Theatre for Radical Change captions

All posters from Unfinished Histories’ Collections unless stated

Left-hand wall, Top line, left to right

Poster for Welcome Home Jacko by Mustapha Matura, Black Theatre Co-op 1979 

Black Theatre Co-op was established with the aim of staging new black British writing, after the Royal Court wouldn’t stage the show as they were already doing a black play that season… Set in a community centre where a well-meaning white woman attempts to involve street boys in activities, it was one of the first plays to portray young black teenagers, and successfully began to attract a new black youth audience. The show was revived and toured again in 1983.

Lent by Charlie Hanson

Poster for The Nine Days and Saltley Gates by Jon Chadwick and John Hoyland, Foco Novo, 1976

The show told the story of the men and women who struggled through two great miners’ struggles: 1926 and 1972, when thousands of miners and other workers picketed a Birmingham coke works. It toured widely including to mining communities where shows were sponsored by the unions and tickets given away free. Unfinished Histories would like to pay tribute to the late John Hoyland and to Roland Rees, Foco Novo’s artistic director, (who jointly directed this show with Jon Chadwick) and  who, sadly, died September 2015.

Poster for Scum: Death, Destruction and Dirty Washing by Chris Bond and Claire Luckham, Drill Hall, 1976 

Monstrous Regiment was among the first UK feminist theatre companies that appeared in the 1970s. Scum explored the experience of the washerwomen caught up in the Paris Commune in Brechtian style using songs and puppetry. The poster was one of many at that time produced by the Oval House print-shop.

Poster for Article Five by Brian Phelan, 1976

The play was staged as part of the ICA’s lunchtime theatre season. It had originally been commissioned and recorded by the BBC but was banned from transmission in Feb 1976, because it dealt with torture and degrading punishment in Northern Ireland. It was produced by Gate Theatre, set up in 1974 to stage ‘difficult or controversial work.

Left-hand wall, Bottom line, left to right 

Poster for The Socialist Alternative event, ICA, 1975

This week-long event, staged to mark the 50th anniversary of The General Strike with nightly performances followed by chaired discussions. ‘The Labour Party and Socialism: Reform or Revolution?’ followed the CAST (Cartoon Archetypal Slogan Theatre) show Samuel Keir Hardie Muggins while Broadside presented Now You See it, Now You Don’t. The ICA’s policy was controversial, with staff labelled as Trotskyite, and the theatre was forced to close in December ’76

Poster for The Big Red Ladder Show, late 1970s

Red Ladder was originally established in London as the Agit Prop Street Players, performing at factory gates, rent strikes and demonstrations. They relocated to Leeds in 1976 and eventually became a young people’s theatre company. This show was a revue of Red Ladder’s Brechtian-style sketches and songs.

Lent by Steve Trafford and Elizabeth Mansfield

Poster for benefit for the 1972 Miners’ Strike, supported by Welfare State International and other radical performance groups

The 1972 strike was over pay as miners were among the lowest paid manual workers of the time. The strike led to power shortages a declaration of a state of emergency – and to Margaret Thatcher’s determination to break the miners’ power in 1984-5. Support for the miners by the alternative theatre movement ranged from the declared socialist theatre companies to the performance art and street theatre of Jeff Nuttall, Welfare State and John Bull Puncture Repair Kit, represented here.

Lent by John Fox and Sue Gill

Artwork for Recreation Ground’s United We Stand, 1976 

This play was critical of the British government position on Northern Ireland. It was performed in Belfast and on tour at meetings in mainland Britain. The visit to Belfast was self-funded by the company as use of public funds was agreed to be inappropriate. This did not prevent the Arts Council from subsequently withdrawing the company’s funding.

Lent by Frances Rifkin

Poster for Work to Role by Women’s Theatre Group, 1976

Aimed at young women, the play explored the options open to a young school-leaver as she confronts sexism in the workplace, women’s burden of work inside and outside the home and the need for unionisation. The ICA performance was followed by a discussion of Women in Politics, chaired by Patricia Hewitt.

Middle wall, Top line, left to right

Poster for If You Wanna Know What Heaven’s Like, You’ll Be There Soon by Tony Coult, Albany Empire, 1982

Originally commissioned by Peterborough-based Perspectives Theatre Co, the play was written at the height of the second Cold War as Cruise missiles arrived in the UK as part of the Reaganite/ Thatcherite nuclear expansion. Set in 1950s Fenland the play is a comedy with music as a nuclear weapon missing from a US airbase turns up among the props for the village pageant…

Posters for Broadside Mobile Workers’ Theatre shows 

Broadside grew out of splits in Red Ladder with a policy of making addressing the needs and experience of trade unions and workplaces. The Working Women’s Charter Show (1975), created by the original company founded by Kathleen McCreery and Richard Stourac, addressed the issue of equal pay legislation and discrimination at work. Brits, an anti-imperialist play, was devised in 1984 by the second Broadside company.

Lent by Kathleen McCreery

Poster for Farmer Cutie-Gal’s Spare Part Works, Cunning Stunts, c1980

Founded in 1977 as a women’s theatre group drawing on mime, acrobatics, dance, juggling and other popular theatre skills, Cunning Stunts challenged traditional presentation of the female body with their irreverent embrace of bawdy and the grotesque.

Poster for Action Space’s performances at community festivals all over Camden, 1976

Set up by Mary and Ken Turner in the late 1960s, Action Space was an association of professional artists including environmental designers, cooks, musicians, clowns, singers, performance artists and writers, engaged in creating work with communities,  including in found environments and inflatable or tent-like structures. Originally based in Camden, they later split between bases in Holborn, Barnsley and St Ives.

Lent by Special Collections, University of Sheffield Library

Poster for Silhouette, Theatre of Black Women, 1984

Exploring the encounter between a mixed-race contemporary woman and a woman who had died as a slave in the Caribbean 200 years earlier, the performance drew on a ‘mixture of dramatic poetry, visual symbolism, fragmentation, movement and music.’ Theatre of Black Women was the first British company set up to explore the experience of black women.

Facsimile of original poster for Sadista SistersMadonna in Slag City, 1986

Physical, visual, political, Sadista Sisters, set up by Jude Alderson and Teresa D’Abreu creating music/theatre that drew on influences from punk to performance art.  The  expressionist Madonna in Slag City, performed by a cast of 25 women explored the ‘panorama of war and its consequences from the Crusade to Greenham and beyond…’

Middle wall, middle line, left to right

Paper model of Inter-Action’s Fun Art Bus, 1972

A make-at-home model given to users of the bus on disembarking. The Bus drove along ordinary routes offering passengers a zany programme of short plays, performed in the upper deck proscenium arch theatre, along with films and poems issued by the conductor from the ticket machine – and a free ride.

Poster for The Southern World is Calling Us, produced by Recreation Ground, 1975

Recreation Ground offered a cheap rehearsal and performance base and production support to other companies including the Chilean company, Teatro Popular Chileno, exiled after the 1973 military coup. They later worked with Chile Solidarity to tour the play Twelve Shifts of Gear, by Juan Vera, a Theatro Popular member, set among rural workers in the run-up to Pinochet’s coup.

Lent by Frances Rifkin

Poster for Clean Break double bill, 1979

Jenny Hicks and Jackie Holborough’s double-bill of plays, Under Eros and A Question of Habit their first as Clean Break, after leaving prison, was performed at Jackson’s Lane Theatre, and on tour. The company (which still operates today) was set up to do  workshops and tour and be open to all women ex-offenders, as a support group, a means of developing skills and of discovering a voice for themselves through theatre.

Poster for The Dear Love of Comrades by Noël Greig, Gay Sweatshop, 1979

Noël Greig’s play was based on the life and writings of gay, Edwardian, socialist, political and cultural activist Edward Carpenter and explored his relationships with three working-class men. For Greig it was important to reassert the ideals that fed the birth of the Labour Party and its commitment to fight all forms of repression.

From the Noel Greig Archive, Rose Bruford College of Theatre and Performance

Facsimile posters from Sideshow, 1980 and M3, Junction 4,

Graeae Theatre Company, 1982

Early Graeae shows were group devised sketches that challenged stereotypical images of disability. Sideshow also toured to Canada and the US as a prelude to the International Year of Disabled People. Graeae continues to operate to break down barriers, create trailblazing theatre and putting Deaf and Disabled people centre stage.

Middle wall, bottom line, left to right

Poster for Belt and Braces Roadshow

Formed in 1973 by Gavin Richards and other ex-members of the Ken Campbell Roadshow, Belt and Braces produced politically aware theatre for working class communities. The company introduced Dario Fo’s Accidental Death of an Anarchist to UK audiences  and also toured internationally. Belt and Braces Roadshow Band played for audiences following theatre shows

Poster for The Mother, Maydays Theatre Co-op, c1980s

Brecht’s play, tracing a woman’s journey to political consciousness, was undertaken by many political theatre companies in the 1970s and 80s (such as Belt and Braces) and was seen the quintessential play of a woman’s journey to political consciousness.

From the Clive Barker Archive, Rose Bruford College of Theatre and Performance

Poster for Deadwood, Lumiere and Son,1986

Staged as a promenade production at the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew, Deadwood was an early example of site-specific performance and drew attention to the destruction of tropical rainforests by capitalist consumption.

Poster: What Exactly is Heterosexuality and What Causes It?, designed by Alan Wakeman, 1975

Originally produced by Alan Wakeman  as a mural on the wall of the Almost Free Theatre in 1975 at the first gay theatre season in Britain.It was later issued as a poster and sold to support the Gay Sweatshop company.

This poster has been generously reprinted by Alan Wakeman to mark the 40th anniversary of that season and in support of the work of Unfinished Histories: Recording the Alternative Theatre Movement and is available to buy.

Right-hand wall, Top line, left to right

Posters for projects by Inter-Action’s Dogg’s Troupe, 1972-3 

Dogg’s Troupe worked in the streets and parks, creating inter-active shows for children and adults. Summer Saturdays were  part-play, part-workshop while Revolution Workshop, was a touring production for young people. It focused on Charles II’s escape from Brighton after the battle of Worcester with actors playing the parts of key participants in the Civil War and involving children in the debates that followed.

Poster for Fanshen by Joint Stock, 1975

Joint Stock pioneered new methods of developing scripts through a carefully-structured workshop devising process then scripted by writers. Scripted by David Hare, Fanshen was created from company workshops exploring William Hinton’s book in which Chinese villagers undergo the process of revolutionary self-criticism and resonated with contemporary 1970s debates around workers’ control.

Poster for Patience and Sarah, Cockpit Theatre, 1983 

Adapted from Isobel Miller’s novel by Joyce Holliday. Charting the growing love between two pioneer women in 19th century America, its central roles were performed by Peggy Shaw and Lois Weaver of Split Britches theatre company. Its acclaimed production was directed by Kate Crutchley, a pioneer of lesbian and women’s theatre as programmer at Oval House in the 1980s.

Poster for Raising the Titanic, Welfare State International, 1983

Devised for LIFT (London International Festival of Theatre) the show involved a cast of 100+ local people along with a professional team of performers and technicians and was performed in Limehouse basin including in shipping containers manoeuvred by forklift trucks. It used the class divisions of the Titanic as vivid metaphor for those of Thatcher’s Britain.

Lent by John Fox and Sue Gill

Many thanks to individual lenders, and especially to Liz Lynch, Mica Nava and Tony Coult for their recent donations of posters which have augmented our collections. Thanks to Camille, Arcola Theatre and our volunteer team for helping install the exhibition and to Rose Bruford College of Theatre and performance for their support.

Exhibition curator, Susan Croft. If you have information to add to any of the captions e.g. further details, graphic designer credit etc, please get in touch. If you have posters to donate also email us at: