Welcome …

The Play Podcast is a podcast dedicated to exploring the greatest new and classic plays. In each episode we choose a single play to talk about in depth with our expert guest. We discuss the play’s origins, its themes, characters, structure and impact. For us the play is the thing.

Latest Episode

033 – Leopoldstadt by Tom Stoppard

033 – Leopoldstadt by Tom Stoppard

Tom Stoppard’s ambitious new play Leopoldstadt is a sweeping work of history and ideas which charts the diaspora and decline of an Austrian Jewish family through the convulsive events of the first half of the twentieth century. It addresses profound moral questions of identity, memory and prejudice that are insistently relevant in our time. It is not only a towering intellectual achievement, it is also very personally poignant because it is based partly on Stoppard’s own remarkable family history.

Leopoldstadt opened in the West End in January 2020, only to be closed prematurely by the pandemic a few weeks later. Happily it has returned to the London stage this Autumn, and I am privileged and delighted to talk in this episode with the director of the London productions, playwright Patrick Marber.

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Last Time

032 – Footnotes Volume 3

032 – Footnotes Volume 3

Footnotes Volume 3 is a recording of the facts and observations that we’ve published on the website to supplement the plays that we’ve covered in episodes 24-31. A smorgasbord of trivia and analysis ranging from Greek Tragedy to the stock characters of Commedia dell’Arte , through the music of Bob Dylan, the filming of Caryl Churchill’s Escaped Alone during lockdown, and the theatrical installations of Samuel Beckett.

A compendium of dramatic intelligence!

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Recent Episodes

031 – Happy Days by Samuel Beckett

031 – Happy Days by Samuel Beckett

Samuel Beckett’s third great dramatic masterpiece Happy Days is a timeless exploration of existential threat and personal survival. It’s central image of Winnie buried in a mound of scorched earth also speaks to our own time when many have endured enforced confinement in a world struck by collective disaster.

Irish actress and Beckett scholar Lisa Dwan, fresh from her triumphant performance as Winnie at the Riverside Studios in London, joins us to share her unique experience of playing Beckett and this majestic play.

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030 – Escaped Alone by Caryl Churchill

030 – Escaped Alone by Caryl Churchill

Caryl Churchill’s stunning play Escaped Alone presents an ordinary scene of four women of a certain age chatting over tea in a suburban garden. Of course not all is as tranquil as it appears, for each of the women harbour dark personal anxieties, and from time to time one of them steps away from the garden to share news with us about apocalyptic disasters that have struck the world. Produced at the Royal Court in 2016, Churchill’s vision of a world overcome by collective disaster has proved to be extraordinarily prophetic. Joining me to explore our first Churchill play is Professor Elaine Aston, author of a monograph on Caryl Churchill as well as the editor of the Cambridge Companion to Caryl Churchill.

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029 – A Taste of Honey by Shelagh Delaney

029 – A Taste of Honey by Shelagh Delaney

Shelagh Delaney’s A Taste of Honey caused a sensation when it appeared at the Theatre Royal Stratford in 1958 because of its frank portrayal of a working-class, single mother and daughter, as well as its bold representations of a mixed-race relationship and a young homosexual as a central character. Delaney sent her first play to the renowned director Joan Littlewood who helped develop it into an historic production which went on to the West End and Broadway. Professor Nadine Holdsworth helps us to explore the enduring power and relevance of the play.

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027 – Present Laughter by Noël Coward

Andrew Scott and Indira Varma at the Old VicPhoto by Manuel Harlan    Garry Essendine is a star of the London stage with an ego and celebrity lifestyle to match. His social and professional diary is forever full, he enjoys the adulation and...

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025 – Medea, by Euripides

Helen McCrory at the National Theatre© Tristram Kenton  Jason, his wife Medea and their two sons have settled in Corinth following his arduous expedition to obtain the golden fleece. Jason could not have succeeded in acquiring the golden fleece...

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024 – Consent, by Nina Raine

Anna Maxwell Martin, Ben Chaplin, Adam James and Priyanga Burford in Consent at the National Theatre © Alastair Muir   Nina Raine's play Consent opens with two middle-class couples enjoying a housewarming party. They are metropolitan professionals;...

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023 – Footnotes Volume 2

   This episode is a collection of Footnotes on the plays that we've talked about in the past ten episodes. During the course of my researches and conversations with my guests there is all sorts of material that fails to reach the final podcasts,...

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022 – Shook, by Samuel Bailey

Josh Finan as Cain in Shook(Photo: The Other Richard/Southwark Playhouse)  Samuel Bailey's play Shook is set in a young offenders' institution, where three young men have signed up for a vocational class. But they have not chosen the usual options of...

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019 – The Welkin, by Lucy Kirkwood

The Welkin at the National Theatre 2020Photo: Brinkhoff-Moegenburg    It is 1759 in East Anglia. A child has been murdered and a young woman has been convicted to hang for the crime. She 'pleads her belly' and a jury of matrons must determine if...

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018 – Copenhagen, by Michael Frayn

   It is September 1941. German physicist Werner Heisenberg is visiting his friend and former colleague Niels Bohr at his home in Copenhagen. But this is not an ordinary meeting. Denmark is occupied by the forces of the Third Reich, and...

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016 – Oleanna, by David Mamet

David Mamet's explosive play Oleanna which shows how a seemingly benign conversation between a university professor and his female student can go so badly wrong caused intense controversy and divided audiences when it was first produced in 1992. The heated...

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012 – Footnotes 1

This episode is a selection of the Footnotes that we've compiled during the research and conversations that we've had so far on the podcast. It is a recorded smorgasbord of fragments, with titbits of information in the best tradition of footnotes, as well...

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011 – Beginning, by David Eldridge

Sam Troughton and Justine Mitchell in Beginning at the National Theatre - Photo Johan PerssonDanny is the last guest remaining at Laura's flat warming party. They have been eyeing each other up from afar all night, and now that they are left alone, Laura...

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010 – Albion, by Mike Bartlett

Victoria Hamilton and Nicholas Rowe in Albion at the Almeida - Photo Marc BrennerA grieving mother sets out to restore a garden of national importance in a bid to find personal peace and to promote historic British values that she fears may be lost in an...

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007 – Lungs, by Duncan Macmillan

Photograph: Helen MaybanksA young couple navigate the age-old debate of whether or when to embark on having a baby. They are naturally worried about their personal responsibilities, but most topically they are also concerned about the impact that their...

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006 – Betrayal, by Harold Pinter

Pinter's modern classic dissects the dynamics of betrayal in marriage, friendship and work. The ambiguities of the adulterous affair that is the core of the play are made all the more unsettling by the innovative chronology of the narrative: the play...

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005 – The Tempest, by William Shakespeare

Photo © Marc BrennerShow notesThe theatre is filled with crashing sounds and the flashing light of a tumultuous storm. Sailors can be heard shouting to each other to try to prevent their ship from splintering apart. We are aboard the King of Naple’s ship...

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003 – Endgame, by Samuel Beckett

Photo © Manuel HarlanShow notesThe stage is empty but for a single armchair and two dustbins. A sheet is draped over what appears to be a figure sitting in the chair. This is the famous opening tableaux of Samuel Beckett’s play Endgame. Endgame...

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002 – Uncle Vanya, by Anton Chekhov

Show notesTo coincide with Irish playwright Conor McPherson’s new adaptation of the Chekhov classic, and its West End run, we talk with his publisher Nick Hern. When in 1889 Chekhov presented the first version of the play that would eventually become Uncle...

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001 – A Doll’s House, by Henrik Ibsen

Photo © Marc BrennerShow notesHenrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House remains one the most popularly produced and adapted plays in theatrical history. What is it about a play that was written more than 140 years ago that continues to inspire and challenge...

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Footnotes

Leopoldstadt – Footnotes

Leopoldstadt – Footnotes

The Footnotes to our episode on Tom Stoppard’s majestic play Leopoldstadt include observations on the origins of its title, the metaphoric resonances of the child’s game, Cat’s Cradle, and how Gustav Klimt’s art is an apt choice to help paint the play’s story.

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Happy Days – Footnotes

Happy Days – Footnotes

The Footnotes to our episode on Samuel Beckett’s timeless play Happy Days include observations on the power of Beckett’s theatrical imagery, as well as the indeterminate nature of time in the play.

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Escaped Alone – Footnotes

Escaped Alone – Footnotes

The Footnotes to our episode on Caryl Churchill’s prophetic play Escaped Alone include further thoughts on Churchill’s uncanny prescience, as well as some background on the experience of filming the play during lockdown.

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A Taste of Honey – Footnotes

A Taste of Honey – Footnotes

The Footnotes to our episode on Shelagh Delaney’s classic A Taste of Honey include thoughts on the sins of the mother, and Delaney’s radical portrait of real people in 1950s Britain.

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Girl from the North Country – Footnotes

Girl from the North Country – Footnotes

The Footnotes to our episode on Girl from the North Country include brief thoughts on Elizabeth’s ability to see and say the truth, more on the echoes of Chekhov in Conor’s play, and the melding of Bob Dylan’s songs with the play.

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Present Laughter – Footnotes

Present Laughter – Footnotes

The Footnotes to our episode on Present Laughter include thoughts on the real Garry Essendine, and the morality of the amorous liaisons that they all prosecute.

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Recent Posts

The 2020 Theatre Diary – March

The 2020 Theatre Diary – March

Before the theatres went dark this month I was lucky enough to see Caryl Churchill’s A Number at the Bridge, and spend more than seven hours in thrall to Robert Lepage’s Seven Streams of the River Ota at the National. Plus, some thoughts on what we miss when there is no theatre.

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The 2020 Theatre Diary – January

The 2020 Theatre Diary – January

The January roundup included both classic plays, such as The Duchess of Malfi, Uncle Vanya and Three Sisters, as well as recent musicals Dear Evan Hansen and Girl from the North Country

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Your host …

I’m Douglas Schatz, founder and host of The Play Podcast.

I had the great privilege to work for a number of years as the Managing Director of Samuel French, the renowned play publishers and theatrical licensing agent. I was lucky enough to be able to read plays and go to the theatre, and call it work. One of the most rewarding parts of my job was the time spent talking in depth with writers, directors, agents, and colleagues about plays. We talked endlessly about plays.

The idea for The Play Podcast is to continue those conversations. To talk in depth about a play, more than you will find in the reviews of a single production. To look at the origins of the play, its plot, themes, characters, and structure. To consider it in the context of the playwright’s life and times, its place in the dramatic canon, and its current and enduring relevance.

Each episode focuses on a single play, or perhaps very occasionally two, to talk about for up to an hour with one or more of our expert guests. We will often choose a play that is live on stage somewhere in the UK, which gives us and listeners the added opportunity to see and review a current production. This is not a review show though, because we are interested in the play itself. We want you to enjoy listening whether or not you are able to see a particular production, and whenever you find us.
Please feel free to contact us at plays@theplaypodcast.com with your comments on our conversations, and with suggestions about plays that you recommend that we could explore on the podcast.

You can email us at plays@theplaypodcast.com

Suggest a play

We’re always open to suggestions about plays to talk about, so if you’d like us to discuss a favourite of yours, please email us at plays@theplaypodcast.com. Let us know why you think we should cover it, and if you know anyone who’d be excited and qualified to talk about it with us (even yourself if modesty permits!).

Plays suggested for discussion by our Guests and Listeners - which gets your vote?
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