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.
Shakespeare’s devastating exploration of race, reputation and jealousy, The Tragedy of Othello, The Moor of Venice was a popular success when it was first performed during Shakespeare’s lifetime, but in the centuries since it has provoked a wide range of responses as successive generations have grappled with the racial identity of the eponymous character. As we record this episode a new production of Othello at Shakespeare’s Globe theatre in London views the play’s treatment of race through a contemporary lens, setting the play within the London Metropolitan police force, a topical environment for racial inspection.
I am privileged to welcome as my guest someone especially qualified to help us navigate the tricky waters of Shakespeare’s play, Farah Karim-Cooper, Director of Education at Shakespeare’s Globe, Professor of Shakespeare Studies at Kings College London, and the author of The Great White Bard – Shakespeare, Race and the Future.
Ken Nwosu as Othello and Ralph Davies as Iago
Sam Wanamaker Playhouse
Photo by Johan Persson
Harold Pinter’s disturbing exploration of toxic masculinity and sexual maneuvering, The Homecoming premiered in 1965. The play’s portrait of misogyny, and even more disturbing, the apparent female complicity, was shocking at the time it was written. Nearly 60 years on the sexual politics is if anything even more difficult to watch. So what was Pinter’s purpose in presenting such a provocative piece, and how do we process it in the post Me-Too age?
I am joined by Matthew Dunster, the director of a scintillating new production of the play at the Young Vic in London, who can help us answer those questions about Pinter’s challenging classic.
Lisa Diveney as Ruth at the Young Vic – photo by Dean Chalkley.
Henrik Ibsen’s dark family drama Ghosts provoked outrage when it was published in 1881, its treatment of sexual disease, incest and euthanasia too much for the critics. More than 140 years later its portrait of repressed truths and social hypocrisy remains as powerful as ever.
Professor Kirsten Shepherd-Barr of St Catherine’s College, Oxford, helps us review Ibsen’s unflinching drama.
Hattie Morahan as Helene Alving at the Sam Wanamaker Theatre, London, December 2023. Photo by Marc Brenner.
Federico Garcia Lorca’s unsparing drama The House of Bernarda Alba is not only a tragic family drama, but its portrait of oppression and social conformity also reflects the dangerous political landscape in which it was written. Lorca finished the play in June 1936, two months before he was murdered during the first days of the Spanish Civil War.
As we record this episode a new adaptation of the play is on stage at the National Theatre in London. I’m delighted to have the opportunity to explore this inescapably powerful play, and its author, with an expert on both, Professor Maria Delgado.
Oliver Goldsmith’s ‘sentimental’ or ‘laughing’ comedy She Stoops to Conquer is both a romantic comedy and a deft social satire of town and country in late 18th century England. It’s merry-go-round of romantic intrigues comes complete with mistaken identities, stolen jewels and a midnight coach ride that ends mired in a horse pond. There is never much doubt however that in the end it is the women who will conquer.
As we record this episode a sparkling new production is on stage at the Orange Tree Theatre in Richmond-upon-Thames, and I’m delighted to be joined today by its director, Tom Littler, who is perfectly placed to tell us why this play has proved so enduringly popular.
The Footnotes to our episode on William Shakespeare’s Othello include notes about the source of Shakespeare’s plot, the meaning of the terms “Barbarian Moor”, more on the form and settings of the play, how the changing view of race has been reflected in the performance history of the play, examples of how the language of colour codifies racism, and some final thoughts on the tragic ending of the play.
The Footnotes to our episode on Harold Pinter’s The Homecoming include notes about Vivien Merchant as the original Ruth, Ruth and Lenny not visiting Venice, the sibling rivalries on display, and Pinter’s “comedy of menace”.
The Footnotes to our episode on Federico Garcia Lorca’s tragedy The House of Bernarda Alba include observations on the opening scenes of the play, the limited opportunities for women in the villages of Spain, and the character of the madwoman in the attic, Bernarda’s mother, Maria Josef.
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 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!).