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Off-Centre Stages: Fringe Theatre at the Open Space and the Round House, 1968-1983 by Jinnie Schiele

Off-centre stages



An important history of a key period in British theatre, illustrated throughout with rare photographs of productions and of the theatres themselves.


Detailed Description

Published with the Society for Theatre Research

English Fringe theatre of the 1960s and 1970s can be defined as being both geographically off-centre and at the edges of theatrical and political convention. 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.

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/director Charles Marowitz presented the Royal Shakespeare Company's Theatre of Cruelty season in 1962 and helped to kick-start the alternative theatre movement, later to be called the Fringe. In partnership with the actress and producer Thelma Holt, Marowitz went on to found the Open Space in a basement in London's Tottenham Court Road. By contrast, Camden's Round House, originally developed as a theatre and arts centre, was a disused Victorian engine shed. Thelma Holt played an important role at the Round House too, moving on there from the Open Space.

From a detailed appraisal of these two pioneering theatres arise key questions about performance space and its influence. These were exciting times and the productions they spawned were often innovative, challenging and occasionally offensive, driven by extraordinary personalities with the flair and vision to reinvigorate old theatrical forms. This is an important history of a key period in British theatre and is illustrated throughout with rare photographs of productions and of the theatres themselves.

Jinnie Schiele lives in London, trained as an actress and teaches theatre arts courses at a number of different universities, including a course on fringe theatre.

'We are delighted to have the history of the Open Space and the Round House so conscientiously chronicled' Charles Marowitz

Published August 2005; 256pp; paperback