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.
G.B. Shaw’s Arms and the Man is both a sparkling romantic comedy and a telling satire of love, war and social pretension. It was Shaw’s first public success as a playwright when it premiered in London in 1894, and is currently enjoying an acclaimed revival at the Orange Tree theatre in Richmond, Surrey.
I’m joined by Shaw expert Ivan Wise, who is a previous editor of The Shavian, the journal of the Shaw Society.
C.P. Taylor’s powerful, cautionary play Good charts how an ostensibly ‘good’ person can become not just complicit to evil behaviour, but an active participant. Professor John Halder’s creeping moral compromise as he joins the Nazi elite in 1930’s Germany is a disturbing reminder of the dangers of populist political crusades.
The play is currently being revived at the Harold Pinter theatre in London with David Tennant in the role of John Halder, and I’m delighted to be joined by the production’s director, Dominic Cooke, to explore the contemporary resonances of this provocative play.
Frank Wedekind’s dark, expressionist play Spring Awakening is a cautionary portrait of adolescent angst and rebellion against oppressive social strictures and family pressures. Its frank depiction of sex and violence remains shocking more than 130 years after it was written, and it is the unlikely source of the award-winning modern musical of the same name.
I’m delighted to be joined by Professor Karen Leeder to explore the contemporary controversies and enduring relevance of this extraordinary play.