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With Reference To Bertolt Brecht And John Osborne, Discuss Ways In Which Political Viewpoints Have Been Communicated To A Theatre Audience Within The Last Century.

1835 words - 7 pages

The term 'political theatre' has been accepted as defining a left-wing theatre, critical of the capitalist system and expressing in its work the need for radical change. However, most theatre is political in a broad sense, as a playwright usually has a certain ideology that he wants to convey to the audience. In this essay, I will discuss the rise of political theatre, and will concentrate on the two playwrights Bertolt Brecht and John Osborne.The first organised political theatre in this country was the Workers Theatre Movement, which spanned the period from 1928 to 1938. 1968 saw the upsurge of Alternative Theatre and the formation of several socialist theatre groups. Linking these two movements was the pre-war work of Theatre Union in Manchester and the post-war work of Theatre Workshop.Although 1928 is the year that marks the beginning of an attempt to organise left-wing theatre on a comparatively widespread scale, political ideology in theatre goes back much further. The great theatres of all times have been popular theatres that reflected the dreams and struggles of the people. The theatre of Aeschylus and Sophocles, of Shakespeare and Ben Jonson, and of the Commedia dell'-Arte and Moliére derived their inspiration, language, and art from the people.Living through the social and economic turmoil in the 1920s in Germany, Brecht evolved a new and radical theory of drama. He was the first playwright who ruthlessly made political messages a priority in his plays, seeing the theatre as a means of education and political change, and as a mechanism of revolution. Brecht was an uncompromising Marxist, believing that the only way in which society could develop was through the major social upheaval resulting from a socialist revolution. His main idea was to show things as they really are, and to use theatre to educate people. He did not want his audience to enter the theatre and be taken away into another world for two and a half hours. Brecht wanted his audience to think and question, so, to achieve this, he used many different forms and structures to remind his audience that they were at the theatre, and what they were watching was not real. He wanted his audience to keep an emotional distance from what was happening on the stage and break the 'illusion' of theatre.Brecht's plays would periodically alienate the audience from the characters, as he felt that too much of an emotional connection would minimise the political impact of the drama. He wanted the audience to be aware of the fact that they were merely watching a representation of reality, and not allow themselves to be caught up in an illusion of reality. His alienation effect, in a sense, amounted to various distancing techniques to make sure actors did not 'become' their parts, to ensure spectators did not become too attached to characters, and to remind them that it was a production.Brecht did this in numerous ways, including showing the lights and costume changes to break down the...

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