Joan Littlewood: Dreams and Realities: The Official Biography

Joan Littlewood: Dreams and Realities: The Official Biography

by Peter Rankin


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‘My only gift is to grow a show,’ said Joan Littlewood, annoyed by what she had not achieved. Even so, her ability to do just that put her and her company, Theatre Workshop, head and shoulders above mid twentieth-century theatre.

In the year when she would have been a hundred, which includes three revivals and a commemorative stamp, Peter Rankin, who worked with Joan for 38 years and in whose flat she died, takes the papers she left him and goes back to the beginning. As she told him: ‘You know me better than I know myself.’

Drawing on Littlewood's personal archive, Joan Littlewood: Dreams and Realities observes at close hand one of the most influential theatre makers of the twentieth century.

'the most galvanising director in mid-20th century Britain.’ - Peter Brook

'one of two undoubted geniuses of the post-war British theatre, the other being Peter Brook.’ - Sir Peter Hall

'Joan Littlewood brought theatre to the people of east London and revolutionised the international theatre landscape with her bold and powerful productions. She was an inspiration to many and it’s important that we recognise the significance of her work...’ - Kerry Michael, Artistic Director, Theatre Royal Stratford East

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781783190843
Publisher: Oberon Books
Publication date: 04/14/2015
Pages: 304
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

As a teenager, Peter Rankin skipped games to watch rehearsals of Joan Littlewood’s Edinburgh Festival production of Henry IV. On leaving school, he assisted her both at Stratford East and in Paris. Her last production was his first play, So You Want to be in Pictures, a satire on film-making. For 21 years, he worked alongside the writer/director Ken Hill, one of Joan’s “children” and together, they came up with a series of action/adventure shows, the best known being The Original Phantom of the Opera and The Invisible Man. During that time, Joan came to live in Peter’s flat where they worked on two books together, Milady Vine, the biography of the winemaker, Philippe de Rothschild, and Joan’s Book, her autobiography. Peter has also worked on the autobiographies of Victor Spinetti and the film director, Lewis Gilbert.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements ix

Prologue 1

Chapter 1 A Spark 6

Chapter 2 The Spark Catches Fire 13

Chapter 3 Time to Get Out 20

Chapter 4 A Breath of Fresh Air 28

Chapter 5 Out of the Ashes 36

Chapter 6 Trouble 43

Chapter 7 Theatre Workshop Sets Off 55

Chapter 8 But How to Keep Going? 61

Chapter 9 A Home For a While 69

Chapter 10 Germany Shows Up the Cracks 73

Chapter 11 Out and About in Europe 80

Chapter 12 Keeping the Home Fires Burning 87

Chapter 13 Coming in to Land 96

Chapter 14 A Base at Last 103

Chapter 15 End Of/Beginning of an Era? 113

Chapter 16 To Russia, to Berlin, to Court 121

Chapter 17 Shelagh 127

Chapter 18 Success, for What It's Worth 132

Chapter 19 An Old Dream Revived, Or Just Buggering About? 138

Chapter 20 Oh What a Lovely War 145

Chapter 21 An Invitation to Edinburgh 153

Chapter 22 Tunis and Twang 161

Chapter 23 Tunis Part Two, India Part One 171

Chapter 24 The Fun Palace Comes to Stratford East 173

Chapter 25 The Summer of '67 177

Chapter 26 A Throwaway Becomes A Hit 184

Chapter 27 Joan Looks Back 192

Chapter 28 The Nutters Make a Film 197

Chapter 29 Reacting To The Times: Ronan Point, Bubble City & India Part Two 200

Chapter 30 Barrault? The Theatre National Populaire? + Power Cuts 206

Chapter 31 Murderous Angels 213

Chapter 32 Redevelopment 250

Chapter 33 Keeping Busy 255

Postscript 260

Bibliography 261

Index 263

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