001 – A Doll’s House, by Henrik Ibsen

001 – A Doll’s House, by Henrik Ibsen

Show notes

Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House remains one the most popularly produced and adapted plays in theatrical history. What is it about a play that was written more than 140 years ago that continues to inspire and challenge contemporary playwrights and audiences? The character of Nora is an iconic figure: her decision to leave her husband and three children remains a controversial act of female agency. To explore the enduring relevance of this classic play, we are joined by Dan Rebellato, playwright and Professor of Contemporary Theatre at Royal Holloway, University of London. The episode coincides with a radical new adaptation of the play by Stef Smith that played at the Young Vic theatre in London.

Dan Rebellato

Dan Rebellato is a playwright, journalist and Professor of Contemporary Theatre at Royal Holloway, University of London. He has written 17 stage plays and numerous radio plays, published several books on contemporary British theatre, as well as edited the Nick Hern series of Terence Rattigan’s plays.

In February 2020 Dan devised and hosted a day-long symposium entitled Re-Imagining Nora, to coincide with a new production of A Doll’s House at the Young Vic theatre in London. As the title suggests, the symposium examined the enduring interest in our reviving and adapting Ibsen’s great play.

Visit Dan’s website here

Recommended Play

Dan recommended any Caryl Churchill play, especially Far Away.

The Texts

If you are interested in buying the play text or other related books, we’d be delighted if you choose to purchase them by following the links below. We will earn a small commission on every book you purchase, which helps to keep the podcast going. You will also be supporting an independent bookseller. Thank you.

Photo © Marc Brenner

We have footnotes for this episode …

These footnotes are a follow-up to our live discussion in episode one of the podcast, including a selection of points from my researches that we didn’t happen to include, as well as follow-up on any facts and questions that came up during our conversation with Dan.

You might also be interested in …

052 – The Seagull, by Anton Chekhov

052 – The Seagull, by Anton Chekhov

Anton Chekhov’s play The Seagull was a disaster on its opening night in St Petersburg in 1896. The unsettling blend of comedy and pathos that confused the first critics and audience were subsequently recognised as seminal in the evolution of modern drama.

I’m delighted to welcome back playwright and professor, Dan Rebellato, to talk about Chekhov and his timeless play.

051 – Closer, by Patrick Marber

051 – Closer, by Patrick Marber

Patrick Marber’s play Closer depicts a merry-go-round of metropolitan relationships powered by sex and betrayal. Its clever and candid dissection of the destructive power of sexual desire hit a contemporary nerve when it premiered in 1997.
Clare Lizzimore, director of a new production at the Lyric Hammersmith, joins me to explore how the play’s unflinching sexual politics has aged twenty-five years later.

050 – Jerusalem, by Jez Butterworth

050 – Jerusalem, by Jez Butterworth

Jez Butterworth’s play Jersualem is one of the landmark plays of the 21st century, acclaimed for both its lyrical and elusive text exploring English identity, and for its electrifying theatrical production. The once-in-a lifetime performance is happily being repeated with the current West End revival, and it seems fitting that our 50th episode be devoted to this remarkable play. I’m joined by David Ian Rabey, Emeritus Professor at Aberystwyth University and author of The Theatre and Films of Jez Butterworth.

002 – Uncle Vanya, by Anton Chekhov

002 – Uncle Vanya, by Anton Chekhov

Show notes

To coincide with Irish playwright Conor McPherson’s new adaptation of the Chekhov classic, and its West End run, we talk with his publisher Nick Hern. When in 1889 Chekhov presented the first version of the play that would eventually become Uncle Vanya it was a devastating failure. The playwright withdrew the play and didn’t write another play for five years. Yet the four great plays that followed sealed Chekhov’s reputation as one of the fathers of modern drama. What was different about his plays that changed the way we view theatre? Why are they billed as “comedies” when the characters are so unrelentingly unhappy? How are his portraits of the idle Russian aristocracy at the turn of the 20th century still relevant today? Nick and I try to answer these questions, and share our love of Uncle Vanya and Chekhov.

Nick Hern

Nick is the founder of Nick Hern Books, the play publishers who have led the UK in championing the best new playwrights for the past 30 years. His catalogue includes many of our leading contemporary playwrights, from Howard Brenton, Mike Bartlett, and Jez Butterworth to Caryl Churchill, Lucy Kirkwood and Phoebe Waller-Bridge to name but a very few.

I am delighted to welcome him to The Play Podcast to talk about Conor McPherson’s new adaptation of Uncle Vanya, which he publishes of course, along with Conor’s other plays.

Visit Nick Hern Books here

Recommended Play

Nick recommended any play by Caryl Churchill!
He also recommended Shook by Samuel Bailey – see episode 22.

The Texts

If you are interested in buying the play text or other related books, we’d be delighted if you choose to purchase them by following the links below. We will earn a small commission on every book you purchase, which helps to keep the podcast going. You will also be supporting an independent bookseller. Thank you.

Photo © Marc Brenner

We have footnotes for this episode …

The Footnotes to our episode about Uncle Vanya include observations on Chekhov as comedy, his prescient concern for the environment, Sonya’s unrequited love, Chekhov and Stanislavski, his minor characters and finally his lasting influence.

You might also be interested in …

052 – The Seagull, by Anton Chekhov

052 – The Seagull, by Anton Chekhov

Anton Chekhov’s play The Seagull was a disaster on its opening night in St Petersburg in 1896. The unsettling blend of comedy and pathos that confused the first critics and audience were subsequently recognised as seminal in the evolution of modern drama.

I’m delighted to welcome back playwright and professor, Dan Rebellato, to talk about Chekhov and his timeless play.

051 – Closer, by Patrick Marber

051 – Closer, by Patrick Marber

Patrick Marber’s play Closer depicts a merry-go-round of metropolitan relationships powered by sex and betrayal. Its clever and candid dissection of the destructive power of sexual desire hit a contemporary nerve when it premiered in 1997.
Clare Lizzimore, director of a new production at the Lyric Hammersmith, joins me to explore how the play’s unflinching sexual politics has aged twenty-five years later.

050 – Jerusalem, by Jez Butterworth

050 – Jerusalem, by Jez Butterworth

Jez Butterworth’s play Jersualem is one of the landmark plays of the 21st century, acclaimed for both its lyrical and elusive text exploring English identity, and for its electrifying theatrical production. The once-in-a lifetime performance is happily being repeated with the current West End revival, and it seems fitting that our 50th episode be devoted to this remarkable play. I’m joined by David Ian Rabey, Emeritus Professor at Aberystwyth University and author of The Theatre and Films of Jez Butterworth.

003 – Endgame, by Samuel Beckett

003 – Endgame, by Samuel Beckett

Show Notes

The stage is empty but for a single armchair and two dustbins. A sheet is draped over what appears to be a figure sitting in the chair. This is the famous opening tableaux of Samuel Beckett’s play Endgame. Endgame premiered in French at the Royal Court theatre in London in 1957, following on from Beckett’s breakthrough play Waiting for Godot, which four years earlier had shocked the dramatic world and defined an enduring notoriety for the playwright. The shorthand for Endgame is that two of the play’s characters inhabit dustbins, and the central character is blind and unable to move from his chair; in other words, another difficult, existential drama that challenges theatrical convention and our understanding. But it is also a play that can be very funny, as shown in the recent revival at the Old Vic in London starring Daniel Radcliffe and Alan Cumming.

To explore the method, meaning and impact of Beckett’s startlingly original play, I am joined by Beckett expert, Dr Matthew McFrederick, Lecturer in Theatre at the University of Reading.

My conversation with Matt was recorded via video link during the early days of the lockdown for the Coronavirus.

En Attendant Godot
Festival D’Avignon 1978

Addendum

This is a brief addendum to episode 3 on Samuel Beckett’s Endgame, extracted from the original conversation with Matt. This excerpt talks about Beckett’s early life, as well as where his first plays came from, including his breakthrough play Waiting for Godot.

Dr Matthew McFrederick

Matt is a theatre practitioner, historian and academic, originally from Northern Ireland. He is a Lecturer in Theatre at the University of Reading, where he completed his PhD investigating the production histories of Samuel Beckett’s drama in London.

In addition to teaching and publishing articles about the work of Samuel Beckett, his research interests include modern practices in directing and scenography, as well as contemporary British, Irish and Northern Irish playwriting.

The University of Reading is the home of the Samuel Beckett Research Centre, which includes the world-leading archive of Beckett material.

Recommended Play

Matt recommended Cyprus Avenue by David Ireland.

The Texts

If you are interested in buying the play text or other related books, we’d be delighted if you choose to purchase them by following the links below. We will earn a small commission on every book you purchase, which helps to keep the podcast going. You will also be supporting an independent bookseller. Thank you.

Photo © Marc Brenner

We have footnotes for this episode …

These footnotes are a follow-up to our live discussion in episode three of the podcast, including a selection of points from my researches that we didn’t happen to include, as well as follow-up on any facts and questions that came up during our conversation with Matt. It also includes some additional  audio that didn’t make the final cut, where Matt and I talked about Beckett’s early life, as well as where his first plays came from, including of course his breakthrough play Waiting for Godot.

You might also be interested in …

052 – The Seagull, by Anton Chekhov

052 – The Seagull, by Anton Chekhov

Anton Chekhov’s play The Seagull was a disaster on its opening night in St Petersburg in 1896. The unsettling blend of comedy and pathos that confused the first critics and audience were subsequently recognised as seminal in the evolution of modern drama.

I’m delighted to welcome back playwright and professor, Dan Rebellato, to talk about Chekhov and his timeless play.

051 – Closer, by Patrick Marber

051 – Closer, by Patrick Marber

Patrick Marber’s play Closer depicts a merry-go-round of metropolitan relationships powered by sex and betrayal. Its clever and candid dissection of the destructive power of sexual desire hit a contemporary nerve when it premiered in 1997.
Clare Lizzimore, director of a new production at the Lyric Hammersmith, joins me to explore how the play’s unflinching sexual politics has aged twenty-five years later.

050 – Jerusalem, by Jez Butterworth

050 – Jerusalem, by Jez Butterworth

Jez Butterworth’s play Jersualem is one of the landmark plays of the 21st century, acclaimed for both its lyrical and elusive text exploring English identity, and for its electrifying theatrical production. The once-in-a lifetime performance is happily being repeated with the current West End revival, and it seems fitting that our 50th episode be devoted to this remarkable play. I’m joined by David Ian Rabey, Emeritus Professor at Aberystwyth University and author of The Theatre and Films of Jez Butterworth.

004 – The Revlon Girl, by Neil Anthony Docking

004 – The Revlon Girl, by Neil Anthony Docking

Show notes

It is June 1967 and a group of women are gathering in a function room of the hotel in a small Welsh mining village for a demonstration of beauty tips by a rep from the Revlon cosmetics company. The women are keeping the Revlon Girl’s visit a secret from others, because they fear that their neighbours may not think it appropriate that they treat themselves to a beauty session. This is because it is only eight months since a coal tip above the village collapsed, engulfing the local school and killing 116 children and 28 adults. Five of these children belonged to the mothers who are meeting in this hotel in Aberfan, to talk, cry and even laugh, without feeling guilty.

Neil Anthony Docking’s heartrending and funny play The Revlon Girl premiered at the Edinburgh Festival in 2017 before a run at the Park Theatre in London, which earned it an Olivier Nomination and the 2018 Off-West End Theatre Award for Best New Play. The play asks us to consider how one can carry on after such tragic personal loss? Who should be blamed: the National Coal Board or God? And how can we ensure that such preventable disasters never occur again – a question unbearably topical as the Grenfell fire demonstrated only weeks before the play premiered. 

I’m delighted to be joined in this episode down the line from his home in London by the author himself.

Neil Anthony Docking

Neil was born in South Wales, and studied music at the University of Westminster before finding work as a writer in press, television, radio and film, where his credits include Casualty, Emmerdale, Nuts & Bolts, The Throne Room, Station Road and many more. He is married to the actor/director Maxine Evans, who also expertly directed the first productions of The Revlon Girl. The Revlon Girl is his first play for the theatre.

Recommended Play

Neil recommended All My Sons by Arthur Miller.

The Texts

If you are interested in buying the play text or other related books, we’d be delighted if you choose to purchase them by following the links below. We will earn a small commission on every book you purchase, which helps to keep the podcast going. You will also be supporting an independent bookseller. Thank you.

Photo © Marc Brenner

We have footnotes for this episode …

More in our Footnotes to The Revlon Girl episode on the political aftermath of Aberfan, the Queen’s visit – or rather non-visit, and how the Revlon Girl’s sales patter hits a nerve.

You might also be interested in …

052 – The Seagull, by Anton Chekhov

052 – The Seagull, by Anton Chekhov

Anton Chekhov’s play The Seagull was a disaster on its opening night in St Petersburg in 1896. The unsettling blend of comedy and pathos that confused the first critics and audience were subsequently recognised as seminal in the evolution of modern drama.

I’m delighted to welcome back playwright and professor, Dan Rebellato, to talk about Chekhov and his timeless play.

051 – Closer, by Patrick Marber

051 – Closer, by Patrick Marber

Patrick Marber’s play Closer depicts a merry-go-round of metropolitan relationships powered by sex and betrayal. Its clever and candid dissection of the destructive power of sexual desire hit a contemporary nerve when it premiered in 1997.
Clare Lizzimore, director of a new production at the Lyric Hammersmith, joins me to explore how the play’s unflinching sexual politics has aged twenty-five years later.

050 – Jerusalem, by Jez Butterworth

050 – Jerusalem, by Jez Butterworth

Jez Butterworth’s play Jersualem is one of the landmark plays of the 21st century, acclaimed for both its lyrical and elusive text exploring English identity, and for its electrifying theatrical production. The once-in-a lifetime performance is happily being repeated with the current West End revival, and it seems fitting that our 50th episode be devoted to this remarkable play. I’m joined by David Ian Rabey, Emeritus Professor at Aberystwyth University and author of The Theatre and Films of Jez Butterworth.

005 – The Tempest, by William Shakespeare

005 – The Tempest, by William Shakespeare

Show notes

The theatre is filled with crashing sounds and the flashing light of a tumultuous storm. Sailors can be heard shouting to each other to try to prevent their ship from splintering apart. We are aboard the King of Naple’s ship that is about to founder on a unknown island – an “isle full of noises, sounds and sweet airs” – a magical kingdom ruled over by a sorcerer and his apprentice, who are about to stage their own drama of romance and revenge.

This is Shakespeare’s late great masterpiece, The Tempest. It would be the last play the playwright would write by himself. It premiered at the court of James I in December 1611, and it is suggested that hereafter Shakespeare spent most of the remaining five years of his life in semi-retirement in Stratford.

To help us explore our first Shakespeare play we are joined by one of our finest actors, Tm McMullan. Tim knows Shakespeare from the inside, having appeared in many acclaimed productions, including most pertinently for these purposes as Prospero in the 2016 production of The Tempest at the Sam Wanamaker theatre at the Globe in London.

Tim McMullan

Tim McMullan is one of our most acclaimed and recognisable actors. He studied History at St Andrews University before training as an actor at RADA. His stage career comprises a number of iconic performances in Shakespeare, including Oberon at the RSC, Jacques at the Globe, Toby Belch in Twelfth Night and Enobarbus in Antony & Cleopatra at the National Theatre, and most pertinently for our purposes, as Prospero in the 2016 production of The Tempest at the Sam Wanamaker theatre, directed by Dominic Dromgoole in his last show as Artistic Director of the Globe.

Of course, Tim’s work encompasses much more than Shakespeare. He has worked with Cheek by Jowl, Complicite, and Mnemonic; performed at the Almeida, Donmar, Hampstead, and the West End, as well as in more than 20 plays at the National Theatre.

His film and TV work includes Shadowlands, 5th Element, The Queen, The Woman in Black, Foyle’s War, Brexit An Uncivil War, Melrose, The Crown, and of course Shakespeare in Love.

Recommended Play

Tim recommended The Blind by Maurice Maeterlink.

The Texts

If you are interested in buying the play text or other related books, we’d be delighted if you choose to purchase them by following the links below. We will earn a small commission on every book you purchase, which helps to keep the podcast going. You will also be supporting an independent bookseller. Thank you.

Photo © Marc Brenner

We have footnotes for this episode …

The Footnotes to our episode on The Tempest include information and observations on St Elmo’s Fire, the original shipwreck that may have been Shakespeare’s source, Art vs Nurture, Art vs Nature, and the poetry of the play.​

You might also be interested in …

052 – The Seagull, by Anton Chekhov

052 – The Seagull, by Anton Chekhov

Anton Chekhov’s play The Seagull was a disaster on its opening night in St Petersburg in 1896. The unsettling blend of comedy and pathos that confused the first critics and audience were subsequently recognised as seminal in the evolution of modern drama.

I’m delighted to welcome back playwright and professor, Dan Rebellato, to talk about Chekhov and his timeless play.

051 – Closer, by Patrick Marber

051 – Closer, by Patrick Marber

Patrick Marber’s play Closer depicts a merry-go-round of metropolitan relationships powered by sex and betrayal. Its clever and candid dissection of the destructive power of sexual desire hit a contemporary nerve when it premiered in 1997.
Clare Lizzimore, director of a new production at the Lyric Hammersmith, joins me to explore how the play’s unflinching sexual politics has aged twenty-five years later.

050 – Jerusalem, by Jez Butterworth

050 – Jerusalem, by Jez Butterworth

Jez Butterworth’s play Jersualem is one of the landmark plays of the 21st century, acclaimed for both its lyrical and elusive text exploring English identity, and for its electrifying theatrical production. The once-in-a lifetime performance is happily being repeated with the current West End revival, and it seems fitting that our 50th episode be devoted to this remarkable play. I’m joined by David Ian Rabey, Emeritus Professor at Aberystwyth University and author of The Theatre and Films of Jez Butterworth.