Wonderful news this week that the late pioneering theatre director Joan Littlewood is to be celebrated with a big bronze statue outside her beloved Theatre Royal Stratford East.
She joins a notable (but relatively short) list of major theatre and entertainment figures who have been honoured in bronze, marble or stone. Of course, there’s the statue of Laurence Olivier as Hamlet on the South Bank outside the National Theatre and there are likenesses of both Noel Coward and William Shakespeare inside Theatre Royal Drury Lane.
The first ever theatrical knight, Henry Irving, is commemorated on Charing Cross Road, while outside London, the Aylesbury Waterside Theatre boasts a statue of Ronnie Barker, Brighton one of Max Miller, Eric Morecambe is remembered in, well, Morecambe and Oscar Wilde has statues in London and Dublin. Meanwhile, Broadway’s only theatrical statue (I believe) is of vaudeville and musical theatre writer George M Cohan.
There are others, of course, but not that many. And, actually, other than Joan Littlewood, the only statue of a female theatre figure I can think of is of Sarah Siddons as the Muse of Tragedy.
It’s quite commonly asked which theatre figures should have a theatre named after them, but I wonder who is missing from our theatrical repertoire of statues?
Is it time we had a Terrence Rattigan statue outside the Duchess? Binkie Beaumont outside the Noel Coward? Or perhaps Sarah Kane outside the Royal Court?