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Beautiful People? The Sixties and the British Stage
Transcript of Beautiful People? The Sixties and the British Stage
Dr Eve Jeffrey
Queen's University Belfast 2014
"If you can remember the Sixties, you weren't there..." - Robin Williams
Edward Bond (1968)
Drama on TV
Kenneth Tynan (1927-1980)
The Sixties saw another 'wave' of pressure given new social and cultural tensions
Summer of Love? (1967)
Mythologies have emerged in historiography
"There was a lot experiment going on, some of which was brilliant, some of which was ludicrous, as always happens, but I don't think everybody quite knew... they felt there world was open for experiment." - Ursula Jeffries
"People today are still living off the table scraps of the Sixties. They are still being passed around - the music and the ideas."
- Bob Dylan
"When my father was older, he became a PR man, and because he knew the press, he knew the press he knew how to place things. Even he couldn't achieve some things, he hired the Mermaid Theatre for a charity show. Got everybody on board, everybody on side, and then by sheer bad luck, JFK was shot."
- Ursula Jeffries
Gender remains a problematic area in culture/discourse of the sixties
Magical Mystery Tour or Bad Trip?
The Postmodern Narrative
The Long Hot Summer (1967)
Again, we see the rise of a 'counterculture', but this reaction has been seen as freedom of expression, reacting against the constraints of 'traditional' artistic practices and modes as well as reacting against social 'norms'
Le Nouveau Roman (early 1950s)
Last Year At Marienbad (Alan Resnais 1961)
The Naked Lunch,
William Burroughs (1959)
The Beat Generation
SO HOW ARE THESE TENSIONS MANIFESTING
THEMSELVES ON THE BRITISH STAGE?
"We discovered (such a discovery is inevitable in the late hours of the night) that mirrors hare something monstrous about them."
Jorge Luis Borges, Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius (1940)
Most sixties books, while they do note the problem of the sexism on the left and acknowledge the considerable achievement of the women’s liberation movement, fail to provide any substantive discussion of that movement, including the ways in which it carried on and extended the radicalism of the era
- Alice Echols, Shaky Ground: The ’60s and its Aftershocks (2001)
The Sixties saw increasing pressure on the role of the Lord Chamberlain
Theatre Censorship was out of step with Television
The atmosphere of liberation was testing the constraints of the Censor's Office
Horror, in particular, is filled with doubles because the genre is based on the idea of Otherness, where the Other comes to represent those parts of the self that society, or perhaps the individual as well, find unacceptable.
- S. T. Joshi, Icons of Horror and the Supernatural
The Lover (1962)
Pinter's exploration of a married couple's sexual fantasies is redolent of the atmosphere of experimentation
Richard and Sarah's marriage is complex, reflected in the complexity of their role play
Pinter is employing techniques pioneered by the nouvelle roman, and contextualising his narrative within 'swinging' London.
But how is the female characterised?
Pinter's portrayal of the 'playful' female again reveals the tension between empowerment v. exploitation
Compare The Lover to Joe Orton's
Entertaining Mr Sloane (1964)
How do we map out the evolution of the British stage in the Sixties?
What is the representation of women?
How do we assess the experimental?
Joe Orton (1933-1967)
Mary Whitehouse (1910-2001)
Vivienne Westwood and John Lydon (Johnny Rotten)
'Sex' Boutique, Vivienne Westwood,
The King's Road London, 1974-1976)
Lydon remains protective of punk's legacy and his own role in the music and fashion explosion that convulsed Britain. Dame Vivienne Westwood, the designer who provided the outrageous outfits for the scene's early adopters, gets short shrift for claiming that she came up with the idea and title for "Anarchy in the UK".
"The silly cow is claiming she had the idea for 'Anarchy'? What a f***ing liberty. That's audacity of the highest order. Go back to making frocks."
Westwood's bondage trousers, a signature item of the punk movement, caused the young Rotten serious chafing down below. "She's not really anything like a tailorer. If you're going to make clothes for men, you've got to be aware we have a unit between our legs and you've got to accommodate it. - John Lydon, The Independent, 12.10.14
"A Play is play." - Peter Brook, The Empty Space (1968)