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

021 – The Glass Menagerie, by Tennessee Williams

021 – The Glass Menagerie, by Tennessee Williams

Tennessee Williams breakthrough playThe Glass Menagerie is a very personal portrait of Williams’ own flawed family. It first opened on Broadway in March 1945 to rave reviews, it’s box office success catapulting its 34-year old author to fame and fortune. The play is now a standard on educational curricula and theatrical programs, loved for its heart-wrenching portrayal of the hopes and disappointments of its characters, and admired for its theatrical technique and poetic dramatic language.

The play was brilliantly staged in 2013 on Broadway in a production directed by John Tiffany, which was revived in 2017 in London’s West End, and I am absolutely delighted to be joined in this episode by the director himself, John Tiffany, to share his insights into this enduring classic.

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Last Time

020 – Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, by Edward Albee

020 – Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, by Edward Albee

It is 2:00 am, and George and Martha have invited a young couple for after-party drinks to their home on a New England university campus. What follows is arguably the most extended and vitriolic marital argument ever staged. Over four hours of drunken skirmishing George and Martha tear strips off each other and their young guests, in a terrifying mix of games playing and truth telling, fuelled by anger, shame, disappointment, hatred and possibly even love. As the hostilities intensify both couples are forced to face unvarnished and difficult truths about themselves and their relationships. This is American playwright Edward Albee’s classic play, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, which opened on Broadway in 1962, and was greeted by both moral outrage and critical acclaim. Both types of review contributed to its run-away box-office success, and led to the 1966 Oscar-winning film version with Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor.

Joining me to survey the damage of this blistering marital battle are John Mitchinson and Andy MIller, the co-hosts of the award-winning podcast Backlisted, which as its strap line declares “gives new life to old books”.

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Recent Episodes

019 – The Welkin, by Lucy Kirkwood

019 – The Welkin, by Lucy Kirkwood

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 she is truly with child and thus may escape the gallows. Lucy Kirkwood’s powerful play The Welkin, is an historical thriller and a tense courtroom drama, as well as a vivid representation of the real burdens that women carry in a patriarchal world of any age.
The Welkin premiered at the National Theatre in January 2020 before its run was cruelly cut short by the first Covid lockdown. I’m delighted to be joined by the author herself to talk about her rich new play.

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018 – Copenhagen, by Michael Frayn

018 – Copenhagen, by Michael Frayn

It is September 1941. German physicist Werner Heisenberg is visiting his friend and former colleague, Danish physicist Niels Bohr at his home in Copenhagen. Denmark is occupied by the Third Reich, and both men are under surveillance by the Gestapo. What is the purpose of their meeting at this charged time? Did they confer about the potential to build weapons based on the emerging knowledge of nuclear fission? Did Heisenberg wish to warn Bohr about the growing threat to Danish Jews? These questions and more are explored in Michael Frayn’s absorbing play Copenhagen. I’m delighted and honoured to be joined in this episode by the playwright himself.

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017 – The Duchess of Malfi, by John Webster

017 – The Duchess of Malfi, by John Webster

John Webster’s 400-year-old play The Duchess of Malfi is a potboiler of courtly love, intrigue and murder. It has endured not just for its bloody plot, but for its poetic language and the indomitable character of its protagonist. The Duchess remains a female paradigm for a patriarchal world. Joining us to explore this classic anew is Professor Emma Smith from Hertford College, Oxford, an expert on early modern drama.

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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

The Glass Menagerie – Footnotes

The Glass Menagerie – Footnotes

Our Footnotes to The Glass Menagerie include Tennessee Williams’ innovative ideas about lighting as an element of what he called his “plastic drama”; the endearing ambiguity of the character of Jim, the gentleman caller; the infinite distance of memory; and the explosive times the play was written and set in.

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Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf – Footnotes

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf – Footnotes

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf is such a rich play that we have a lots of Footnotes to supplement our episode on the play. These include more on the origins and meaning of the famous title; some play-by-play analysis of George and Martha’s battle; the symbolic contrast between history and biology which George and Nick represent; the absence of model parents, or children at all; the thrill of the play’s language; and the censors who took offense at this “filthy play”. 

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The Welkin – Footnotes

The Welkin – Footnotes

The Footnotes to our episode on The Welkin include more on symbols in the sky, the life of the wife of a poet, and the apt sound of the butter churn. 

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Copenhagen – Footnotes

Copenhagen – Footnotes

The Footnotes to our episode on Copenhagen include more on the atomic metaphors that resonate through the play, the real-life drama that played out at Farm Hall country house in 1945, and the darkness of Elsinore.

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The Duchess of Malfi – Footnotes

The Duchess of Malfi – Footnotes

The Footnotes to our episode on The Duchess of Malfi include John Webster and the business of funerals, visions of the afterlife in the play, and our favourite metaphors in Webster’s metaphysical verse.

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Oleanna – Footnotes

Oleanna – Footnotes

The Footnotes to our episode on Oleanna include a clue to the arcane title of the play, a reminder of one of the real-life sources of the play’s gender politics, and how the theatre may reflect our national sub-conscious.

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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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