MI5 Surveillance of British Cold War Theatre

  • James Smith
Part of the Transnational Theatre Histories book series (TTH)


While it is well known that for much of the twentieth century Britain’s theatres were subjected to extensive state regulation from the Lord Chamberlain, the involvement of covert agencies has been explored less often. This chapter draws on recently released files from Britain’s intelligence agency MI5 to examine the surveillance maintained on Britain’s cold war theatre industry, with particular attention paid to the files kept on Theatre Workshop. Through examining these records a picture emerges of the nature and extent of MI5’s surveillance of cold war theatre, as well as of the specific factors that rendered certain theatre organisations worthy of sustained security-intelligence interest. Overall, this chapter suggests that the theatre was viewed by MI5 as one of the front lines of the ideological battles of the cold war, monitored due to fears that pro-Soviet individuals and organisations might be operating and gaining influence on the British stage.


Intelligence Agency National Archive Source Report Iron Curtain British Council 
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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • James Smith
    • 1
  1. 1.Durham UniversityDurhamUK

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