Josh Finan as Cain in Shook
(Photo: The Other Richard/Southwark Playhouse)
022 – Shook, by Samuel Bailey
Samuel Bailey’s play Shook is set in a young offenders’ institution, where three young men have signed up for a vocational class. But they have not chosen the usual options of carpentry or bricklaying. They’re being taught parenting skills – how to look after a baby – because these three teenagers are, or about to become, fathers. Within the confines of a single bare room in the detention centre, Bailey gives us a glimpse of the challenging lives of young men who are still boys caught in a cycle of criminality as a result of their dysfunctional families, macho models of masculinity, and social prejudice. The play is sharp, funny, thought-provoking and very moving. It is all the more remarkable for being Sam’s full-length debut work.
Shook won the 2019 Papatango New Writing Award, and was produced by Papatango at the Southwark Playhouse in November 2019, before a short UK Tour. It was scheduled to transfer to the Trafalgar Theatre in London’s West End in Spring 2020, but sadly this run was cancelled by the Covid lockdown. Papatango released a filmed version of their production of Shook online in February 2021, which is available to view until 28th March 2021 on the Papatango website. Click here to visit Papatango.
I’m delighted to welcome the playwright Samuel Bailey, as well as George Turvey, the Artistic Director of Papatango and director of their production of Shook, to talk about this exceptional new play.
Note: this episode contains strong language.
Samuel Bailey was born in London and raised in the West Midlands. He began writing plays in Bristol and developed work with the Bristol Old Vic, Tobacco Factory Theatres and Theatre West before moving back to London. He is an alumnus of the Old Vic Theatre’s Old Vic 12 program and of the Orange Tree Writers’ Collective. His play Shook won the 2019 Papatango award. He currently has a new play in progress for Paines Plough and Theatre Royal Plymouth, as well as a film script for Peter Cattaneo, the director of The Full Monty.
Sam recommended The Mikvah Project by Josh Azouz
George Turvey trained as an actor and has appeared on stage and screen in roles as diverse as the world première of Arthur Miller’s No Villain at the Old Red Lion Theatre and Trafalgar Studios, and Batman Live World Arena Tour. George co-founded Papatango in 2007 and became the sole Artistic Director in January 2013. As their dramaturg, he has led the development of all of Papatango’s productions. Credits as director include Shook (Papatango, UK tour), Hanna (Papatango, UK tour), The Annihilation of Jessie Leadbeater (Papatango at ALRA), After Independence (Papatango at Arcola Theatre, 2016 Alfred Fagon Audience Award, and on BBC Radio 4), Leopoldville (Papatango at Tristan Bates Theatre), and Angel (Papatango at Pleasance London and Tristan Bates Theatre). George is the co-author of Being A Playwright: A Career Guide For Writers, published by Nick Hern Books.
George recommended Faith, Hope and Charity by Alexander Zeldin.
The Footnotes to our episode on Shook include more observations on our prejudices against people from different classes or circumstances, parenting as empathy, and the heartbreak of long-distance childbirth.
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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.
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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.