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The Palace That Joan Built

Date uploaded: September 30, 2014

Art on the Underground presents The Palace That Joan Built by artist Mel Brimfield and songwriter and composer Gwyneth Herbert. Inspired by the legacy of leading theatre director Joan Littlewood and coinciding with the centenary of her birth, The Palace That Joan Built is an unconventional biography composed of posters, photography, performance, film and musical interventions exhibited at Stratford Underground station.

Joan Littlewood played an active role in the local community through her involvement with Theatre Royal Stratford East situated nearby Stratford Underground station. Littlewood’s touring company, Theatre Workshop, was based at the Theatre between 1953 and 1979. During the 1970s when the Theatre was marked for redevelopment, Littlewood’s long-time partner and Theatre Manager Gerry Raffles saved this important Victorian theatre from demolition by standing in front of a bulldozer. Today, Theatre Royal Stratford East continues to produce and stage award-winning theatrical performances, playing a vital role in the local community. The square on which the Theatre is located is named after Gerry Raffles.

Littlewood’s plays challenged historical narratives, social conventions, tradition and authority. In A Taste of Honey (1958) a number of social taboos such as race and gender-roles were addressed, while Oh, What a Lovely War! (1963) presented audiences with an altogether new perspective on World War I.

By working with local young people and taking her productions out of the Theatre building and onto the streets, Littlewood rejected the conventional practices of theatre and sowed the seeds of early community arts and collaborative practice.

Mel Brimfield and Gwyneth Herbert present a creative exploration of the legacies of Littlewood and the Theatre Workshop Company by adopting a similarly inclusive approach to production. The Palace That Joan Built combines a number of formats, from musical theatre to documentary making. Following a period of extensive research, the artists have responded to the voices of Littlewood’s friends, colleagues and academic researchers. Personal and academic accounts have been paired with interpretations by actors, musicians, choreographers, comedians, and other assorted enthusiasts. The resulting songs, dramatic monologues, staged photographs and fictional archival material are a homage that blurs the lines between fiction and reality, offering a new narrative around the legacy of Joan Littlewood.

Saturday 4th October 2014, 1 - 4pm

Stratford Station, Jubilee Line Concourse & Mezzanine Floor

For more information click here.