio-political change. This realism is also impacted by the oral tradition (the Mummers’ play, the Ballad form, traditional song and commedia dell’arte) and an established literary tradition (ancient Greek Old Comedy, Elizabethan/Jacobean theatre). It is this dialogue of old and new, tradition and innovation that defines his work.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available