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‘We Said We Wouldn’t Look Back’: Utopia and the backward glance in Dorothy Reynolds and Julian Slade’s Salad Days

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The 1954 British musical Salad Days has been almost completely neglected by academics, partly, it seems because it is assumed to be light, frothy nonsense with no real significance. Its neglect is particularly noteworthy considering Salad Days’ huge popularity in its own time. But this musical is far from conservative; the protagonists are a young graduate couple, who try to circumvent the restrictions of the grim world of the diegetic narrative and more specifically the gendered and classed roles expected of them. This article revisits Salad Days, reading it as a utopian text and in doing so repositions the show as an articulation of utopian desire for the ‘not-yet’ of a more liberated future. Although, the novel has been the traditional home of utopia, musical theatre is considered here to contain forms that can circumvent the regulations of prose fiction. The abstract and non-representational nature of music and performance makes them effective modes for articulating utopian desire. Salad Days uses both utopian and nostalgic sensibilities, and this article explores ways in which the utopian modes challenge ideological boundaries, and the backward glance signifies mourning for lost opportunities.

Keywords: Salad Days; backward glance; musical theatre; nostalgia; nostalgic theatre; utopia; utopian theatre; utopianism

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of Lincoln

Publication date: 2011-08-18

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  • Studies in Musical Theatre is a refereed journal which considers areas of live performance that use vocal and instrumental music in conjunction with theatrical performance as a principal part of their expressive language.
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