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Sunday, 16 February 2014





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Drama during the years of strain

We leave the popular Shakespearian drama era and travel down to the years of strain that stood between the past and present. The outcome has not been easy or pleasant but ended being brilliant on drama stage. In English literature more output than poetry or prose, the conditions favour productions of new plays. Its revival leapt into the stage capturing the imagination of all theatre goers.

Dylan Thomas's house in
Cwmdonkin, Uplands.

The youthful Dylan Thomas

Today, it is sizzling with enthusiasm embracing whole categories of subjects ending with operas and symphonies and high-tech drama. The struggle is over with the coming of new poets and story writers whose works are seized by eager directors. With the death of George Bernard Shaw in 1950 ending an illustrious literary career, which for a quarter-century was a permanent feature in literary life, the stage stirred towards its vitality.

As in poetry, the predominant influence on the stage belonged to T.S. Eliot. The prejudices held against verse play were banished with the success of Murder in the Cathedral on stage. The high spirituality of this work and the example of its choruses along with the blending of mysticism and realistic humour not only gripped the public of England but elsewhere in the world.

Its chosen medium with language elevation and the intensity of its poetic inspiration led the flights of lyrical sublimity.

This was followed by The Family Reunion which was much bolder though not a very happy attempt because this grim story was of crime, remorse and purification.

In 1949 a similar synthesis was experimented with a more felicitous outcome known as The Cocktail Party with Eliot's trademark of concentrated pessimism and philosophy. The insistence that moment is a fresh beginning created a deeper awareness which was essential for a truly dramatic experience.

While this feeling was in the air, other playwrights attempted to renew their pre-war successes which were in keeping with the forward moving dramas.


There was Noel Coward whose facile talent remained expert in handling a situation he knew unerringly would please the audience. Written in 1947 Peace in Our Time exploited fresh memories of those eventful years and the reaction against Munich.

Some characters had an Elizabethan flavour and produced whiffs from Dekker or Fletcher but the drama though cleaver, narrowly associated with the passions of the moment and woke up a passing response. In 1947, J.B. Priestly displayed technical skills in his very artistic innovation titled, The Linden Tree as against Sean O'Casey's Red Roses for Me written in 1942.

These are two contrasting views of great writers of the day that deepened the aura of drama in many ways. Their works were aptly placed in human setting. Natural development such as dialogue achieved success of the play though not written with the stage in mind. This was the stirring stage of the modern school of thinking that took drama forward.

Scottish palywright, James Birdie will perhaps remain ahead of author Daphne Lauroola who came from Edinburgh to capture London in 1949. This displayed the readiness of the English reader to be amply satisfied but they needed to get a piquant feel of fresh situations, provided by conventional psychology.

Drama success

Birdie died in 1951.

There is a significant difference in drama success in the advent of new theatrical phase. A lively and almost irresistible display of extravagance was felt in The Lady is Not For Burning by Christopher Fry in 1949.

When the popular W. Somerset Maugham ceased writing plays, his adroitly nurtured dramas were often revived and still remain a great influence.

But sudden flights of poetry soared in the midst of prose such as Venus Observed in 1950, put in more weight with modern plots of originality.

Brilliant verbal feats and metaphysical conceits interrupted passages of popular flavour.

If we are to go back to the late 1800s, there was Robert Louis Stevenson who created much ado for the New Romanticism along with other big names such as Richard Blackmore, T.S. Eliot, Arthur Symonds, William Carlton, William Yeats, George Moore and F.M. Forster who created the advent of the years of Strain.

T.S. Eliot wrote a broad range of comedies that mingled elements of dissimilar.

All these dramatist and poets led us with today's vibrant enormously spectacular contemporaries such as the very modern Welsh writer Thomas Dylan.

The Restoration actor still enjoyed something of his Elizabethan predecessorsí intimacy with the audience. Though hugely expensive to create new sets of scenery which players often just used what was in stock.

But when a new tragedy was to be produced they played a design in a way that points forward to modern concept of a production.

However, there did not seem to have been quite the modern idea of having to interpret Shakespeare. Interpretation of the Bard's work was implicit in the act of adapting it.

The idea of playing the dialogue in new ways had not caught on yet.


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