Exploring the greatest new and classic plays

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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

083 – The Caretaker by Harold Pinter

083 – The Caretaker by Harold Pinter

When it premiered in London’s West End in 1960, The Caretaker catapulted its author to fame and fortune. The play is set entirely in a single room in a dilapidated house, and presents the territorial battle between three men living on the margins of society. The psychological manoeuvrings of the men are dramatised in what we now recognise as Pinter’s cryptic mix of comedy and menace, along with his characteristic relish in the precision and panache of language.

As we record this episode a new production of the play is playing in the Minerva theatre in Chichester, and I am delighted to welcome its director, Justin Audibert, to the podcast to help us explore Pinter’s enigmatic work.

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Last Time

082 – People, Places & Things by Duncan Macmillan

082 – People, Places & Things by Duncan Macmillan

Duncan Macmillan’s People, Places & Things is a blisteringly frank and funny portrait of addiction and invented identity. When the play premiered at the National Theatre in 2015, Denise Gough won awards for her electrifying performance, and as we record this episode she revives her role in London’s West End.

It is a fascinating and challenging play, and an exhilarating piece of theatre. I am delighted to talk with its author, Duncan Macmillan, and the production’s director, Jeremy Herrin.

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Recent Episodes

081 – The Government Inspector, by Nikolay Gogol

081 – The Government Inspector, by Nikolay Gogol

Vladimir Nabokov described The Government Inspector as the “greatest play in the Russian language”. Gogol’s comedy of mistaken identity is an unexpected mix of fantastical farce and serious social satire. that has survived as a paradigm of political corruption and social hypocrisy in any age or place.

As we record this episode a new adaptation of the play written and directed by Patrick Myles arrives on the London stage, and I’m delighted to talk with Patrick about this classic play and its enigmatic author.

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080 – Long Day’s Journey into Night, by Eugene O’Neill

080 – Long Day’s Journey into Night, by Eugene O’Neill

Eugene O’Neill wrote his autobiographical magnum opus, Long Day’s Journey into Night, in 1941, but because of the personal revelations it contained he gave explicit instructions that it was not to be published until 25 years after his death and that it should never be staged. In the event his widow allowed both to occur in 1956, only three years after his death, when the play won O’Neill his fourth Pulitzer prize.

As we record this episode, a powerful new production of the play is playing in London, with Brian Cox and Patricia Clarkson heading the cast. I am delighted and privileged to talk with the production’s director, Jeremy Herrin, about O’Neill’s monumental play.

Photo by Johan Persson.

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079 – The Hills of California, by Jez Butterworth

079 – The Hills of California, by Jez Butterworth

A new Jez Butterworth play is a theatrical event. The Hills of California is currently running at the Harold Pinter theare in London’s West End, directed by Sam Mendes. Do not be misled by the title, however, we are not in sunny California, but in the back streets of Blackpool, where four daughters come together to say goodbye to their dying mother. The play is a portrait of lost dreams, of deeply ingrained patterns of love and hurt within a family, and of suppressed and mutable memories.

I’m joined to explore this major new work by Sean McEvoy, author of Class, Culture and Tragedy in the Plays of Jez Butterworth.

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Footnotes

People, Places & Things – Footnotes

People, Places & Things – Footnotes

The Footnotes to our episode on Duncan Macmillan’s devastating and humane portrait of addiction, People, Places & Things, include observations on Emma’s propensity to lie, and on how she uses her intelligence to resist the prescribed treatments and to delude herself.

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The Caretaker – Footnotes

The Caretaker – Footnotes

The Footnotes to our episode on Harold Pinter’s breakthrough play, The Caretaker, include notes on the source for the character of Aston, the use of language as a means of evasion and negotiation, and the significance of Aston’s statue of Buddha.

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Long Day’s Journey into Night – Footnotes

Long Day’s Journey into Night – Footnotes

The Footnotes to our episode on Eugene O’Neill’s magnum opus Long Day’s Journey into Night contain observations on the publication and first production of the play, James Tyrone the actor, Mary’s preoccupation with the past, and O’Neill’s dramatic form.

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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!).