023 – Footnotes Volume 2
This episode is a collection of Footnotes on the plays that we’ve talked about in the past ten episodes. During the course of my researches and conversations with my guests there is all sorts of material that fails to reach the final podcasts, either because we simply didn’t have time to talk about it during the recording, or it was too trivial or too much of a digression to fit into the flow of our conversation. I felt after our very first episode that it would be a shame to leave these facts and observations on the cutting room floor, so I started publishing these Footnotes on the website to accompany each episode.
This episode is a selection of Footnote highlights strung together; a smorgasbord of titbits of information and more extended exploration of specific aspects of each of the past 10 plays we’ve covered. Examples include:
- Arthur Miller’s real-life source for the character of Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman
- The horror of the Zong massacre of 1781 that inspired JMW Turner and Winsome Pinnock in Rockets and Blue Lights
- The disappearing set in Florian Zeller’s The Father
- How the Senate Committee hearings into the appointment of Supreme Court judge Clarence Thomas in 1991 sparked David Mamet to return to finish writing Oleanna
- Samples of the vivid Metaphysical poetry in The Duchess of Malfi
- Quantum mechanics metaphors in Michael Frayn’s Copenhagen
- What do comets signify in The Welkin?
- “Martha and I are merely exercising…what’s left of our wits” – George and Martha’s epic battle in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf
- How Tennessee Williams creates his ‘sculptural drama’ with light in The Glass Menagerie
- “Parenting is empathy” – a lesson to learn in Samuel Bailey’s Shook
And much much more… A compendium of dramatic intelligence befitting of the best kind of Footnote.
Note: this episode contains strong language.
Girl from the North Country is an extraordinary collaboration between the playwright Conor McPherson and the musician and song writer Bob Dylan. The result is a magical work where McPherson’s portrait of families struggling to survive in Depression America is transfigured into an uplifting theatrical experience by the ravishing period arrangements of Dylan’s songs.
The play opened at the Old Vic Theatre in London in 2017 to a rapturous response and reviews, and was followed by runs in the West End and New York.
This is a very special episode, first because I am privileged to talk with none other than the play’s author Conor McPherson, and secondly because we have also been given kind permission to include several extracts from the original cast recording of the music from the first London production.
Garry Essendine is a star of the London stage with an ego and celebrity lifestyle to match. But as he passes forty his excesses threaten to bring down the entire structure of his professional and personal life. Essendine is the thinly disguised alter-ego of playwright and performer Noel Coward, whose tussle with his own fame is the subject of his classic 3-act, 4-door farce Present Laughter. First performed in 1942 with Coward himself as the lead, the play has since attracted a glittering list of stars who could not resist the flamboyant turn, including most recently Andrew Scott in an Olivier award-winning performance at the Old Vic in 2019. Joining me to reexamine Coward’s ‘light comedy’ in the 21st century is theatrical agent and Coward aficionado, Alan Brodie.
One Podcast Two Plays! Carlo Goldoni’s Commedia dell’Arte classic A Servant to Two Masters and Richard Bean’s hilarious update One Man Two Guvnors. We explore all of the ingredients of the original play in the tradition of Commedia dell’Arte, as well as how Bean translated these so successfully into his smash hit at the National Theatre. Writer and director Justin Greene joins me to sample this multi-course theatrical banquet. (Commedia afficionados will appreciate the gourmet references!).
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.
Another great mix of shows this month, from Tom Stoppard’s new play, to Ibsen, Beckett and newer plays in smaller London venues.
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 …