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State of the Nation: British Theatre since 1945 Paperback – 5 Nov 2009


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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 2.8 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 122,097 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

Magisterial, informative and lively. Essential for anybody interested in theatre's recent history. (The Times)

Billington is first-rate when it comes to spotting themes in the diverse work he has seen, and his book is an impressive monument to a professional life well spent. There is some superb critical analysis of individual plays with Billington finding fresh things to say and he's excellent, too, on the creation and shifting fortunes of the National Theatre and Royal Shakespeare Company. (Daily Telegraph)

Billington has managed to produce a compelling narrative history of 60 years of British theatre which is a pleasure to read. (The Economist)

Billington has produced an account of the theatre and of Britain which, like the art he rates most highly, does not only reflect on what happens, but may influence it too. (Independent) --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Book Description

State of the Nation, by Michael Billington, is a challenging look at the vast upheavals that have taken place in Britain and its theatre since the Second World War from perhaps the era's foremost critic.

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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By johann28 on 22 Jan 2008
Format: Hardcover
I've just finished this awesome book, which has kept me pleasantly occupied on a wet and windy weekend in England. Billington's limpid prose makes this a real page turner, and is a timely reminder of just how rich and varied English theatre has been since the war. His summaries and commentaries on the plays are little gems in themselves, and one of the many delights of this tome is the discovery of little-known/played masterpieces which I shall endeavour to reacquaint myself with in the weeks ahead. More than this, however, Billington also includes a neat overview of 'theatre politics' in the period, and effortlessly links the history of the theatre with the various themes of the political history of post-war Britain. His left-wing sympathies might grate with some but are, for me, an additional bonus. Awesome.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Andrew Cowie on 9 May 2009
Format: Hardcover
As someone who finds Michael Billington's Guardian theatre reviews frequently illuminating and sometimes frustrating this is a fascinating book in which he has the time to develop at length his perspective on the social and political role of theatre which informs his theatre criticism. He has a blind spot about devised and movement-based theatre so lots of new theatre companies like Shunt, Improbable and Forced Entertainment pass him by and he is frustrated by the escapism of contemporary musicals so with the National Theatre full of devising companies and the West End full of musicals it feels at times as if the theatre world he is addressing is shrinking but the stuff he knows about he knows a LOT about and he is always worth paying attention to.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By The Fisher Price King on 28 Dec 2009
Format: Paperback
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 By DN PERKS on 30 Oct 2013
Format: Paperback
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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