LECTURE: Before Journeys End: Rediscovering First World War Theatre 1914-18

Wednesday 12th March 2014, 7.30pm, Swedenborg Hall, Holborn, London | map

Presented by Dr Andrew Maunder
Chair: Dr Janice Norwood

The years 1914-18 saw over 1,000 plays, pageants and revues submitted to the Lord Chamberlain’s Office for licensing. Comedies, musicals, melodramas, pageants and revues were all on offer and most of them well-attended, ‘as if there were no such thing as some fifteen million men striving their best to mutilate and kill each other’ noted Derek Ross in 1915. Yet a century later the theatre of the First World War is not often talked about. Using examples from a selection of war-time plays shown in the West End and in suburban theatres this paper will suggest reasons why this remains the case. It will also argue that paying attention to dramatic work of the period necessarily makes us take issue with the dominant version of cultural history where it is the poets and novelists who are the key figures for understanding the conflict – and who are often presented as such at school and university.

Dr Andrew Maunder teaches at the University of Hertfordshire. He is the author of books on Bram Stoker (2006), Wilkie Collins (2010) and edited the anthology British Literature of World War I (2011). He is co-ordinator of the research project Staging World War I, which works with schools on revivals of ‘lost’ war-time plays.

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Swedenborg Hall, 20 Bloomsbury Way, London WC1A 2TH

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