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
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
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
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
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
When the popular W. Somerset Maugham ceased writing plays, his
adroitly nurtured dramas were often revived and still remain a great
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
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
All these dramatist and poets led us with today's vibrant enormously
spectacular contemporaries such as the very modern Welsh writer Thomas
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
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.