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.
Tom Stoppard’s ambitious new play Leopoldstadt is a sweeping work of history and ideas which charts the diaspora and decline of an Austrian Jewish family through the convulsive events of the first half of the twentieth century. It addresses profound moral questions of identity, memory and prejudice that are insistently relevant in our time. It is not only a towering intellectual achievement, it is also very personally poignant because it is based partly on Stoppard’s own remarkable family history.
Leopoldstadt opened in the West End in January 2020, only to be closed prematurely by the pandemic a few weeks later. Happily it has returned to the London stage this Autumn, and I am privileged and delighted to talk in this episode with the director of the London productions, playwright Patrick Marber.
Footnotes Volume 3 is a recording of the facts and observations that we’ve published on the website to supplement the plays that we’ve covered in episodes 24-31. A smorgasbord of trivia and analysis ranging from Greek Tragedy to the stock characters of Commedia dell’Arte , through the music of Bob Dylan, the filming of Caryl Churchill’s Escaped Alone during lockdown, and the theatrical installations of Samuel Beckett.
A compendium of dramatic intelligence!
Samuel Beckett’s third great dramatic masterpiece Happy Days is a timeless exploration of existential threat and personal survival. It’s central image of Winnie buried in a mound of scorched earth also speaks to our own time when many have endured enforced confinement in a world struck by collective disaster.
Irish actress and Beckett scholar Lisa Dwan, fresh from her triumphant performance as Winnie at the Riverside Studios in London, joins us to share her unique experience of playing Beckett and this majestic play.
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 …