Joan Maud Littlewood

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Maudie Joan Littlewood

Also Known As: "Joan Maud MacColl"
Birthdate: (87)
Birthplace: Stockwell, London, Greater London, England, United Kingdom
Death: September 20, 2002 (87)
London, Greater London, UK
Immediate Family:

Wife of Ewan MacColl

Occupation: Theatre director
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Joan Maud Littlewood

Joan Maud Littlewood (6 October 1914 – 20 September 2002) was an English theatre director, best known for her work in developing the left-wing Theatre Workshop. Known as "The Mother of Modern Theatre".

Her production of "Oh, What a Lovely War!" in 1963 was probably her most influential piece.

  • - born at Stockwell, London
  • - trained as an actress at RADA
  • - moved to Manchester in 1934, where she met folksinger Jimmie Miller (AKA Ewan MacColl).
  • - Joined his troupe, Theatre of Action, and married Jimmie
  • - briefly moved to London
  • - returned to Manchester and set up the Theatre Union in 1936.
  • - banned from broadcasting on the BBC in 1941.
  • - ban was lifted in 1943, when MI5 said she had broken off her association with the Communist Party. She was under surveillance by MI5 from 1939 until the 1950s.
  • - 1945 Littlewood and her husband Ewan MacColl, and other Theatre Union members formed Theatre Workshop and registered it while staying at Ormesby Hall that toured for the next eight years.
  • - Gerry Raffles joined the troupe shortly afterwards; MacColl and Littlewood divorced but still worked together for many years
  • - Littlewood and Raffles were life partners until his death in 1975.
  • - In 1953 Theatre Workshop took up residence at the Theatre Royal in Stratford, east London, gaining an international reputation, performing plays across Europe and in the Soviet Union.


  • Bertolt Brecht's Mother Courage and Her Children (1955), which she directed and also played the lead role.
  • Fings Ain't Wot They Used T'Be, a musical about the London underworld, became a hit and ran from 1959 to 1962, transferring to the West End.
  • Shelagh Delaney's A Taste of Honey (1958), which gained critical acclaim,
  • satirical musical Oh, What a Lovely War! (1965), her stage adaptation of a work for radio by Charles Chilton.

She received a Tony Award nomination for Best Direction of a Musical for "Oh, What a Lovely War!", becoming the first woman nominated for the award.

After Raffles's death in 1975, Littlewood left Theatre Workshop and stopped directing. She settled in France and became the companion of Baron Philippe de Rothschild, the vintner and poet, and wrote his memoirs, Milady Vine. In the mid-1980s, she commenced work on her 1994 autobiography, Joan's Book.

Joan died, in 2002, of natural causes at the age of 87 in the London flat of MaColl Rankin.

References and Sources

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Joan Maud Littlewood's Timeline

October 6, 1914
London, Greater London, England, United Kingdom
September 20, 2002
Age 87
London, Greater London, UK