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Guilty Pleasures? The 'Illegitimate' Theatre

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Eve Jeffrey

on 12 March 2012

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Transcript of Guilty Pleasures? The 'Illegitimate' Theatre

Guilty Pleasures?
Post-war 'illegitimate theatre'
& The Twilight of the Module

Dr Eve Jeffrey QUB 2014
We called ourselves illegitimate but we were actually the professionals. We served our apprenticeship in the theatre for years. We were learning all the time how to make people laugh. Every play that you go to, you get a different reaction from laughter.

Mavis Whyte, Music Hall Performer
THE MUSIC HALL (1850-1960)
One day the film department asked me to write a review of the film music for Kenneth Branagh's film adaptation of Shakespeare's Henry V. Simon Rattle conducted the soundtrack, and a young composer named Patrick Doyle, who got the gig because he was a friend of Branagh's, wrote a routine score centered around a pop-like song with a Latin text, "non nobis, Domine" (a traditional text mentioned in the play), that the soldiers break into during the victory celebration at Agincourt as if they were suddenly inside a Broadway musical. At the time I didn't realize that the situation was screaming highbrow/lowbrow conflict. Shakespeare is traditionally highbrow, but in Branagh's press materials, this was boldly challenged and Branagh told us his Henry V could be enjoyed by anyone going to see a Crocodile Dundee movie. I admit I generally felt skeptical, thinking that if anyone wanted to update the story of Henry V and the Battle of Agincourt, why use Shakespeare's text, which is filled with old slang and usages that require a bit of translation? Moreover, there are plenty of us (yes, that includes me) who have read the Shakespeare play and don't find anything wrong with laughing out loud and Paul Hogan's movies. Is the Shakespeare/Hogan connection so profound that we need to drive the point home with a full-length movie that we are told is innovative?
G H Elliott (1882-1962)
Presentations should be 15-20 mins long
Groups should comprise 4 - 5 students
Your presentation can cover any topic we have explored in the module
Topics might include: Gender, Theatre in the 50s/60s/70s, Censorship, Homosexuality and the British Stage, The Theatre of the Absurd
You can use Powerpoint, Prezi and/or circulate handouts
Have fun!
Music Hall became the popular form of performance/theatre in Britain in the early part of the Twentieth Century
Music Hall was a mixture of comedy sketches, songs and dances
Frequently the humour would be innuendo-laden and cover themes such as marriage, adultery and get-rich-quick schemes
Between '46 and the early fifties, there were quite a number of touring variety shows, starring old artists who made their name or had at least made their first appearances in the Halls before the first war! I'm talking about people like Randolph Sutton, Ella Shields, GH Elliott, Wee Georgie Wood, Sandy Powell, Nellie Wallace.

Donald Roy, Historian
Music Hall: Legacy
I believe that the true reason why my mother wished not to be seen waiting outside the theatre while the first house patrons flooded out came more from a case of being snobbish than anything else. I fear that she, like the majority of those attending the second house, did not want to be mistaken for a patron of the first house. First house patrons were thought of as a rougher, less cultured gang. They were mostly dismissed as ruffians. Goodness, most of them had gone straight to the theatre in their working clothes!
Charles Jenkins, Theatregoer
First House, Second House
Entertainments National Service Association
From a historiographic perspective, we must take into account ALL forms of performance, whether 'high' or 'low' brow.
The culture both reflects and influences the social context
Economic factors (recession, depression) must be taken into account
What tensions and questions has the module exposed?
"History is written by the victors" - Winston Churchill
Darren Almond: 'Border'
That's your truth...
The Forties
The Fifties
The Sixties
The Seventies
Rodney Graham: 'Through the Forest'
European Influences
Full transcript