This book relates the histories of two important London fringe theatres: the Round House, architecturally unique, vast but difficult as a performance space, and the Open Space, intense, flexible, but so tiny that it had its own inherent problems.
This book relates the histories of two important London fringe theatres:
Before 1960 the notion that theatre might happen in any space where people could gather had hardly been explored. Working with Peter Brook, the maverick American playwright and director Charles Marowitz presented the RSC's Theatre of Cruelty season in 1962 and kickstarted the alternative theatre movement, later to be called "the fringe".
Marowitz went on to found the Open Space, with the actress and producer Thelma Holt, in the basement of a disused old people's home in Tottenham Court Road. By contrast, the Round House, originally developed as a theatre and arts centre by the political playwright Arnold Wesker, was a disused Victorian engine shed. Thelma Holt played an important role at the Round House too, moving on there when her working relationship with Marowitz ended.;From a detailed appraisal of these two pioneering theatres arise crucial questions about performance space and its influence on the kind of productions that could be successfully presented. And what productions they were: exciting, challenging, sometimes offensive (sometimes deliberately so), this was theatre at its most innovative and dangerous. Here, too, are extraordinary personalities with the flair and vision to create something truly new. This is an important history of a key period in British theatre.