How a controversial, impossible, disgusting theatrical experiment conquered the world.
Naturalism was a small-scale, highly experimental theatre form that was tried and failed several times in the 1870s and 1880s. It was denounced as immoral, pornographic, radical, incompetent, and boring. It very nearly didn’t happen at all.
But 150 years later its influence is all around us; the theatre or film director owes their existence to that movement; its acting techniques are part of an actor’s essential toolbox; its plays are still a core part of the world’s repertoire; it is central to how we think of theatrical narrative and representation, even if more honoured in the breach than the observance.
Its influence has spread across Europe, then North and South America, Asia, Africa, Australasia. It is baked into the storytelling of theatre, film and television.
But how did this happen? And what might we learn by going back to origins of this influence to discover the strangeness of how Naturalism began?