Modern Playhouses

Modern Playhouses : An Architectural History of Britain's New Theatres, 1945-1985

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Modern Playhouses is the first detailed study of the major programme of theatre-building which took place in Britain between the 1950s and the 1980s. Drawing on a vast range of archival material - much of which had never previously been studied by historians - it sets architecture in a wide social and cultural context, presenting the history of post-war theatre buildings as a history of ideas relating not only to performance but also to culture, citizenship,
and the modern city.

During this period, more than sixty major new theatres were constructed in locations from Plymouth to Inverness, Aberystwyth to Ipswich. The most prominent example was the National Theatre in London, but the National was only the tip of the iceberg. Supported in many cases by public subsidies, these buildings represented a new kind of theatre, conceived as a public service. Theatre was ascribed a transformative role, serving as a form of 'productive' recreation at a time of increasing affluence
and leisure. New theatres also contributed to debates about civic pride, urbanity, and community. Ultimately, theatre could be understood as a vehicle for the creation of modern citizens in a consciously modernizing Britain.

Yet while recognizing, as contemporaries did, that the new theatres of the post war decades represented change, Modern Playhouses also asks how radically different these buildings really were, and what their 'mainstream' architecture reveals of the history of modern British architecture, and of post-war Britain.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 320 pages
  • 235 x 155 x 18mm | 480g
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 60 black and white figures/illustrations
  • 0198864086
  • 9780198864080
  • 2,330,726

Table of contents

Introduction: 'The Pattern is Now Quite Different'
1: 'An Instrument of Policy and Something Socially Desirable': Public Funding and Theatre
2: 'Housing the Arts': Funding Capital Projects
3: Towards a New Theatre Architecture, 1945-1960
4: 'The Second Positive Stage': Modern Public Buildings, c.1958-1971
5: 'A New Image of the Town Centre': Theatres, Civic Pride, and Urbanity
6: 'The Modern Concept of a Community Theatre': The Social Centre
7: 'At the End of a Boom'? Frugality and Contextualism, c.1968-1985
8: 'Theatre of the Future': Rethinking the Auditorium
9: 'The Most Revolutionary Thing?' Modern Proscenium-arch & End-stage Auditoria
10: Escaping From Boarded Concrete and Modern Finishes'? Impermanency, Mobility, Rehabilitation - And Emulation
Conclusions: 'Out Of Its Sick Bed'
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Review quote

Review from previous edition a highly nuanced account of the welfare state and its architecture a substantial addition to a growing scholarship concerned with the impact of affluence, and perceived affluence, on shaping post-war government policy * Ewan Harrison, Social History * Alistair Fair knows this by-way of 20th century British history better than anyone, and has ransacked the archives to produce an excellent, thorough, and scholarly survey of it * Paddy Dillon, C20 Magazine * an essential record of how we got to where we are * Peter Longman, Sightline * an important reference text for students and scholars of theatre and performance working on post-war British theatre and theatre design [...] accessible and insightful * Andrew Filmer, New Theatre Quarterly * this thoughtful study will be an essential source of reference * Jessica Holland, Architectural History *
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About Alistair Fair

Alistair Fair is Reader in Architectural History at the University of Edinburgh. He is a specialist in the history of British architecture since 1945, with a particular interest in public and institutional buildings.
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