Unity Theatre

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A Brief history and traditions of Unity Theatre

Unity Theatre grew out of the agitprop street theatre in the East End of London in the early 1930's.

Once established, in a converted chapel in Kings Cross (built entirely with voluntary labour), Unity became the inspiration for a national upsurge in drama on social and political issues, since it was the only theatre in London throughout the 1930's, 1940's and early 1950's producing plays on these subjects.

Alongside shows specially created for Unity, it drew on the repertoire of world theatre, including innovative productions of works by Clifford Odets, Sean O'Casey, Lope de Vega, Jean Paul Sartre and Arthur Adamov. It was the first theatre in England to stage a play by Bertolt Brecht and it helped popularise the plays of Maxim Gorky.

Unity's strength lay with its audience drawn mainly from the trades unions and organised labour movements, but amongst its supporters were many eminent personalities e.g. Bernard Shaw, H.G. Wells, Sybil Thorndike, Beatrix Lehmann and Paul Robeson whose appearance with Unity, followed by international acclaim for the political pantomime Babes in the Wood, marked the peak of the theatre's fame.

With the outbreak of war, Unity was the first theatre to open in London once the ban on public entertainment had been lifted and it maintained a permanent repertory of plays, satirical revues and musicals throughout the five years of hostilities. It also sent out small groups of performers who, often in hazardous conditions, provided valuable shelter and factory entertainment for those winning the war at home.

Unity emerged from the war at the head of a national drama movement that was concerned with the lives of working people. Soon however, many of the developments pioneered by Unity, such as vernacular drama, Living Newspaper and biting satirical shows, were accepted by the theatrical mainstream and television.

Many well-known theatre people - Lionel Bart, Alfie Bass, Michael Gambon, Bob Hoskins, David Kossoff, Warren Mitchell, Bill Owen and Ted Willis among them - learned their skills at this influential theatre which was the working people's most sustained and successful contribution to British drama and one of the most important and enduring initiatives in popular culture this century.

Unity Theatre was destroyed by fire in 1975.


Connected mandy members:

Lena Kennard
Lena Kennard
Costume Designer
2019, Beauty and The Beast, Costume/Set Designer
Unity Theatre/Whitby Hall
Elisa Cowley
Elisa Cowley
Actor
2018, Tales From The Blue Room, Veronica
Unity Theatre Liverpool
Emily Buckland
Emily Buckland
Stage Manager
2018, Little Red and the Big Bad Wolf, CSM on tour
Tour
Jak Malone
Jak Malone
Actor
2018, Bowie Theory, Bowie
Unity Theatre
Jacob Amos
Jacob Amos
Assistant Stage Manager
2017, Umbrelelephant, Stage Manager
Unity Theatre
Adam McCoy
Adam McCoy
Actor
2017, Lonely Hearts Club, Darren
Emily Buckland
Emily Buckland
Stage Manager
2017, Little Red and the Big Bad Wolf, CSM
Unity theatre
Bethel Moyo
Bethel Moyo
Camera Operator
2016, Wicked Fish Theatre Production, Cameraman/Director
Jake Smith
Jake Smith
Sound Technician
2016, Who's Afraid of the Working Class, Sound Designer
Unity Theatre Liverpool
Megan Sheeran
Megan Sheeran
Company Stage Manager
2016, Princess and the Pea, Company Stage Manager
Amy Whalley
Amy Whalley
Assistant Stage Manager
2016, Liverpool Pentecost Pageant, Stage Manager on the Hugh Stowell Brown stage
Hope street Liverpool
Sophia Tallon
2015, Snow White Goes West, Dwarf
Unity Theatre, Brenham
Ian Wilson
Ian Wilson
Lighting Programmer
2014, The Heart of Everton's Badge, LX Designer
Various Venues
Sophia Tallon
2014, The Emperor's New Clothes, Lady in Waiting
Unity Theatre, Brenham
Sarah Llewellyn
Sarah Llewellyn
Composer
2014, The Bells, Composer and Music Director
Marie Westcott
2014, Silver Hammer Man, Caroline
Cleopatra Wood
2013, Whole, Gbemi
Unity Theatre
Dominic Morgan
2013, Waiting for Lefty, Joe
The White Bear
Sophia Tallon
2013, The Personal History of Rachel Dupree, Inez
Unity Theatre, Brenham
Sophia Tallon
2013, Cinderella, Ugly Princess
Unity Theatre, Brenham

Unity Theatre Jobs

For details of known Unity Theatre vacancies, please check our jobs board for more information