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.
The poet Percy Shelley called King Lear “the most perfect specimen of the dramatic art existing in the world”. It is a prodigious play in every sense. There are ten major roles, it has multiple significant plot lines, an elemental stormy setting, intense domestic conflict, and acts of war and violence which roll on with a propulsive tragic energy and conjure a challenging philosophical vision.
As we record this episode a new production directed by and starring Sir Kenneth Branagh arrives in London’s West End.
I am very pleased to be joined in this episode by Paul Prescott, who is an academic, writer and theatre practitioner specialising in Shakespearean drama.
Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge tells the tragic story of Eddie Carbone, a longshoreman who works on the docks under Brooklyn Bridge. Eddie lives with his wife Beatrice and 17-year old niece, Catherine, whom they have cared for since she was a child. But Catherine is no longer a child, and her natural desire to pursue her own life will tragically rupture the lives of this family and the close-knit immigrant community of Red Hook.
As we record this episode a new production of A View from the Bridge is touring the UK, and I’m delighted to talk with its director, Holly Race Roughan, about this powerful play.
Pygmalion is arguably George Bernard Shaw’s most famous play, partly because it spawned the even-more famous musical My Fair Lady. The enduring popularity of the play can be attributed to the romantic arc of its central story, and to the fact that it offers two iconic parts in the characters of Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgins.
As a new production of Pygmalion opens at The Old Vic in London, Ivan Wise returns to the podcast to help us assess whether Shaw’s charming social parable remains as entertaining or as relevant as when it was written more than a century ago.
Tyrell William’s award-winning, debut play Red Pitch is set on an inner-city football pitch in South London. It is a coming-of-age story, with teenage boys fighting to believe in their dreams, and to find a way up, and perhaps out, of their changing community. The play premiered at the Bush Theatre in London in February 2002, winning several awards, and is currently enjoying a sell-out revival at the Bush.
Tyrell Williams, and the show’s director, Daniel Bailey, join me to explore this joyful and poignant new play.
Photo by Helen Murray.
Martin McDonagh’s 2004 play The Pillowman is an unsettling mix of gruesome fairy tales, child abuse, and murder, overlaid with McDonagh’s signature black humour. McDonagh’s blend of extreme violence and ironic comedy divides opinion, although the popularity of the current revival of the play in London’s West End is testimony to its enduring fascination.
I am joined in this episode by Professor Eamonn Jordan, to help us come to terms with the impact and intent of McDonagh’s work.
The Footnotes to our episode on George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion include an intriguing fact about a special guest at the premiere of the play, more observations on the ending of the play and what happened afterwards to Eliza, and a tribute to the genius of Alfred Doolittle.
The Footnotes to our episode on William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream include observations on the forest as a setting for love and dreams, on the play as democratic drama, and on the not-so-hidden meanings in the names of the rude mechanicals.
The Footnotes to our episode on Brian Friel’s Dancing at Lughnasa include more on the meaning of dancing in the play, as well as some observations on the characters of Kate and Father Jack.
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 email@example.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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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 email@example.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!).