On modern classics

Sunday 29th November 2009

Playwright Ann Jellicoe in 1957. Photo: Michael Peto
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Following an enquiry from the journalist Al Senter, I’ve been mulling over the names of plays that deserve, but never get, a revival. For many years, I thought that our new writing theatre should revive modern classics. There are dozens of plays which feature in all the theatre history books, and are considered classics or historically important, but which almost never get revived. Odd that the subsidized sector is sluggish in reviving them, and this must be mainly because this sector is too often running after new plays. So personally, I’d love to see John Whiting’s Saint’s Day or The Devils (if only to compare the latter with the Ken Russell film). I’d love to see Ann Jellicoe’s The Sport of My Mad Mother because it looks mad on the page, but might be interesting to stage. I’d like to have the chance of seeing the Arnold Wesker trilogy because he is now so unfashionable. I’d love to have the chance of experiencing early Bond or early Barker, simply to see if the plays are as powerful now as they were in the past. Theatre is all about reassessing plays and reputations so it’s a pity we can’t see more plays such as John Arden’s Armstrong’s Last Goodnight. I would even be interested in a revival of a Christopher Fry play, say The Lady’s Not for Burning, simply to see a verse drama. The big 1970s state-of-the-nation plays, such as Trevor Griffiths’s The Party or David Edgar’s Destiny might be worth another look…

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