Joan Maud Littlewood (1914–2002) was an English theatre director who is often referred to as the “Mother of Modern Theatre.” Littlewood is best-known for her anti-establishment plays such as Oh, What a Lovely War! (1963) and for her groundbreaking collaborative approach to theatre bringing politics, a European sensibility and working class characters to the English stage. She grew up in south London and won a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art at 16, working as a cleaner to pay her way. She left in 1934, moving to Manchester and joining the agit-prop company Theatre of Action. She met and married folk-singer Jimmie Miller (later known as Ewan MacColl) and they set up Theatre Union together in 1936. Due to their production of Last Edition being regarded as “thinly-veiled communist propaganda” by a Lancashire police chief, they were put under surveillance for ten years by MI5 and Littlewood was refused entry to a radio studio by the BBC.
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