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John Peter McGrath, (1 June 1935 – 22 January 2002), was a Liverpudlian-Irish playwright and theatre theorist who grew up in Wales and notably took up the cause of Scottish independence in his plays. His life partner was the Scottish actress Elizabeth MacLennan.

He was known both for his work with the 7:84 Theatre Company as a playwright and for his theoretical formulation of the principles of a radical, popular theatre. His best-known play is The Cheviot, the Stag, and the Black Black Oil (1973). The play utilizes some of the dramaturgical and theatrical techniques of epic theatre - actors take on multiple roles and frequently slip out of character, for example - in ways that many students of theatre would associate with the praxis of the modernist theatre practitioner Bertolt Brecht, but which McGrath is keen to stress have a genealogy that stretches far further back through the history of popular traditions of performance. The title of the play refers to three pivotal periods in the history of class struggle in Scotland: the clearing of the Scottish highlands to make way for grazing land, the subsequent use of this land by the wealthy for shooting, and its current exploitation in the oil market. These changes are identified as forming a recurrent pattern of abuse of the land and the exploitation of the people by outsiders and by wealthier locals.

Bibliography

  • Kershaw, Baz. 1992. The Politics of Performance: Radical Theatre as Cultural Intervention. London and New York: Routledge. ISBN 0415057639.
  • MacLennan, Elizabeth. 1990. The Moon Belongs to Everyone: Making Theatre with 7:84. London: Methuen. ISBN 0413641503.
  • McGrath, John. 1981. A Good Night Out: Popular Theatre: Audience, Class and Form. London: Nick Hern Books, 1996. ISBN 1854593706.
  • McGrath, John. 1990. The Bone Won't Break: On Theatre and Hope in Hard Times. London: Methuen. ISBN 0413632601.
  • McGrath, John. 1996. Six-Pack: Plays for Scotland. Edinburgh: Polygon. ISBN 0748662014.
  • Schechter, Joel, ed. 2003. Popular Theatre: A Sourcebook. Worlds of Performance Ser. London and New York: Routledge. ISBN 0415258308.
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