National Representations, National Theatres: Aubrey Menen and the Experimental Theatre Company
Studies in Theatre and Performance
Taylor & Francis (Routledge)
Reason for embargo
This article discusses the Indian-Irish playwright and critic Aubrey Menen’s involvement with London's theatre scene in the 1930s. Aubrey Menen became heavily involved in student drama activities while a philosophy student at University College London. He co-founded the London Student Players as well as the Experimental Theatre company, a group on London's theatre fringe which sought to produce plays that were of the moment, politically current, pushing the boundaries of theatrical staging in alternative performance spaces. At the age of 21, Menen also became the dramatic critic for the monthly magazine, The Bookman. Menen used his column to offer a sharp critical dissection of the state of British theatre and to lay out a plan for a theatre that can call itself truly 'national' and how this might be achieved financially, artistically and practically. This essay highlights the wider context of Menen’s own pronouncements in The Bookman, exploring these as part of his engagement with London's alternative theatre scene in the 1930s. It argues that Menen’s ideas were a timely intervention into crucial debates how the nation should be represented in drama and how drama could reach an audience beyond the middle classes, preoccupations that are still hotly debated today.
This work was supported by the British Academy under Grant SG-54032. I would also like to acknowledge the generous feedback, mentorship and advice of Professor Susheila Nasta, Principal investigator of the AHRC funded cross-institutional project, Making Britain: South Asian Visions of Home and Abroad, 1870-1950. Thanks are also due to the curators and archivists at the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center, University of Boston for their assistance with the archive of Aubrey Menen.
This is the author accepted manuscript. The final version is available from Taylor & Francis via the DOI in this record.
Published online: 22 March 2017