Legitimate theatre

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Legitimate Drama/theatre (“the legit”) are terms term which arose in England during the eighteenth century, to refer to the Patent Theatres in contrast to the “illigitimate” (= unregistered and unlicenced) theatres. Later applied to all five-act plays with little singing, dancing and spectacle, and which depended entirely on acting – in contrast to the encroaching farce, musical comedy, revues and melodrama (see Hartnoll). This concept was brought to South Africa by British performers and managers, but basically died out as a term in the profession in the twentieth century. However has on occasion been utilized by writers to differentiate the kind of formal, text bound theatre from a variety of other forms in the country, a necessary though contentious distinction at times, particularly as theatre practice opened up in the latter half of the twentieth century. (Loren Kruger for example distinguishes the a hegemonic belief in the legitimate stage and ironically contrasts this “ legitimate”South African theatre to the rising “New African theatre” )

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