First posted at the Traditional Britain Group
In 2009 Ben Stephenson, the controller of BBC drama commissioning, said that the corporation should encourage "peculiarity, idiosyncrasy, stubborn-mindedness, left-of-centre thinking."
Yet, according to its own royal charter, the BBC must "be independent in all matters concerning the content of its output". To show how we got to this undemocratic, totalitarian state I give a survey of the war on our culture and history carried on against us in our theatres for over thirty years.
They were a major phalange in the destruction of our drama in The Culture War through nihilist and then subversive drama. Their technical abilities are excellent and their facility for embodying nihilism and ideology into dramatic form exemplary. An aspiring young playwright would do well to study their use of styles and genres to explicate their message. Their works were frequently televised, films were made of them and they were performed in many countries especially on Broadway.
The Labour Government that came to power after 1945 did not bring The New Jerusalem as expected; the universities had been opened-up to grammar school pupils, not just public school products. These were the followers of the New Left and the new culture of the time. It was the era of CND opposition to Nuclear Bombs.
Look Back in Anger is “Kitchen Sink” drama and and in 1956 provided a focus for disillusionment and frustration, for the rebelliousness of a generation that felt lost and betrayed after the certainties of the past. The emotional tirades of Jimmy Porter, the central character, against the drabness and smugness of the class system woke people up like a breaking window. The audiences were used to genteel, quaint, drawing-room dramas and the deeper but quiet dramas of Terrence Rattigan.
In Jimmy's tirade near the end the nostalgia, resentment and aimlessness are expressed:
“I suppose people of our generation aren't able to die for good causes any longer. We had all that done for us in the 30s and 40s, when we were still kids. There aren't any any brave good causes left. If the big-bang does come, and we all get killed off , it won't be in aid of the good old fashioned grand design, it will just be for the brave new nothing-very much- thank you, about as pointless and inglorious as stepping in front of a bus.”
Osborne's dissatisfaction is an individualist reaction against the consumer society and nostalgia for a lost past rather than political. Many of his later plays were studies of individuals or groups not comfortable in the world they were in because of a sense of betrayal of moral and aesthetic standards in a culture being over run by the mass produced and the second-rate.
Inadmissible Evidence (1964) offers a powerful depiction of one going through a crisis of confidence which stands for the crisis of the country as a whole as it sinks into a pit of mediocrity and hopelessness. Bill Maitland, the central character is a solicitor. We have moved out of the squalid attics and bedsits of his early characters. He now set his plays around "Cocktail Cabinets”. In Hotel Amsterdam and “West of Suez” he dealt with affluent but spiritually empty characters like writers, journalists, politicians, actors, media types, no longer the disaffected.
Harold Pinter(1930) arrived in the 1950s with his “ Drama of Menace”. He had been associated with Samuel Beckett and The Theatre of the Absurd and his method resembles theirs. He did many studies of human disintegration. Before the plays he had written a novel The Dwarves which was later published and his 1963 play of the same name is derived from it. It follows Len through a mental breakdown and retreat into madness. Pinter has used this theme of the mind's retreat into its own kingdom as an escape from the unbearable demands of the world several times. There are “Beth” in Landscape(1967) and Kate in Old Times(1970). Women who insulate themselves from reality in a sort of dream scape.
Pinter's characters usually give unreliable versions of their pasts from Stanely's account of the concert he gave at Lower Edmonton in The Birthday Party(1958) to Ruth's memories of her career as a photographic model in The Homecoming(1965). Whether they are fantasies or deliberate ploy to disconcert an opponent in a psychological game is never certain, but they are not believable recollections of the past.
In No Man's Land(1974) Hurst admits under pressure from the intruder Spooner that for him life has ceased: No Man's land does not move or change, or grow old, remains forever silent.” He is trapped in a frozen world. No Man's land is in some respects a re-working of The Caretaker. In both one occupies a space then comes an intruder to ingratiate himself, move into the space but finally gets rejected. The outsider is Spooner who tries to insinuate himself into a permanent place as secretary in the household of Hurst, the writer. Whereas in he earlier play, Aston, the mental defective, Davies, the tramp , are barely articulate, Hurst and Spooner are educated men. One is a writer and Spooner claims to be a poet only without Hurst's financial success.
In one scene Spooner tries to destroy Hurst's grasp of the past: by querying if he did have the wife he has been boasting of. In the following Scene Hurst produces a photograph album which he seems to offer as evidence against Spooner's attempt to deny him the past of his reminiscences or conceiving. Is he getting back at Spooner or reassuring himself?
“My true friends look out at me from my album.”
But he is unsure of the reality of the past. Pinter's characters often look back in that way, not in anger but in disillusionment. In a sense of being dislocated from a past where they once felt comfortable.
The typical Pinter battle between occupant and intruder is played on a higher level and is largely a claim to an authoritative version of the past: if you control the past you control the future, as Orwell put it.
The typical Pinter battle between occupant and intruder is played on a higher level and is largely a claim to an authoritative version of the past: if you control the past you control the future, as Orwell put it.
In Betrayal(1978) Pinter succeeded in using the flashback technique, which he had begun to experiment with in “Old Times”, to scrutinise the mind's conscious and unconscious betrayals of reality. The play deals with the developing relationship between three people: Robert and Jerry have been close friends since their schooldays and Emma, wife of Robert and former mistress of Jerry. Pinter tells the story in a series of scenes moving backwards in time: there are nine scenes beginning in 1977 with meetings between Emma and Jerry and Jerry and Robert – two years after the adultery ended. We are taken back to a moment in the married couples bedroom in 1968, when the affair began. We are shown key episodes enacted after we have heard them discussed. With this technique for the first time in his work Pinter verifies the past. But does it accord with memories and conversations we see the characters have. We learn that there is a lot of deliberate deception which makes a dramatic event that is entwined with tricks of memory that the mind has no control over. They deliberately miss-remember and also involuntarily get the past wrong.
Many plays of the era expressed the retreat from the world tackled frequently by Osborne and Pinter; the individuals failure to cope with everyday life.
David Storey(1933) wrote of the futility of life. Storey was a painter and novelist as well as a playwright and wrote the screenplay for the British Social Realist film version of his play This Sporting Life(1960).
His first play: The Restoration of Arnold Middleton (1966) was on the breakdown of a schoolteacher Home(1970)is set in a mental hospital but the location is only revealed gradually as the story proceeds. There are five characters including apparently benign Harry, opinionated Jack, cynical Marjorie, and flirtatious Kathleen. As we are shown their interactions we realise their delusions and pretensions are similar to those of people living in normal life. This is a poignant evocation of the passing of a way of life - the subtext of most of these plays . In several of his works but more so here, Storey achieves an elegaic quality that has been compared to the mood of Chekov’s last plays. Home has little plot; it is the carrying through of a process of a dramatic image of growth and decay, rise and fall, advance and retreat. Two well-spoken, gentlemen, approaching old-age meet coarse working-class women and try to establish a relationship with them but fail. At the end they are alone again, back on the deserted terrace where we found them, weeping quietly together.
After uncertainty in the opening sequence the audience have realised that their talk of the weather and items from their newspapers is not the small talk of casual acquaintances, but the careful avoidance of subjects too painful to face by two inmates of another institution, a mental hospital, the Home of the title.
In Lifeclass.”(1974) exhibits the disintegration of a man “Allat”, an instructor at an evening class who lost of belief in the value of what he is imparting:
Phillips: Don't give up. That's the message that comes down to us from Rembrandt, Cezanne. From all that countless host that sank their existences in art.”
Allat: “ Don't you get the feeling at times that it is a substitute for living?”
The deeper levels of his despair are revealed when he compares the artefacts left in stone, bronze etc down the ages from the first painters on walls of caves, with the futility of human life “whirring in the void of the meaningless universe.” Storey was not an absurdist in technique like Beckett, Ionesco or early Pinter, but through a naturalistic style he describes a universe without meaning, an absurdity. Allat delivers a powerful evocation of a collapsing character: “
“ Whereas we elements of a work ourselves, partake of existence, simply by being what we are. Expressions of a certain time and place and class, defying hope, defying anguish, defying even definition. More substantial than reality, stranger than a dream, figures in a landscape. Scratching, scrapping, rubbing. All around us our rocky ball hurtling through time singing, to no one's tune at all.”
Early Days(1980) is about the slide into cunning senility of a politician whose life fell apart when he missed his chance to become PM. - the remainder of his life was spent in bitter reminiscing.
Peter Shaffer's (1926) Equus(1973), is about the vile crime of a boy blinding six horses by stabbing . The boy is sent to a child psychologist, Dr. Dysart, by his social worker.(6) Technically, the play is constructed like a detective story with a narrator who has his hat over his eyes and a cigarette in the corner of his mouth a la Humphrey Bogart. He is a professional psychologist but narrates how he goes about the mean streets. It uses the detective genre for the purpose.
Dysart slowly uncovers what made him like that. There was a tension between his fathers atheism and harsh application of discipline and his mother's religious fanaticism and over indulgence. There was an early erotic experience riding a horse on a beach on holiday as a boy; a sexual entanglement with a girl who worked at the local riding school. Dysart discovers that the boy lives in a secret world developed his own private religion and worships a god called Equus. He goes out secretly and holds rituals riding the horse and flagellating himself at night and having an orgasmic frenzy. The primitive psychic energy of this invented god fascinates the psychologist – the figment of a disturbed adolescent imagination.
Dysart's relationship with his wife has died, he has no belief in anything and this god comes to represent the vitality he lacks. Shaffer called this a study in “professional menopause.” Some regard this as an important play, others see the psychology as popular but it is a powerful experience when acted on stage. The film version failed because they used real horses but on stage they were played by actors in brown costumes, wire masks and standing on a couple of hooves which made it unreal and lessened the brutality.
The presence of these unreal horses by mime on stage gives. For example, there is a scene on stage where the girl is grooming them by mime. However, the intellectual content is more objectionable and corruptive than the theatrical content.
Alan Bennett’s(1934) Forty Years On(1968) is set in an English Public School, symbolically named Albion House. Bennett counterpoints the reminiscences of a retiring headmaster with an end of term play which his successor is putting on. It is a play that offers a view of 1960s England which is at odds with the old-fashioned values of the retiring headmaster. The final two speeches make explicit the allegory of a nation that has lost a world-wide Empire is looking for a role for itself. Guess where? in Europe! This was in 1968 when we joined the Common Market. These last two speeches give a funny and satiric but also sad and nostalgic flavour of a society going through change. The headmaster’s speech:
“Once we had a romantic and old-fashioned conception of honour, patriotism, chivalry and duty. But it was a duty which didn’t have much to do with justice, with social justice anyway, and in default of that justice, and in pursuit of it, that was how the great words came to be cancelled out. The crowd has found the door into the secret garden, now they will tear up the flowers by the roots, strip the borders and strew them with paper and broken bottles.”
The schoolboy at the lectern is reading the final bit of the school play:
“To Let. A valuable site at the crossroads of the world. At present on offer to European clients, outlying portions of the estate already disposed of to sitting tenants. Of some historical and period interest. Some alterations and improvements necessary.
Peter Nicholls(1927) took a critical look at the state of the country by the routine in another British institution - a ward in a National Health hospital. The National Health(1969) is a fantasy-Farce.
Among the cross section of contemporary society were Foster, whose standard of living has been greatly improved by the Welfare State, a man who looks back over the preceding 20 years with great gratitude; against one Mackie, a former colonial administrator who speaks for the class that is in retreat before what he calls the armies of democracy: “A nation doesn’t grow great on material greed without a sense of duty, Churchill knew this and he got the best from us, inspired us with purpose. National service turned boys into men. The world’s finest youth club, but now the Chatterley set are destroying our moral fibre with liberalism, fornication, pederasty, drug-taking condoned by the church, remember the fall of the Roman Empire.”
The trick is to present him as objectionable because of his political views,yet, because he is dying of stomach cancer, arouse sympathy for him as a man. Another irony is this black comedy with tragic overtones deals conditions in an under-funded national health hospital contrasted comically with a hospital soap, like the popular Emergency Ward Ten of the time, being shown on the wards.
Tom Stoppard(1937) wrote serious entertainments. Rozencratz and Gilderstern are Dead(1966), showed his affinities with Samuel Beckett and the Absurdists. The play develops these two minor figures from Hamlet - “little men, unheroic, little men astray”. They are backstage, in the wings and are never sure what Hamlet is about. Occasionally, they are bundled onto the stage and take part in a little scene only to be bundled back behind the curtain, uncomprehending, puzzled about what is happening. It is a striking image of dislocated man: off-stage, minor characters in a play they can not understand.
In two of his later most brilliant plays Jumpers and Travesties from the 70s, he succeeds in his aim of contriving what he once described as: “The perfect marriage between the play of ideas and Farce and, or even high-comedy. While presenting dazzling displays of verbal wit and spectacle, he demonstrates by theatrical means, the difficulty of arriving at value judgements in a world where absolutes no longer have universal or even widespread support; where moral, social, religious,political even aesthetic points of view are subject to the laws of relativity.
Jumpers centres on the plight of a professor of moral philosophy who is trying to uphold the existence of God in an atheistic university and society. His wife is a former singer who has lost the will to sing romantic songs about the Moon, since men walked on it and destroyed its mystery. The story is a simple whodunnit and the murder of one of the professor's colleagues takes place against a literal background of the moon as there is an enormous TV screen at the back of the set transmitting newsreel footage of the first British expedition to the moon and a general election; or was it a coup d' tat that has just carried the neo-Fascist, radical liberal, Jumper party to power. The British have got to the moon but one of the rockets motors failed and there is only power to bring one of them back. The astronauts are named Scott and Oats after Britain's failed South Pole explorers.
Agitprop and Dramatised Ideology
There are overtly Socialist writers and here we move from well-written nihilism and negativity to cultural warfare, violence and advocacy of revolution.
What is known as Cultural Maexism replaced liberalism in the 1960s after a series of demonstrations and sit-ins in Western universities, notably Berkely and the LSE; and the streets of France. It began by calling itself New Liberalism but replaced the Liberal idea of individual rights with that of “group rights” which means ethnic minorities arfe victims and have claims upon Whites who are portrayed as “oppressors”. It also uses identity politics which is inverse Nazism. There is the action and behaviour of New Liberals shows little concept of political democracy or individual freedom under the rule of law. The democratic political system was viewed as an enemy to be captured, manipulated and subdued until it gives way to a spoils system whereby power is distributed between interest groups favoured by race, sex and gender.
John Arden(1930) emerged in the late 50s and moved from a balanced, pacifist and intellectual position to a Marxist one. He was involved with Marxist politics in the UK and Ireland. In 1961 he was a founder member of the anti-nuclear and he also chaired the pacifist weekly, Peace News. In Ireland, he was for a while a member of Sinn Féin. He is also a well-known supporter of civil liberties and is critical of government anti-terror legislation which he dramatised in his radio play The Scam (2007).
The Waters of Babylon(1957), and The Workhouse Donkey(1963) concern corruption in local politics and the interference of local bureaucrats in deviant groups like nomadic Gypsy's in Live Like Pigs(1958) and the morality of empire and war in Sergeant Musgrave's Dance(1959).
Arden became disillusioned with parliamentary democracy under the pragmatic Socialism of Prime Minister Harold Wilson and like the younger writers he was disillusioned with established theatres seen as promoting bourgoise cultural values. He had many acrimonious disputes with the managements in the late 60s and early 70s. He and his Irish wife were proponents of Agitprop. He wrote a three-part play The non-stop Comedy for the Liberty Hall in Dublin which was the HQ of the Irish Transport and General Workers Union in 1975.
He favoured techniques derived from Medieval Morality Plays and Brechtian Epic Theatre as well as popular entertainments like music, songs, stand-up comic, rather than methods of Naturalism and Social Realism used in Kitchen Sink drama. He developed these techniques to the fullest in The Non Stop Connolly Show to present an account of Irish Revolutionary James Connelly, who was shot by the British after the failed Easter Uprising of 1916. The Play is in six-parts and was performed non-stop over the Easter weekend of 1975. The audience could come and go. It is presented in the form of a review interspersing dramatised events from history with songs and popular spectacle. For example, there is an election staged as a tag-wrestling match.
They frequently re-worked classic plays from our cannon to undermine our cultural traditions and were redolent of brutality and violence.
Edmund Bond(1934) is Marxist celebrated for Saved(1964) which caused the public debate on censorship that led to the office of The Lord Chamberlaine, being abolished. Under The Theatres Act 1843 scripts had to be submitted for approval by the Lord Chamberlains's Office. The Lord Chamberlain sought to censor Saved but Bond refused to alter it, saying removing the pivotal stoning scene would alter the meaning of the play. He was backed by the play's director William Gaskill and the Royal Court. They used a legal loophole which allowed plays that had been banned to be performed under 'club' by forming a theatre club. However, the English Stage Society were still prosecuted, found guilty and given a Conditional Discharge.
It is a characteristically violent play in which a gang of working-class youths abuse and stone a baby in a pram to death in a frenzied crescendo of violence. It apparently, explored the lives of South London working class youths suppressed according to Bond, by a brutal economic system and unable to give their lives meaning, who drift into barbarous violence. One character, Len, tries to maintain links between people violently tearing each other to pieces. The play shows the Marxist view of the social causes of violence and opposes them with individual freedom. This was Bond's major theme.
Bond and the Royal Court in 1967 produced a new play, the surreal Early Morning which portrayed Queen Victoria in a lesbian relationship with Florence Nightingale, the royal Princes as Siamese Twins, Disraeli and Prince Albert plotting a coup and the whole dramatis personae damned to a cannibalistic Heaven after falling off Beachy Head. The Royal Court produced the play despite the imposition of a total ban and within a year the law was finally repealed. In 1969, the Royal Court it put on and toured the three plays in Europe. They had international success with more than thirty different productions around the world between 1966 and 1969.
Bond's work has three distinct phases. He dramatised violence and eradicating its causes by re-shaping society. His earliest plays like The Pope's Wedding(1962), Saved, The Narrow Road to The Deep North(1968) and Lear(1971)have characters who gradually become aware of a need for an alternative to the way their societies are structured. They react to the awareness differently. Some react positively, some negatively.
Lear, is a re-working of Shakespeare's through Marx's explanation of the historical process. It has the customary excessive violence which is horrific torture of Lear who is left blind after his eyeballs are extracted by a machine (Bond was a a materialist), to make a symbolic gesture of starting to take the great wall that he had built as king between his people and their neighbours which dominated the play. His sufferings by the middle act of he play lead him to an awareness of man as a trapped and degraded creature imprisoned in the reality formed by the ideology and institutions of the society over which he was once king:
“Who shut that animal in that cage? Let it out. Have you seen its face behind the bars? There's a poor animal with blood on its head and tears running down its face. Who did that to it?” Is it a bird or a horse? Its lying in the dust and its wings are broken. Who broke its wings? Who cut off its hands so that it can't shake the bars? Its pressing its snout in the glass. Who shut that animal in a glass cage? Oh, God! There's no pity in this world.”
He is unable to face his insights into what society has done to human nature; reducing it to the subhuman: “I can't live with that suffering in the world.”
But he does live, unlike Kiero of The Narrow Road to the Deep North, who committed suicide when he reached that level of insight.” Lear lives on and learns to believe in the possibility of changing the world. He is eventually shot when he tries to put his new knowledge into practice and starts dismantling the wall that symbolises the barriers that he was once responsible for. That is the first group of plays with people reaching consciousness and either giving up in despair or trying to do something.
The second group of plays, Bingo(1973), The Fool(1974), and The Woman,(1977) he took the lives of William Shakespeare in Bingo, John Clare in The Fool and the classical story of the Trojan War in The Woman. These very different periods and stories he uses as the focus for his view of the way we are deformed and limited by the ideology enshrined in our culture . He uses different periods of history to explicate different stages of development. He saw his task as re-assessing and adjusting the conceptions that modern man has of the past.
The third phase began with The Bundle(1978). He claimed that he tried to develop from plays burdened with problems to those that dramatise the strength of people to find answers. The answers his characters find are hard decisions and to be ruthless in trying to change the world. Like The Bundle which is a Brechtian Parable play. A guerilla leader called Wong throws an abandoned infant into a river because his conventionally good deed of caring for the child would prevent him bring about a successful revolution against the corrupt order of society that causes babies to be abandoned by their parents.
Bond developed again in the 80s and wrote a trilogy of war plays: Red, Black and Ignorant(1983); The Tin Can People(1984) and Great Place(1985). He depicts a grim world after a nuclear war. He imagines the moral challenges to humanity of the survivors and the repressive regime that might have to be inaugurated to husband scarce resources. He takes us into the future. He has an extraordinary range from working-class dialogue in Saved, Restoration, a grim but witty, parody of Restoration Comedies. The first part is in the style of Restoration Comedy, but the second is in The Industrial Revolution and this is cast as a parody of 19c Melodrama.
1968 brings the rise of The New Left who replaced Liberalism. There were race riots in the States, the French Government was nearly brought down by student riots and Russian tanks suppressed the Prague rising. The war in Vietnam had a major impact because it was seen as not in the American national interest but a Capitalist invasion. These events helped to form the outlook of a new generation of young dramatists.
I only have space for three: Howard Brenton, David Edgar and David Hare.
Howard Brenton(1942) began his career with fringe theatre groups The Brighton Combination and and Portable Theatre. Like others by the mid 1970s Brenton was disillusioned with the once radical fringe theatre which had become arty and run by intellectuals. He said he abandoned The Fringe when he heard people discussing what aesthetic methods they had used.
He wrote the first play to be staged at the National Theatre. He claimed that there was a tension which could not be reconciled between a radical dramatist and the bourgoise institution of the large theatre. He implied that the transfer of his work from the Fringe to to established theatre was an act of infiltration by which means the Marxist writer could subvert citadels of the class system from within.
On the challenge offered by his play for the NT:” I know I am in an exposed position but someone's got to go in first and start doing something. If its the national its got to be about England today and that means new writing.”
Brenton saw England as founded on violence: “ There is nothing to choose morally between the mass-murderer and the policeman who arrests him.”
In the early Portable Theatre play Christie in Love(1969) based on the story of John Christie, the serial killer, "and the roles society forces on people." In Revenge(1969) the sinister master criminal, Hepple, is pursued by the equally sadistic policeman MacLeish. A model is Jacobean Revenge plays.
Magnificence(1973) the central character, Jed, is a terrorist and closes the play with a futile gesture of despair and blows up himself and the cabinet minister he is holding hostage.
Characters like Jed are modelled the Malcontent characters from Jacobean Revenge plays. He vents his anger about the world: “Bomb em, again and again and again, right through their silver screen. Disrupt the spectacle, the obscene parade. Bring it to a halt. Scatter the dolly girls, let advertisements bleed. Bomb em, again and again. Murderous display, an entertainment for the oppressed...”
As with Jacobean drama we are not sure what to make such a character- feel disgusted or sympathetic. Brenton's plays are a series of metaphoric bombs hurled at his audience- attempts to disrupt the spectacle of life, to make them face the uncomfortable truths about the corrupt and repressive system that underlies their comfortable lives.
Romans in Britain(1980) was prosecuted by Mary Whitehouse. Sitting through this state-financed attack on us was described as like someone spitting in your face! This was the aim of these Bourgoise-Marxists – Epater les bourgoise- to spit in the face of the bourgoise. These writers had no moral base as most of them had been to British public schools and had plummy middle-class accents and they were financed by taxpayers money..
Once again we have great technique as a vehicle for a vicious attack on our culture and history. Brenton juxtaposes scenes from 54BC when Julius Ceasar raided Britain as a prelude to the later Imperial conquest; then scenes from when the Romans left leaving the British-Romano aristocracies way of life crumbling before the invading Saxons. He then uses scenes from Ulster in 1980, where a British secret serviceman is caught and executed by members of the IRA.
The juxtaposes are supposed to raise important questions about the nature of Imperialism and what it does to both the oppressed and the oppressors.
As they moved from Fringe to established theatres, to drawing up what David Hare called in one of his plays “Maps of the World,” many of the Marxist writers abandoned single-issue plays, the staple of Agitprop, like David Edgar's Wreckers(1977), which is about the effects of a particular Industrial Relations Act in 1971.
David Edgar's(1948) Maydays(1983) spans 1956 to 1973 and surveys the historical developments that have produced the social and political aspects of contemporary Britain.
Howard Brenton and David Hare's Brassneck, begins in 1945 and ends in 1973, and Hare's Plenty moves from 1943 to the 1960s; from a prologue after the War to an epilogue in Mrs. Thatcher's Britain of the 1980s. These Marxist dramatists tried to create an alternative history of contemporary Britain.
David Hare(1947) is one of Britain's most internationally performed playwrights. He was long associated with The National Theatre, which produced eleven of his plays successively between 1978 and 1997. A trilogy about the church, the law and the Labour Party - Racing Demon, Murmuring Judges and The Absence of War - was presented in repertory at the Olivier Theatre in 1993. Nine of his best-known plays, including Plenty, The Secret Rapture, Skylight, The Blue Room, Amy's View, The Judas Kiss and Via Dolorosa have been staged on Broadway.
But if you do not conform you are exiled. Ian Curteis submitted a play about The Falklands War to the BBC, which was sympathetic to Margaret Thatcher. It was rejected. If he had attacked Mrs. Thatcher as a warmonger or an Imperialist it would have been accepted.
These people with the BBC and The Arts Council became the new Establishment and promoted The Culture War from within. If a young playwright wrote about the destructive psychological effects which abortion can have on women Mr Stephenson would reject it. (1)
Its interesting to look over this because they are now the Establishment and oppressing those with a dissident voice. The rehabilitation of Sir Terrence Rattigan brings a a cool breeze sweetening the stables once again, as the dark clouds of Nihilism and Ideological drama recede. Rattigan's plays are once more being staged. (2)
The nihilists and the ideologues are passing into history while contemporary playwrights merely write Politically Correct platitudes leaving a vacuum crying to be filled by a contemporary explanation of our world expressed by new Traditionalist or Conservative playwrights. As they would be refused money by the Arts Council and refused a stage by the theatres they would need places to develop plays, practice and perform.
There are lots of pubs in Britain that need custom since the smoking ban ruined the business for so many and Conservative writers and actors could book rooms above these pubs to develop a drama for our time. The task of these phalanx's would be to re-link to certain traditions and convey a message of our history and continuity.