Theatre of the People: Donald Wolfit's Shakespearean Productions 1937-1953

Theatre of the People: Donald Wolfit's Shakespearean Productions 1937-1953

by Laurence Raw


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Throughout World War II, audiences in the United Kingdom craved entertainment, even during the country's darkest days. During this period, actor-manager Donald Wolfit and his theatre troupe toured Great Britain and Europe-often at great risk. After the war, Wolfit broadened his tour, bringing his brand of Shakespearean theatre to North American audiences. Wolfit believed that theatre should be accessible to everyone, regardless of their socioeconomic origins. It was this quality above all that accounted for his huge popularity throughout the fifteen years of his operation.

In Theatre of the People: Donald Wolfit's Shakespearean Productions 1937-1953, Laurence Raw looks at this tenacious personality whose determination to serve the nation by performing Shakespeare inspired audiences and fellow actors. Drawing on a series of hitherto unpublished materials-including letters and interviews-this part biography and part social history creates a vivid picture of what life was like for the touring actor during WWII and beyond. Recreating twelve of Wolfit's touring dates throughout Great Britain and North America, this volume also demonstrates theatre's importance as a source of mass entertainment and education, as well as a propaganda tool.

Despite Wolfit's popular appeal at the time, he was doomed to remain on the periphery of the theatrical establishment. This book contends that Wolfit deserves to be recognized for his efforts in maintaining public morale during times of stress. Theatre of the People will appeal not only to those interested in drama but also to students and scholars of history and popular entertainment in the 1940s and 1950s.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781442257344
Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
Publication date: 11/15/2015
Pages: 240
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Laurence Raw teaches at Baskent University, Ankara, Turkey. He is the author of Adapting Henry James to the Screen (Scarecrow, 2006), Adapting Nathaniel Hawthorne to the Screen (Scarecrow, 2008), and The Ridley Scott Encyclopedia (Scarecrow, 2009).

Table of Contents

Preface: A Personal Search for the Theatre of the People ix

Acknowledgments xvii

1 The Actor-Manager's Temperament 1

2 Hamlet at the Malvern Festival Theatre, October 1937 11

3 Selections from Shakespeare at the Strand Theatre, 1940-1941 25

4 Richard III at St. Francis Theatre, Letchworth, September 1941 39

5 A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Prince of Wales Theatre, Cardiff, August 1942 53

6 The Merchant of Venice at the Opera House, Manchester, October 1943 67

7 King Lear at the Scala Theatre, London, April 1944 81

8 Twelfth Night at the Grand Theatre, Leeds, October 1945 95

9 Othello at the King's Theatre, Glasgow, November 1946 111

10 As You Like It at His Majesty's Theatre, Montreal, January, March 1947 123

11 The Merry Wives of Windsor at the Bedford Theatre, Camden Town, March 1949 137

12 Macbeth at the Dudley Hippodrome, October 1950 151

13 The Taming of the Shrew at the King's Theatre, Hammersmith, April 1953 165

14 The Legacy 179

Works Cited 191

Index 213

About the Author 219

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