Welcome to The Play Podcast where we explore the greatest new and classic plays. Each episode we choose a single play – often one that is on stage somewhere in the UK – and we talk about it in more depth than you will find in the reviews of any one production. We’ll discuss the play’s origins, its themes, characters, structure and impact. For us the play is the thing.
Winsome Pinnock’s powerful new play Rockets and Blue Lights explores the continuing legacy of the slave trade by allowing the lost voices of the past to merge into our current re-examination of history and black identity. The play won the 2019 Alfred Fagon Award and was in preview at the Manchester Royal Exchange earlier in 2020 when the Covid pandemic cruelly closed our theatres. I’m especially honoured during Black History Month to talk with Winsome Pinnock about her wonderful play.
Photo: Wendell Pierce as Willy Loman at the Young Vic (c. Brinkoff Mogenburg)
Arthur Miller’s portrait of an ordinary American family in post-war Brooklyn has become an enduring presence on stages around the world and in educational curriculums. The splintering of the Loman family became emblematic of the personal costs and challenges of the American Dream, but Miller’s play has also remained popular and relevant because of its innovative form and emotional power. We’re delighted to be joined by Dr Stephen Marino, founding editor of The Arthur Miller Journal to explore this dramatic classic.
This episode is a recorded ragbag of selected extra Footnotes that we’ve compiled during the research and conversations from our first eleven episodes. You’ll hear trivial titbits of information in the best tradition of footnotes, as well as pithy observations on all of the plays that we’ve covered so far.
Photo: Johan Persson
In David Eldridge’s wonderful two-hander we eavesdrop on a funny, poignant and potentially life-changing date between two people whose lives have not yet turned out as hope or promised. The playwright himself joins us to share with us where the play came from and review how the date unfolds
Photo: Marc Brenner
Mike Bartlett’s major new play Albion is a funny and moving portrait of an individual family coping with grief and life’s big challenges, as well as a reflection on issues consuming the nation at the height of the Brexit debate. Joining us to review the reverberations of this rich play are the two leading players in its recent Almeida production: Victoria Hamilton and Nicholas Rowe.
Nigel Slater’s Toast is an innovative dramatisation of the award-winning memoir of the same name, that described the life-changing events of the author’s childhood through his nostalgic diary of his favourite foods. Henry Filloux-Bennett’s funny and heart-warming play not only brings food to life in the theatre, it tells the inspiring story of a young boy who has the courage to follow his own recipe in life.
The two authors of Nigel Slater’s Toast, Henry Filloux-Bennett and Nigel Slater himself, join us to share the unlikely story of how a catalogue of childhood foods became a hit play.
Terence Rattigan’s masterpiece The Deep Blue Sea was written off for more than 30 years as a dated melodrama until a landmark production at the Almeida in 1993 led to its reappraisal as a “modern classic”. The National Theatre at Home will broadcast their production starring Helen McCrory in the lead role as from 9th of July, and on the same day we will delve into the play in conversation with Dan Rebellato, the series editor of Rattigan’s plays for specialist drama publisher Nick Hern.
Photograph: Helen Maybanks
A 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 adding to the global population will have on the world’s climate and future.
Duncan Macmillan’s award-winning play written in 2011, was revived at the Old Vic in 2019 with Claire Foy and Matt Smith conducting the debate. They will shortly reprise their roles via the Old Vic’s innovative in Camera live stream for a limited run from 26th June. Joining us to review the ongoing debate is George Spender, former editorial director at Oberon Books who publish Lungs and the playwright’s other plays.
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 famously opens with the end of the affair and works backwards to its inception.
Joining us to mine the depths of Pinter’s compressed masterpiece is Mark Taylor-Batty, senior lecturer in Theatre Studies at the University of Leeds and author of The Theatre of Harold Pinter (Bloomsbury 2014).
Photo © Manuel Harlan
From the dramatic opening shipwreck on an “isle full of noises, sounds and sweet airs”, Shakespeare’s late masterpiece is a magical play. Join us as actor Tim McMullan shares his personal insights from his acclaimed performance as the magician Prospero at the Sam Wanamaker Theatre at the Globe in 2016, just one of Tim’s many outstanding Shakespearean roles.
Eight months after the disaster that killed 144 people in the Welsh mining village of Aberfan in October 1966, a group of bereaved mothers gather in a local hotel for a demonstration of beauty tips by a rep from the Revlon cosmetics company. The Revlon Girl premiered at the Edinburgh Festival in 2017, followed by a run at the Park Theatre in London, where it won the Off West-End Award for Best New Play. We’re joined by the play’s author, Neil Anthony Docking, to talk about his heartrending and funny play.
Photo © Manuel Harlan
Following the recent revival at the Old Vic in London starring Daniel Radcliffe and Alan Cumming. we explore the method, meaning and impact of Beckett’s startlingly original play with Beckett expert, Dr Matthew McFrederick, Lecturer in Theatre at the University of Reading.
To 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.
Photo © Marc Brenner
To explore the enduring relevance of this classic play, we are joined by Dan Rebellato, playwright and Professor of Contemporary Theatre at Royal Holloway, University of London.
The Footnotes to our Rockets and Blue Lights episode explore the Turner paintings that partly inspired the play, the Zong massacre that inspired Turner, the ghosts that haunt the play, and the litany of victims that Thomas pays tribute to in his closing speech.
The Footnotes to our Death of a Salesman episode cover the title of the play, the real life salesman in Miller’s family, why Happy likes bowling, more on fathers and sons and the fluid form of the play, and Willy’s pastoral dream.
Our Footnotes to the episode on Beginning include observations on what the epigraphs signal about the play, measuring ourselves on the property ladder, the language of sex, and how standing in your underwear is the ultimate honesty.
Our Footnotes to the episode on Albion include observations on the echoes of Chekhov, Hidcote garden, being lady of the manor, having a purpose in life, the ‘beholders’ share’, and Claire Foy’s mother.
Footnotes to episode nine on Nigel Slater’s Toast: how breakfasting on eggs every day can turn you into a star footballer, and the charms of Bournemouth versus Blackpool.
More observations on The Deep Blue Sea following our conversation with Dan, including playing Hester with “no clothes on”, trading Shakespearean quotes on Love and Lust, the unimportance of “the physical side, objectively speaking”, and the whereabouts of a shilling coin.
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.
Another great mix of shows this month, from Tom Stoppard’s new play, to Ibsen, Beckett and newer plays in smaller London venues.
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 …
Your host …
I’m Douglas Schatz, founder and presenter 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 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 more depth about a play 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 email@example.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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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!).