New Theatre Quarterly

Research Article

The Shadows and the Rush of Light: Ewan MacColl and Expressionist Drama

Claire Altree Warden

Abstract

It has generally been assumed that the Expressionist movement had little noticeable impact on British theatre. Claire Altree Warden here suggests that in the plays of Ewan MacColl (and in particular his The Other Animals of 1948) there is a discernible challenge to this assumption. In order to advocate a specific political position, MacColl took the conventions of Expressionism and developed a highly engaged, artistically innovative theatrical aesthetic that could tackle socio-political inequalities and the suppression of the dissident voice. Through linguistic experiment, episodic structure, representational characters, and a focus on the individual mind, the playwright challenges the audience to confront class injustice and hegemonic tyranny. Claire Altree Warden is based at the University of Edinburgh, where she teaches English Literature. She also teaches Critical Theory and Theatre History at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh, and is currently preparing a new critical study of Ewan MacColl's plays.