Theatrical Revue

Revue after 1940

By the 1940s and 1950s the style of revue had become light, charming and witty. The famous wartime revues were 'Sweet and Low', S'weeter and Lower' and 'Sweetest and Lowest' starring Hermione Gingold and Hermione Baddeley. Stars of 1950's revues included Ian Carmichael and Joyce Grenfell. Bamber Gascoigne’s one famous revue 'Share My Lettuce' included Maggie Smith and Kenneth Williams in the cast. Michael Flanders and Donald Swann contributed songs to many revues and eventually became performers themselves, singing their own songs around the world in 'At the Drop of a Hat'. Even Harold Pinter was a revue sketch writer.

'The Punch Revue' in 1955 included poems by Louis MacNeice, W H Auden and John Betjeman, set to music by composers such as Benjamin Britten, Larry Adler and Donald Swann. Nearly 30 years before 'Cats', two T S Eliot poems from Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats were dramatised in a revue and performed by two dancers.

Most famous of the 1950's revues was 'Cranks', devised by choreographer John Cranko with designs by John Piper.

The Windmill Theatre

The Windmill Theatre evolved its own particular brand of revue, mixing sketches, dances and comics with their famous nudes. Before the abolition of stage censorship in 1968, the Lord Chamberlain ruled that nudes were acceptable on stage so long as they stood still. This gave rise to the famous saying ‘If it moves, it’s rude’. Once censorship was abolished, revues like 'Oh Calcutta!' and 'The Dirtiest Show in Town' showed more explicit nudity and sexual licence.

In 1960 four young Oxbridge graduates changed the face of revue for ever. 'Beyond the Fringe' with Peter Cook, Dudley Moore, Alan Bennett and Jonathan Miller returned revue to a more biting critical role and kick-started the 1960s topical satire boom in theatre and television.

Spectacular revue survived in the big showgirl extravaganzas at venues like the London Casino, sometimes as showcases for singers or comedians. These shows were imitations of the great Paris revues at the Folies Bergère or the Lido. Although they rarely appeared in England, the most famous troupe of show dancers were the Bluebell Girls, who starred in Paris and in Las Vegas. Most of the girls were British.

International Training Course

The Victoria and Albert Museum welcomes applications for ‘Creating Innovative Learning Programmes’, its new one week intensive course. This is a unique training opportunity for museum professionals from overseas who are interested in attracting and programming for a range of museum audiences.

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Event - Lunchtime Lectures: Peter Brook Process to Production

Wed 25 March 2015 13:00–14:00

LUNCHTIME LECTURE: Join curator Kate Dorney, curator of Modern and Contemporary Theatre for this lecture on director Peter Brook. Brook's career spanned more than six decades, three art forms and three continents. He is as renowned for his emphasis on exploration and experimentation outlined in a number of books as he is for producing landmark films, plays and operas.

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