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The Court

Richard Eyre, 23 September 1993

The Long Distance Runner 
by Tony Richardson.
Faber, 277 pp., £17.50, September 1993, 0 571 16852 3
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... tense, it is not immune to the arcadian virus: ‘the National Theatre at the Old Vic’ and ‘Joan Littlewood at Stratford East’ are robust strains, and in the case of Joan Littlewood I believe that there was a ‘genius’, an innocent virtue, that can never be replicated. The work that is done at the ...


Gabriele Annan, 7 June 1984

Milady Vine: The Autobiography of Philippe de Rothschild 
edited by Joan Littlewood.
Cape, 247 pp., £10.95, June 1984, 0 224 02208 3
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I meant to marry him: A Personal Memoir 
by Jean MacGibbon.
Gollancz, 182 pp., £10.95, May 1984, 0 575 03412 2
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... How lucky he was in his ghost: not some wan emanation from a publisher’s stable, but punchy Joan Littlewood, formerly the director of the Theatre Royal, Stratford East and the co-author of Sparrers can’t sing and O What a lovely war. She writes with tremendous verve and seems to get the Baron’s tone exactly right with debonair period idioms ...

At Tate Modern (and elsewhere)

Peter Campbell: How architects think, 21 July 2005

... the only major work his name is attached to is the aviary at the London Zoo, yet the ideas he and Joan Littlewood developed around the Fun Palace project prefigured and influenced the Piano and Rogers design for the Pompidou Centre. He also suggested the equivalent of the London Eye in a study of what might be done with the South Bank long before the ...

Stalking Out

David Edgar: After John Osborne, 20 July 2006

John Osborne: A Patriot for Us 
by John Heilpern.
Chatto, 528 pp., £25, May 2006, 0 7011 6780 7
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... whom the Sunday papers meant something quite different. Under the maverick genius of its director, Joan Littlewood, Stratford East was the secondary modern to Sloane Square’s grammar school. The Royal Court put writers at the centre; Littlewood put directors and actors at the forefront (textual integrity not being a ...

Ruin it your own way

Susan Pedersen, 4 June 2020

Tastes of Honey: The Making of Shelagh Delaney and a Cultural Revolution 
by Selina Todd.
Chatto, 304 pp., £18.99, August 2019, 978 1 78474 082 5
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A Taste of Honey 
by Shelagh Delaney.
Methuen, 112 pp., £14.44, November 2019, 978 1 350 13495 9
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... they were to be masculine, rebellious and shocking. When, in April 1958, Delaney sent her play to Joan Littlewood, the director of the avant-garde Theatre Workshop in East London, she adopted a naive, Northern persona that was more than a little misleading. ‘A fortnight ago I didn’t know the theatre existed,’ she gushed to ...


Frank Kermode: Angry Young Men, 28 November 2002

The Angry Young Men: A Literary Comedy of the 1950s 
by Humphrey Carpenter.
Allen Lane, 244 pp., £18.99, September 2002, 0 7139 9532 7
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... to be a transparent allegory of both social and theatrical decay. Some of the recent obituaries of Joan Littlewood have suggested that she should have had the credit for that renaissance. These matters may be, indeed usually are, overdetermined, but simpler explanations are handier, and in recent years Littlewood seems ...


A.J.P. Taylor: An Unexpected Experience, 6 December 1984

... whether most of the audience recognised the allusion, but it gave me my exit line. How I wish that Joan Littlewood would produce Oh, what a lovely war again. But I fear it has vanished. I am glad to think that my copy of ‘Oh, what a lovely war’ is the best preserved of my gramophone records. I look forward to playing it in ten, perhaps even in twenty ...

From culture to couture

Penelope Gilliatt, 21 February 1985

The ‘Vogue’ Bedside Book 
edited by Josephine Ross.
Hutchinson, 256 pp., £9.95, October 1984, 0 09 158520 1
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The Art of Zandra Rhodes 
by Anne Knight and Zandra Rhodes.
Cape, 240 pp., £18, November 1984, 0 395 37940 7
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... idea. Among the short stories, I struck old memories of Brendan Behan. Before he was discovered by Joan Littlewood, he used to wander into my office and say he would write me a short story if he could have 25 guineas. I would write him a cheque on my wages, perfectly certain he would come up with the goods, and he would nip off to a pub at the back of our ...


Hal Foster: Reyner Banham, 9 May 2002

Reyner Banham: Historian of the Immediate Future 
by Nigel Whiteley.
MIT, 494 pp., £27.50, January 2002, 0 262 23216 2
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... was ‘in the image business’. Like the Fun Palace project (1961-67) designed by Price for Joan Littlewood and her Theatre Workshop, Plug-in City offered ‘an image-starved world a new vision of the city of the future, a city of components . . . plugged into networks and grids’. Perhaps Banham looked to Brutalist architecture to give a needed ...

Seventy Years in a Colourful Trade

Andrew O’Hagan: The Soho Alphabet, 16 July 2020

Tales from the Colony Room: Soho’s Lost Bohemia 
by Darren Coffield.
Unbound, 364 pp., £25, April 2020, 978 1 78352 816 5
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... you might have found Nina Hamnett next to Louis MacNeice, the maharajah of Cooch Behar next to Joan Littlewood, Christine Keeler taking advice from Lord Goodman or conversing with Leonard Blackett (the Military Cross-winning hero of the Somme – ‘she was a brave little soldier’). E.M. Forster talked to Donald Maclean, who is believed to have ...

The Body in the Library Is Never Our Own

Ian Patterson: On Ngaio Marsh, 5 November 2020

... from the National Gallery in Death at the Dolphin, as well as the Great Train Robbery and a Joan Littlewood name check. When in Rome (1970) has a reference to the musical Hair. And in Tied Up in Tinsel (1972), we hear about Greek servants who want to come to England to get away from the Colonels. There is also an internal fantasy of ...

Rise and Fall of Radio Features

Marilyn Butler, 7 August 1980

Louis MacNeice in the BBC 
by Barbara Coulton.
Faber, 215 pp., £12.50, May 1980, 0 571 11537 3
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Best Radio Plays of 1979 
Eyre Methuen/BBC, 192 pp., £6.95, June 1980, 0 413 47130 6Show More
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... was not.’ D.G. Bridson, Laurence Gilliam, Jack Dillon, Douglas Cleverdon, Olive Shapley and Joan Littlewood produced programmes which ranged from adaptations of The Waste Land to features on homelessness and unemployment, from the uncompromisingly highbrow to the popular. Their ‘features’ broke away from the strait jacket of the formal talk or ...


Alan Bennett: What I did in 2014, 8 January 2015

... at every table children reading on their own. This library is one of those institutions that Mark Littlewood, the head of the right-wing think tank the Institute of Economic Affairs, said would make ‘a useful retail outlet’, a facility and a building for which there was no longer a social purpose. Most of the children reading here are black or Asian, with ...

Much like the 1950s

David Edgar: The Sixties, 7 June 2007

White Heat: A History of Britain in the Swinging Sixties 
by Dominic Sandbrook.
Little, Brown, 878 pp., £22.50, August 2006, 0 316 72452 1
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Never Had It So Good: A History of Britain from Suez to the Beatles 
by Dominic Sandbrook.
Abacus, 892 pp., £19.99, May 2006, 0 349 11530 3
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... of his argument that the new theatre was commercially unpopular, he cites the supposed failure of Joan Littlewood’s Theatre Royal at Stratford East to gain a working-class audience, ignoring the considerable popular success of Littlewood shows like Make Me an Offer, Fings Ain’t Wot They Used t’ Be and Oh! What a ...

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