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Stages of history

Michael Billington's story of Britain through its postwar theatre is a fascinating and provocative work. But why the patronising disregard for musicals and other popular theatre?

State of the Nation, by Michael Billington (Faber & Faber, £25)

No critic is better placed than Michael Billington to look back at Britain’s postwar history through its theatre. Billington reviewed at the Times from 1965 and has been at the Guardian since 1971. This book is written from the experience of 8,000 nights out and with the conviction that the truculent, lone playwright is the key creative figure in the collaborative business of theatre.

Billington kicks off in typically crisp style by demolishing the idea that modern theatre started in May 1956 with John Osborne’s Look Back In Anger.…

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