In Memory of John Arden
A rehearsed reading of the 1959 anti-war play Sergeant Musgrave's Dance will be held in the Jerwood Theatre Downstairs at the Royal Court on Sunday 25 November at 5pm in memory of its playwright John Arden, who died in March 2012. Sergeant Musgrave's Dance opened at the Royal Court in 1959, directed by Lindsay Anderson and centres on four Victorian soldiers, who have deserted from an imperialist war overseas. They arrive in a northern coal mining town with the aim of seeking revenge from the townspeople after a witnessing a terrible act of colonial violence. Although Sergeant Musgrave's Dance is now widely regarded as a modern classic, the play was initially badly received among critics and audiences, playing to quarter-full houses and prompting the Royal Court to publish a leaflet in reaction, challenging audiences to answer the question 'What Kind of Theatre Do You Want?' including high profile and passionate advocacy of the play. John Arden's other plays at the Royal Court included Live Like Pigs and This Happy Haven, his first collaboration with wife and co-writer Margaretta D'Arcy. His other plays included The Workhouse Donkey at Chichester Festival Theatre in 1963 and Armstrong's Last Goodnight in 1964 at the National Theatre. Playwright and Director Peter Gill will direct the reading. He started his career at the Royal Court as an actor, appearing in Arnold Wesker's The Kitchen, which opened just before Sergeant Musgrave's Dance in 1959 and went on to become Assistant Director at the Royal Court in 1964 and Associate Director, before directing extensively at the Riverside Studios, where he was Artistic Director and National Theatre, where he founded the National Theatre Studio.
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