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State of the Nation: British Theatre since 1945 [Paperback]

Michael Billington
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

5 Nov 2009
Michael Billington's new book looks at post-war Britain from a theatrical perspective. It examines the constant interplay between theatre and society from the resurgent optimism of the Attlee years to the satire boom of the Sixties and the growth of political theatre under Tony Blair in the post-Iraq period. Written by Britain's longest-serving theatre critic, the book also offers a passionate defence of the dramatist as the medium's key creative figure. Controversial, witty and informed, State of the Nation offers a fresh and challenging look at the vast upheavals that have taken place in Britain and its theatre in the course of sixty turbulent years.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber (5 Nov 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 057121049X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571210497
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 201,991 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Book Description

A challenging look at the vast upheavals that have taken place in Britain and its theatre since the Second World War.

About the Author

Michael Billington has been theatre critic of the Guardian since 1971 and of Country Life since 1986. He is the author of biographies of Harold Pinter (newly revised in 2007) and Peggy Ashcroft, of critical studies of Tom Stoppard and Alan Ayckbourn, of a celebration of Ken Dodd and a collection of reviews, One Night Stands. He has also edited Directors' Shakespeare: Twelfth Night and Stage and Screen Lives selected from the Dictionary of National Biography.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very strong overview 28 Dec 2009
This is a cogent and deeply authoritative view of British theatre since the end of World War Two, which identifies many of the changing ideas and values within the theatre during that period. It combines analysis of plays and their authors with insights into their historical, political and philosophical backgrounds. It is written lucidly and with a a good sense of the period as a whole, reflecting Michael Billington's longstanding personal immersion in the theatre.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bravo! Bravo! Encore Encore! 30 Oct 2013
Michael Billington has written this volume with an almost encyclopedic mastery of his material. His survey of post-war English theatre covers the period from 1945 up to around the end of the Blair/Brown years in 2008 (an afterword attempts to predict the future for theatre from 2008). Billington's views are not based on a trawl through the cuttings library but on his work as a theatre critic. He has seen many of the productions that he writes about adding value to the trenchant opinions that he expresses.
The juxtaposition with the changing political events and agendas of this lengthy period is brilliantly done so that theatre doesn't just hold a mirror up to nature but actively responds. Billington spends much time on the great national companies with verdicts on the different regimes- Too many musicals at the National under Trevor Nunn; the RSC a mess under Adrian Noble. Regional theatre and independent companies are also surveyed as are actors with some brilliant anecdotes. For Michael Billington writers were and are the lifeblood of the theatre and he spends much time on texts and ideas. Refreshingly his knowledge is so wide and varied that he discusses texts that would merit a footnote in other less respectful surveys. He is not afraid to defend contreversial pieces such as Saved by Edward Bond or to admit he initially got it wrong about Sarah kane and Blasted. His grasp of political events is often personal but he engages with a historical and political narrative with the freedom a historian might envy. All in all this is a very readable and intelligent book written with love and heart so that one would love an updated version to be issued in the years to come. Have his predictions about the "future" in 2008 come true and how does he feel now?
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4.0 out of 5 stars A bit of a pot-pourri 18 Sep 2013
At least Michael Billington acknowledges in his foreword that in this case, "British" means "English", as otherwise one might get the impression that nothing in British theatre happened outside London. Come to that, even Liverpool gets little attention.
He is very sharp on identifying trends among theatre-makers, and analysing their similarities and differences, and in a strictly social history sense, this is a very worthwhile read.
And yet, and yet.........I cannot help wishing that he had resisted the temptation to compare the rush of postwar theatre-building to the audience at The Windmill; a cheap gag about spectacular erections belongs in a comedy club, not a book by the distinguished theatre critic of the Guardian.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 5.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
5.0 out of 5 stars The most inspiring book I ever read 5 Jun 2013
By Yasushi Hirata - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
As I am interested in the theatre especially the drama and how it reflects the society in which it was written, this book was the work I have been looking for.
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