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The Losey–Moscow Connection: Experimental Soviet Theatre and the Living Newspaper

Abstract

Although Joseph Losey is best known as the blacklisted director of films such as the Pinter-scripted The Servant, The Go-Between, and Accident, as well as Mr Klein starring Alain Delon, he also had an important career in leftist theatre prior to making his Hollywood film debut in in the late 1940s. Because of his collaboration with Bertolt Brecht on the 1947 Hollywood production of Galileo, it is assumed that Losey learned from him most of his stagecraft – particularly the use of Verfremdungseffekt and self-reflexivity. However, as this article shows, Losey's apprenticeship was rooted not in the Epic Theatre (which was largely a second-hand phenomenon) but in the Soviet theatrical avant garde, observed at first hand during a 1935 Moscow visit studying the techniques of Meyerhold, Vakhtangov, and Pavlovich Okhlopkov, whose ‘theatre in the round’ stagings and use of complex ramps and projections provided the basis for Losey's subsequent Federal Theatre Project ‘Living Newspaper’ productions – notably Triple-A Plowed Under and Injunction Granted! Under the aegis of co-founder Hallie Flanagan, the Living Newspaper proved to be the model of 1930s political theatre: topical, didactic, fast-paced – and almost immediately obsolete as events superseded the plays' relevance. Colin Gardner is Professor of Critical Theory and Integrative Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is the author of critical studies on Joseph Losey and Karel Reisz for Manchester University Press's ‘British Film Makers’ series and of Beckett, Deleuze, and the Televisual Event: Peephole Art for Palgrave Macmillan. He is currently working with Felicity Colman on a three-volume Encyclopedia of Film-Philosophy.

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New Theatre Quarterly
  • ISSN: 0266-464X
  • EISSN: 1474-0613
  • URL: /core/journals/new-theatre-quarterly
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