The Stage has always endeavoured to cover the waterfront when it comes to the type of work being staged in theatres across the UK. But, half a century ago our then editor Eric Johns opined on the state of the more experimental side of the spectrum.
He said: ”Jennie Lee, the Minister for the Arts, declared in Parliament that increasing emphasis is to be put by the government on experimental productions, encouraging young artists and developing the theatre in the provinces. Most of all, she maintained, we must consider how to distinguish between what is worthwhile in experimental art and what is just a lot of silly nonsense. But who is to judge and how are they to arrive at their conclusion?
“Fringe theatres in the London area are supposed to be experimenting and taking new steps in the field of avant-garde drama, but a large percentage of their output is what Miss Lee politely terms a lot of silly rubbish.
“Members of the public who fail to get the point are looked upon as squares and despised by the players, the author and the director.
“It never dawns upon them that they could be at fault through failing to make their point by means of communication which people of average intelligence can understand. It would be a pity if groups of young artists with something significant to contribute to the theatre were overlooked by people in authority, who could help them in a material manner, through confusing their work with that of intolerant and untalented exhibitionists.”
If you’d like to read more stories from the history of theatre, all previous content from The Stage is available at the British Newspaper Archive in a convenient, easy-to-access format. Please visit: thestage.co.uk/archive