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GUEST,Jim Carroll Ewan Maccoll plays - any still performed? (6) RE: Ewan Maccoll plays - any still performed? 29 Sep 07


So did Sean O'Casey, and others:
MacDairmid on MacColl.
"It is the work of one fully aware of, and working for, I'avant garde in the theatre the world over- and, therefore, it is also, like Sir David Lindsay's, written for the commonalty and certain to appeal to them tremendously whenever they get a chance to see and hear it. It is not easy for such a dramatist to come by such a chance in this fourth decade of the Twentieth Century. MacColl has suffered from political victimisation. The way has been made hard for him in every connection by the stooges of the status quo, despite the tributes his work has evoked from George Bernard Shaw and Sean O'Casey. Arthur Rimbaud spat contemptuously on almost the whole succession of preceding French poets. MacColl has expectorated in like fashion against contemporary English (and Scottish) playwrights; and, worse still, against London West-End standards, and the whole confraternity of authors, managers, producers, and actors of our theatredom of to-day. He did not think it worth-while to appeal to any ready-made public; with his friends of Theatre Workshop he took his plays to places that had never had a theatre before, and played to audiences that had never seen any theatrical production before, and carried them by storm. The enthusiasm of these working-class audiences, uncontaminated by any previous acquaintance with the commercial theatre, little read in bourgeois literature, and mercifully devoid of all but a minimum of our so-called "popular education", was an eye-opener. It "blew the gaff" with a vengeance on all other play-writing and producing in Great Britain to-day, and for an incredibly long time back. To couple MacColl's name with Sir David Lindsay's is not absurd. That coupling is the accurate measure of the distance Ewan MacColl and his colleagues had to travel back to reconnect with the true tradition of the theatre. It was hard going, and plenty of enemies were encountered to see that everything possible was done to aggravate, and nothing to mitigate, the hardships of the enterprise. Nevertheless, Theatre Workshop played almost without t break for nearly two years, to audiences in Lancashire, Yorkshire, Northumberland, Cumberland, Westmoreland, and, later, Scotland and in Germany. Most of these engagements were in halls and small theatres which were, in general, unsuited to their purpose. Yet they got their audiences, and laid the foundation of a whole new system of acting and production.
Hugh Macdairmid.
Preface to Uranium 235."

Jim Carroll


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