The Royal Court is celebrating playwright Caryl Churchill’s 70th birthday with a series of readings of her plays. Mark Ravenhill is directing a reading of her British Civil War play Light Shining In Buckinghamshire, which I have a special fondness for as this is a rare cultural recognition of this heady period. Somehow the Civil War fails to register in our culture as a major historical moment – compare it with other revolutions and civil wars the world over. (It was because of its scrubbing from popular discourse that I wanted Verso to publish an edition of the Putney Debates last year, and I’m delighted to say it was a success.) This may be because, in one sense, it failed, but it did provide Britons with the first coherently expressed demands for democracy and freedom. So how strange that, despite the conflict, the tragedy, the religious enthusiasm and the utopian vision, you can count on the fingers of two hands the cultural product that has been prompted by, or even set in, this period.
My list is:
Literature: Paradise Lost (Milton); Marvell’s poetry; Englishmen with Swords (Montagu Slater); Sexing the Cherry (Jeannette Winterston); and Winstanley (David Caute)
Films: Cromwell (Hughes); Winstanley (Brownlow); To Kill a King (Barker); and Witchfinder General (Reeves)
Ok – so what am I missing?