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.
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.
Henrik Ibsen’s dark family drama Ghosts provoked outrage when it was published in 1881, its treatment of sexual disease, incest and euthanasia too much for the critics. More than 140 years later its portrait of repressed truths and social hypocrisy remains as powerful as ever.
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.