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Recording the History of Alternative Theatre in Britain (1968-88) through oral history interviews and the collecting of archive material
NEWSLETTER May-June 2014

Heritage Lottery Funded project

Ovalhouse - posters on display
Obituaries: Chris Bowler
                     Charles Marowitz
                     Jack Henry Moore


Heritage Lottery-funded project

(Volunteer Xi-Mali Kadeena works with The Phantom Captain originator Neil Hornick on Unfinished Histories Company Links)

We have now come to the end of our Heritage Lottery-funded Company Links project and the Re-Staging Revolutions exhibition which closed on 8th May and have been going through the long process of writing the final evaluation forms for HLF, storing the exhibition and taking stock. We have had excellent feedback on the project and lots of requests for us to create additional web pages for other companies, digitise more material and lots of offers of physical archive material. We have also had quite a lot of interest in developing exhibition proposals for other venues and areas and are exploring how we can take these forward. As a result of the project we have added new posters, scripts, flyers and audio-video material to the collections. We aim to create a version of the report on the web site and will send out a newsletter to tell you when this is available and keep you updated on future plans.

The book of the project
If you would like a copy of the book Re-Staging Revolutions: Alternative Theatre in Lambeth and Camden 1968-88, a full-colour celebration of the alternative theatre movement, featuring photos and flyers from 80+ companies please go to our online Shop. The book was long-listed for the Society for Theatre Research Theatre Book Prize 2014. Howard Loxton of STR said 'It’s small in scale but big in importance. Produced to accompany an exhibition seen in both those boroughs, it showcases the research and archival work that Croft’s organization has been doing to create a record of the alternative and fringe companies that brought such marked change to British theatre in the latter half of the last century.  Their story needs telling.’ 
and Graham Saunders of Reading University writes: 'Re-staging Revolutions is a revelation. Susan Croft and her committed team have uncovered and given us a sense of the sheer profligacy and audacious talent that ‘fringe’ theatre represented during this period. If these represent something of the treasures to be found within one London enclave, then genuinely momentous discoveries potentially await further mapping.’  

Ovalhouse - posters on display
In the meanwhile, if you missed the exhibition, you can see a selection of Unfinished Histories’ own posters on display in the café-bar at Ovalhouse, Kennington Oval on an extended loan basis.

If you are interested in helping with Unfinished Histories work and have time to spare, we have lots of areas where we could use help including helping with fundraising campaigns, listing and cataloguing archive materials and helping prepare material for the web site. Please email if you would like to explore the possibility of getting involved. 

The office will be staffed on an ad hoc basis for the moment. When we can work out a clearer schedule we will put a notice on the web site.

In order to take things forward we really need a period of reflection to look at priorities and the best way to develop and to pay overheads and some staff time during this period – and to start work on future grant applications. If you believe in the importance of Unfinished Histories’ work and are in a position to help with a donation, of whatever size, to help support the work, please go to our Donations page. As we are a charity, if you are a UK taxpayer, we can claim back 25% tax on your donation.
Many thanks to those who have donated online or at the Camden Archives exhibition and events.

Chris Bowler

(Chris Bowler on R in Monstrous Regiment's Shakespeare's Sister, 1980)

We are very sorry to tell that Chris Bowler died on 18th May after a brave struggle against an aggressive form of leukaemia. After many tests she was diagnosed last year with a very rare blood and bone marrow disorder, systemic mastcystosis. One of the founders of Monstrous Regiment women’s theatre company she had earlier been active in many of the small-scale experimental companies that were part of the creative ferment around Oval House in the late 60s and early 70s. She toured with Welfare State and performed with Rational Theatre among other companies. In 1990 she became director of Hoxton Hall in East London, helping secure the building’s future. For Hilary Westlake’s obituary in The Guardian see here. If you would like  to contribute your own memories of Chris we will create a page for her on the web site here as soon as we can. The funeral is on Thurs 12th June at 2pm at at Epping Forest Burial Park, Kiln Road, North Weald, Epping, Essex CM16 6AD If you would like to attend please contact: John Slade - (07999 717 312) or Rosa Slade:
Charles Marowitz
Marowitz has died aged 82. He was one of the key figures in the early years of the London fringe, one of a vital group of innovative Americans along with Jim Haynes, ED Berman, Beth Porter and Nancy Meckler who brought the energy and experiment of the New York experimental theatre scene of the 50s and 60s to London. Marowitz was one of the first to arrive and was hugely influential through his co-editorship of Encore magazine and through his work with Peter Brook on the Theatre of Cruelty season at the RSC in 1964 (and also with LAMDA students). With Thelma Holt he co-founded the Open Space Theatre, from 1968 in a basement on Tottenham Court Rd, then in an old post office in Euston Rd introducing numerous innovative new writers, British, American and European and experimenting with his own cut-up versions of Shakespeare, later published as The Marowitz Shakespeare. His interest in the life and work of Antonin Artaud also informed his 1977 play Artaud at Rodez. See Michael Billington's Guardian obituary for more

Jack Henry Moore
American Jack Henry Moore was a key collaborator with Jim Haynes on the creation of both the Traverse Theatre and the Arts Lab Drury Lane. A flamboyantly out gay man when this was still rare, a contributor to IT (International Times) he was also an early experimenter with video both in performance - who created multi-media projections for Jane Arden's 1969 Vagina Rex and the Gas Oven - and performance documentation both in London and later on at the Melkweg in Amsterdam which he helped establish. See obituary by Jim Haynes in The Guardian.

If you can contribute personal recollections of Charles Marowitz or Jack Henry Moore or of other contributors of the alternative theatre movement for whom we have made pages -or for whom we ought to make pages- (see Individuals), please contact us and we will endeavour to add them.

Goldsmiths events
Unfinished Histories is exploring the possibility of co-ordinating a series of talks in the Autumn at Goldsmiths College in New Cross, London. We'll keep you posted how that develops.

Look out for the film: Back to the Garden.
This feature film with improvised dialogue has had showings at the Curzon Mayfair and the ICA. The film is the third of the a trilogy of films directed by Jon Sanders, made for very little money over a very short shooting period using long takes and improvised dialogue.  
Says actress Anna Sanders:      'Making films this way depends on working with experienced and committed actors and many of our team were involved in theatre companies in 70s and 80s alongside those you have documented in Unfinished Histories.The cast of Back to the Garden includes myself (Portable Theatre Workshop/Paradise Foundry and, with Snoo Wilson, Scarab Theatre) Emma Garden, aka Williams, (Portable Theatre Workshop/Scarab Theatre), Bob Goody (Shared Experience), Petra Markham (Theatre Machine) and Tanya Myers (Common Ground, Meeting Ground Theatre).  The subject of the film is a group of actors coming together to celebrate the memory of an inspirational director and teacher who has died a year ago... this character was inspired by the theatre director, Malcolm Griffiths (founder of Portable Theatre Workshop and Paradise Foundry) who went on to found the highly influential Theatre Design department at Nottingham Trent University'.

Director of Photography is David Scott.  Music is by Douglas Finch
- The DVD is available from Viva Verve
Official website

Hampstead Theatre are producing the first mainstage play by writer Beth Steel, Wonderland from 20th June- 26th July. An epic drama that takes a 360 degree look at the clashing ideologies during the Miners’ Strike in 1984 it presents the full sweep of the turbulent events that transformed the country – from the corridors of Westminster, to pitched battles with the police, to the coal faces of Nottinghamshire. It was a finalist for The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize for Best New Play.

Veteran alternative theatre company Mikron are still touring on their barge to pubs and non-traditional venues, 42 years later (See here for the page for them created by volunteers Emma Jackson and oral historian Jo Stanley on our web site) Meanwhile see here for details of their latest shows, Till the Cows Come Home and Troupers

Steve Gooch plays
It's very late notice but tickets are available for the last 2 of 4 playreadings by Steve Gooch at the Club for Acts & Actors, 20 Bedford St, WC2E 9HP 
10th June, 3.30pm - COCKY'S GIRLS
comedy about Hitchcock’s women other than the blondes,
directed by Jules Melvin with Ian McNeice & John McEnery
12th June NOTE 2pm - EVE AND ADAM,
imagining a contemporary couple in the Garden of Eden,
directed by Jeff Mayhew, with Simeon Oakes and Kate Quinn

Tickets are free but must be pre-booked:
Steve has also just won a 'Jeff', Chicago's answer to the Tonys for best New Adaptation for his version of Brecht's The Mother, originally staged at the Half Moon and by Belt and Braces 40 years ago!

Unofficial Histories
Susan just gave a talk about the Unfinished Histories Company Links project at the Unofficial Histories conference, an annual event which this year took place in Huddersfield and featured reflections and presentations on radical history projects. If you would like to hear about next year's conference, please email Fiona or Ian:

Apologies for the lack of book reviews in this newsletter which we had hoped to include but these have delayed to a future newsletter by pressure of time.

We have received:
Partners of the Imagination: The Lives, Art and Struggles of John Arden and Margaretta D'Arcy by Robert Leach which includes detailed examinations of D'Arcy and Arden's early radical theatre experiments in community theatre, at the Roundhouse, with CAST and elsewhere, available from Indigo Dreams Publishing
Re: Act Feminism exploring the work of numerous women performance artists past and present, available from LADA
so please explore them via their linked sites in the meanwhile

Rough Theatre Web Site
We had hoped to create a web page for Tony Allen's group Rough Theatre as part of Company Links but unfortunately the volunteer who was to do it pulled out of the project early on. We did however feature a reading of their play Squat Now While Stocks Last as part of our Agit-Squat event last year. Tony has now built a page for the company himself and you can find it here or linked from the Companies list in the History section of the web site. We would like to create more web pages with originators as part of a future project when resources allow. See future newsletters for  details if we are successful in acquiring funding. Meanwhile if you are interested in sponsoring an oral history interview/page or a Company page, contact us for details.

Best wishes

Dr Susan Croft, Director 
Jessica Higgs, Associate Director

Unfinished Histories

Rm 15, 21 Old Ford Rd,
London E2 9PL

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