British Theatre and the 1920s: Abstracts

deadline for submissions: 
November 3, 2023
full name / name of organization: 
Andrew Maunder
contact email: 

Essay Collection  

Abstracts/Expressions of interest are invited for an essay collection: British Theatre and the 1920s

These new essays will explore British theatre in the 1920s across a spectrum of genres and locations. The book’s focus is on theatre in a broad sense, encompassing a range of performance cultures and demonstrating some of the major ways in which theatre operated within the broader culture and society of the time.

 Topics might include (but are not limited to):

The dramatic legacy of WWI

Political theatre

Melodrama

Variety

Avant garde theatre

Grand guignol

American imports

Pageants

Censorship

Individual playwrights both established voices and new ones e.g. Shaw;  Galsworthy; Coward, Dane.

Suburban or working-class theatre in or outside of London.

Repertory Theatres

Touring

Individual theatres and venues

The careers or impact of individual actors, “artistes” or “stars”.

Dance

The survival of the actor manager (Du Maurier, Harvey, Benson, Cooper etc)

 The collection will create a picture of an industry which was complicated and wide-ranging, whose participants – actors, writers, producers - were responsive to the social concerns of their day and to the theatrical conditions, and whose works and careers can be approached through a variety of frameworks. As the chapters will reveal, it is a mistake to talk about 1920s theatre in terms of homogenization – or simply in terms of London’s West-End. The field is a wide one and involves difference and separation even if the activities discussed are deeply embedded within the same broad historical circumstances.

As well as suggesting new areas for investigation the chapters will reveal fresh details about how the decade and its challenges were represented at the time and thus feed into recent historical work on the period.  Individual chapters will consider the theatre as an outlet for escapism but also as a vehicle to address post-war concerns (e.g. labour unrest, drugs, Bolshevism, changing sexual mores, the legacy of WW1 and continued threats to peace) alongside chapters on the popularity of thrillers, romances, grand guignol, the roles of musicals, revues and music halls. For readers interested in gaining a wider sense of British theatre history, the volume will also stress the transitional nature of much of the decade’s entertainment. Although there are galvanizing moments (the premiere of The Vortex in 1924 or of Journey’s End in 1928 being possible examples) which shifted the theatre on its axis and meant it would never be ‘quite the same again’, there are also continuities with the Victorian and Edwardian period and some of these persisted during the decade. 

In a wider sense, the aim is to draw on the combined expertise of its contributors to enlarge the map of ‘1920s Theatre’. To do so is to get involved in a debate, not only about which texts or authors should be dealt some kind of recognition (and on what basis), but also about the make-up of the literary and theatrical fields of which they were a part.  

 

Please submit proposed title and abstract (400 words) by 30 June 2024 to:

Dr Andrew Maunder
Head of Department: Culture, Media and Communication 
School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Education | University of Hertfordshire | de Havilland Campus | Hatfield AL10 9AB
 email: a.c.maunder@herts.ac.uk  

Deadline for submisison of final essay: July 2024