Discussion group: Russian Theatre in Britain, 1926: Komisarjevsky’s Chekhov season and Huntly Carter’s ‘Labour theatre’
Thursday 11 May 2023, 1-2pm
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Our discussion group this term will focus on Russian theatre in Britain in the 1920s. We return to 1926, the year of the General Strike, to see two very different versions of Russian theatre being presented to the British public. In suburban west London, Theodore Komisarjevsky was continuing his series of much-admired Chekhov productions for the Barnes Theatre. ‘That it should be possible in an out-of-the-way suburban theatre to create an illusion that we are living in a Russian provincial circle of the seventies, is, I think, something like a triumph of stage-craft’, remarked The Star’s theatre critic. In north London, on the other hand, the journalist Huntly Carter was presenting lantern lectures on Soviet acting techniques to local branches of the Independent Labour Party. The October Revolution had inspired an epidemic of theatrical activity, he told his audience: all over Russia ‘thousands of little co-operative theatrical organisations had been formed by workers, peasants, soldiers, students, who improvised plays and performed them in clubs, cellars, rooms, barns, factories, barracks’. This theatre, Carter argued, should provide the model for a workers’ theatre movement in Britain. We’ll be thinking about how these two presentations of Russian theatre both made claims to theatrical modernity that had quite different legacies for twentieth-century British theatre.
Short readings (reviews of the Barnes Chekhov season and extracts from Carter’s writings) can be downloaded from the link below, but everyone is welcome to attend, whether they have had time to read the materials or not.
Lunch will be provided.
Please follow the link to the readings.
Britain and the Soviet Union: Early Cultural Encounters Network, TORCH Networks