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Theatre review: Women of Aktion - the heroic story of how World War One was ended
Nigel Smith, York Socialist Party
Women of Aktion by the Bent Architect Theatre Company tells the story of the women and men whose heroic actions brought World War One to an end.
It does this by looking at how Joan Littlewood, the most influential left theatre director during the inter-war period, engaged in a creative struggle with Ernst Toller. Toller was an anarchist playwright who had written the play 'Draw the Fires' about the Kiel mutiny by the German navy in 1918, but had failed to include women characters that were anything but caricatures.
Littlewood challenges Toller's paternalistic approach and the artistic conflict between Toller and Littlewood is a major theme. The conflict mirrors the struggle Littlewood faced in establishing a left theatre company as a woman.
As this conflict rages we see it juxtaposed to the political and personal struggles of the women of Kiel.
We are taken through the terrible losses of loved ones that they had to endure. We also learn about the privations they had to suffer.
More significantly, however, we are taken on a journey of political awakening. We see how these women grasp the need for revolutionary action to end the war.
We see how their actions link to the mutinies in the German fleet and German army. We also see how revolutionary councils were set up across Germany - all the major factors in ending the war.
We also see how one young woman sees further than many of the leaders around her. She grasps the need to prosecute the revolution decisively, while others compromise and vacillate.
This hesitation proves the revolution's undoing. It allows the Freikorps and other counter-revolutionary forces time to counter-attack even though the Kaiser is forced to abdicate.
Women of Aktion is an important piece of political theatre. It clearly voices with positivity the need for socialist struggle and brilliantly makes the point that you can't compromise with capitalism.
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