008 – The Deep Blue Sea, by Terence Rattigan

008 – The Deep Blue Sea, by Terence Rattigan

008 – The Deep Blue Sea, by Terence Rattigan

“When you’re between any kind of devil and the deep blue sea, the deep blue sea sometimes looks very inviting.”

So Hester Collyer describes the despair that led her to attempt suicide at the opening of Terence Rattigan’s masterpiece The Deep Blue Sea.

When it was first performed in 1952, Rattigan was the most successful playwright in Britain, and his latest play was met with critical aclaim. However later in the 1950s and 1960s with the rise of playwrights such as Samuel Beckett, Harold Pinter, and the angry young men, including John Osborne, and Arnold Wesker, Rattigan’s plays were all but written off as dated melodrama. It was a modern production of The Deep Blue Sea at the Almeida theatre in London in 1993, with Penelope Wilton in the lead role, that brought a new lens through which to view Rattigan, and the play was greeted as a “modern classic”.

Rattigan’s portrait of a doomed love affair explores the force of sexual love and its power to destroy relationships and subvert social convention, and in the figure of Hester Collyer gives us one of the most emotionally charged female characters in drama.

To coincide with the National Theatre at Home broadcast of their 2016 production of the play starring Helen McCrory in the lead role, we delve deep into what is arguably Rattigan’s most personal and most devastatingly powerful play in conversation with Dan Rebellato.

Dan Rebellato

Dan was our very first guest on The Play Podcast, when we talked together about Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House back in episode 1.
In addition to being a playwright, journalist and Professor of Contemporary Theatre at Royal Holloway, University of London, Dan is also the series editor of Terence Rattigan’s plays for the specialist drama publisher Nick Hern, in which capacity he has written introductions to Rattigan and all of his texts, as well as published and spoken about his work in many other contexts.
At last count Dan has written 17 stage plays, numerous radio plays, and published several books on contemporary British theatre. During the recent coronavirus lockdown Dan has taken the opportunity to create a series of YouTube interviews with a stellar line-up of playwrights under the heading Playwrights in Lockdown. The series is a wonderful repository of knowledge and insight into the methods and work of many of the leading writers of our time. 

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 observations on The Deep Blue Sea following our conversation with Dan, including playing Hester with “no clothes on”, trading Shakespearean quotes on Love and Lust, the unimportance of “the physical side, objectively speaking”, and the whereabouts of a shilling coin.

Suggest a play

We’re always open to suggestions about plays to talk about, so if you’d like us to discuss a favourite of yours, please email us at plays@theplaypodcast.com. Let us know why you think we should cover it, and if you know anyone who’d be excited and qualified to talk about it with us (even yourself if modesty permits!).

Plays suggested for discussion by our Guests and Listeners - which gets your vote?
  • Add your own suggestion

You might also be interested in …

021 – The Glass Menagerie, by Tennessee Williams

021 – The Glass Menagerie, by Tennessee Williams

Tennessee Williams breakthrough playThe Glass Menagerie is a very personal portrait of Williams’ own flawed family. It first opened on Broadway in March 1945 to rave reviews, it’s box office success catapulting its 34-year old author to fame and fortune. The play is now a standard on educational curricula and theatrical programs, loved for its heart-wrenching portrayal of the hopes and disappointments of its characters, and admired for its theatrical technique and poetic dramatic language.

The play was brilliantly staged in 2013 on Broadway in a production directed by John Tiffany, which was revived in 2017 in London’s West End, and I am absolutely delighted to be joined in this episode by the director himself, John Tiffany, to share his insights into this enduring classic.

020 – Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, by Edward Albee

020 – Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, by Edward Albee

It is 2:00 am, and George and Martha have invited a young couple for after-party drinks to their home on a New England university campus. What follows is arguably the most extended and vitriolic marital argument ever staged. Over four hours of drunken skirmishing George and Martha tear strips off each other and their young guests, in a terrifying mix of games playing and truth telling, fuelled by anger, shame, disappointment, hatred and possibly even love. As the hostilities intensify both couples are forced to face unvarnished and difficult truths about themselves and their relationships. This is American playwright Edward Albee’s classic play, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, which opened on Broadway in 1962, and was greeted by both moral outrage and critical acclaim. Both types of review contributed to its run-away box-office success, and led to the 1966 Oscar-winning film version with Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor.

Joining me to survey the damage of this blistering marital battle are John Mitchinson and Andy MIller, the co-hosts of the award-winning podcast Backlisted, which as its strap line declares “gives new life to old books”.

019 – The Welkin, by Lucy Kirkwood

019 – The Welkin, by Lucy Kirkwood

It is 1759 in East Anglia. A child has been murdered and a young woman has been convicted to hang for the crime. She ‘pleads her belly’ and a jury of matrons must determine if she is truly with child and thus may escape the gallows. Lucy Kirkwood’s powerful play The Welkin, is an historical thriller and a tense courtroom drama, as well as a vivid representation of the real burdens that women carry in a patriarchal world of any age.
The Welkin premiered at the National Theatre in January 2020 before its run was cruelly cut short by the first Covid lockdown. I’m delighted to be joined by the author herself to talk about her rich new play.

Recent Posts 

The 2020 Theatre Diary – March

The 2020 Theatre Diary – March

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.

The 2020 Theatre Diary – January

The 2020 Theatre Diary – January

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

Lungs – Footnotes

Lungs – Footnotes

Photo © Marc Brenner

Lungs – Footnotes

More observations about the play and the Old Vic In Camera performance with Claire Foy and Matt Smith that was broadcast live from 26th June 2020.

The Old Vic Theatre’s In Camera Performance

I joined the paying audience for the first broadcast of the Old Vic’s innovative live stream of their production of Lungs with Claire Foy and Matt Smith performing the play in front of the cameras but in the empty auditorium of the theatre. As I tuned in via my laptop and waited for the start, I heard through my headphones the background buzz of an audience, interrupted by the five and three minute warnings before curtain. I was surprisingly excited to feel part of this live event.

Here are a few of my observations from the performance and of the play after seeing it again:

George and I talked about the distinctive quality of the dialogue, and I was struck even more forcefully by the sheer pace of it hearing it live. The opening exchanges between the couple as they stand in the Ikea queue are astonishingly sharp. The energy of it is mesmerising, and you see in practice how two people who know each other so well interweave their patterns of thought and speech.

I was also reminded in the opening moments of their performances, how funny the play is. We talked a lot during the episode about the serious issues that the play raises, but perhaps less than we could have about how entertaining the repartee between them is, and how spot on the observations of daily life are.

We did remark during the podcast on the change in the rapid-fire dialogue when she embarks on the first long speech in the play, as she tries to process her thoughts about possible motherhood. Claire Foy delivers this beautifully. One can’t but be in awe at the way she maintains the insistent rhythm of the speech, her thoughts flowing out of her in one long, live stream, many unfinished but all distinct and connected.

I also enjoyed the thread through the play that references the couple’s relationships with their respective parents. Macmillan captures more common truths about the tensions between couples and their in-laws in particular, including parents not fully rating their child’s choice of partner, how we can criticise our own parents but defend them when our partner does, and even pretend that we all like each other when the opposite may be closer to the truth.

As we discussed in our conversation, the second half of the play becomes more emotionally substantial, which I felt especially in Claire Foy’s moving performance. In the moment following her miscarriage when she says quietly “I don’t know what I did wrong”, all of her confusion, grief, and guilt can be read in her face.

The final section of the play that fast forwards through their lives also painted a picture of apocalyptic events unfolding in the global climate. Forests have disappeared, flights are being grounded, and everything is covered in ash. These references reminded me that Macmillan wrote the play back in 2010/11, when the world was shocked by the explosion of the Icelandic volcano, and normal life was suspended on an unprecedented scale. A warning that may have seemed an anomaly then, feels all too commonplace now.

As the cast took their curtain call to the camera, I felt uplifted by this chance to experience “live” theatre, and was only sorry that I was not able to applaud so they could hear me.

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.

Suggest a play

We’re always open to suggestions about plays to talk about, so if you’d like us to discuss a favourite of yours, please email us at plays@theplaypodcast.com. Let us know why you think we should cover it, and if you know anyone who’d be excited and qualified to talk about it with us (even yourself if modesty permits!).

Plays suggested for discussion by our Guests and Listeners - which gets your vote?
  • Add your own suggestion

You might also be interested in …

021 – The Glass Menagerie, by Tennessee Williams

021 – The Glass Menagerie, by Tennessee Williams

Tennessee Williams breakthrough playThe Glass Menagerie is a very personal portrait of Williams’ own flawed family. It first opened on Broadway in March 1945 to rave reviews, it’s box office success catapulting its 34-year old author to fame and fortune. The play is now a standard on educational curricula and theatrical programs, loved for its heart-wrenching portrayal of the hopes and disappointments of its characters, and admired for its theatrical technique and poetic dramatic language.

The play was brilliantly staged in 2013 on Broadway in a production directed by John Tiffany, which was revived in 2017 in London’s West End, and I am absolutely delighted to be joined in this episode by the director himself, John Tiffany, to share his insights into this enduring classic.

020 – Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, by Edward Albee

020 – Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, by Edward Albee

It is 2:00 am, and George and Martha have invited a young couple for after-party drinks to their home on a New England university campus. What follows is arguably the most extended and vitriolic marital argument ever staged. Over four hours of drunken skirmishing George and Martha tear strips off each other and their young guests, in a terrifying mix of games playing and truth telling, fuelled by anger, shame, disappointment, hatred and possibly even love. As the hostilities intensify both couples are forced to face unvarnished and difficult truths about themselves and their relationships. This is American playwright Edward Albee’s classic play, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, which opened on Broadway in 1962, and was greeted by both moral outrage and critical acclaim. Both types of review contributed to its run-away box-office success, and led to the 1966 Oscar-winning film version with Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor.

Joining me to survey the damage of this blistering marital battle are John Mitchinson and Andy MIller, the co-hosts of the award-winning podcast Backlisted, which as its strap line declares “gives new life to old books”.

019 – The Welkin, by Lucy Kirkwood

019 – The Welkin, by Lucy Kirkwood

It is 1759 in East Anglia. A child has been murdered and a young woman has been convicted to hang for the crime. She ‘pleads her belly’ and a jury of matrons must determine if she is truly with child and thus may escape the gallows. Lucy Kirkwood’s powerful play The Welkin, is an historical thriller and a tense courtroom drama, as well as a vivid representation of the real burdens that women carry in a patriarchal world of any age.
The Welkin premiered at the National Theatre in January 2020 before its run was cruelly cut short by the first Covid lockdown. I’m delighted to be joined by the author herself to talk about her rich new play.

Recent Posts 

The 2020 Theatre Diary – March

The 2020 Theatre Diary – March

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.

The 2020 Theatre Diary – January

The 2020 Theatre Diary – January

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

007 – Lungs, by Duncan Macmillan

007 – Lungs, by Duncan Macmillan

Photograph: Helen Maybanks

007 – Lungs, by Duncan Macmillan

A young couple navigate the age-old debate of whether or when to embark on having a baby. They are naturally worried about their personal responsibilities, but most topically they are also concerned about the impact that their adding to the global population will have on the world’s climate and future.

Duncan Macmillan’s award-winning play written in 2011, was revived at the Old Vic in 2019 with Claire Foy and Matt Smith conducting the debate. They will shortly reprise their roles via the Old Vic’s innovative in Camera live stream for a limited run from 26th June. Joining us to review the ongoing debate is George Spender, former editorial director at Oberon Books who publish Lungs and the playwright’s other plays.

George Spender

George Spender, was the Editorial Director at specialist drama publisher, Oberon Books, where he was responsible for publishing many of the leading British playwrights of the past decade, including Laura Wade, Tanika Gupta, Lemn Sissay, Simon Stone, Robert Icke, Barney Norris, Alice Birchall, among hundreds of others.

Most importantly for our episode, Oberon publish all of Duncan Macmillan’s plays, including Lungs. More recently George has worked for the Edinburgh International Festival and the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, and has launched a new publishing company, called Salamander Street, which specialises in new dramatic writing and theatre in education.

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 observations about the play and the Old Vic In Camera performance with Claire Foy and Matt Smith that was broadcast live from 26th June 2020.

Suggest a play

We’re always open to suggestions about plays to talk about, so if you’d like us to discuss a favourite of yours, please email us at plays@theplaypodcast.com. Let us know why you think we should cover it, and if you know anyone who’d be excited and qualified to talk about it with us (even yourself if modesty permits!).

Plays suggested for discussion by our Guests and Listeners - which gets your vote?
  • Add your own suggestion

You might also be interested in …

021 – The Glass Menagerie, by Tennessee Williams

021 – The Glass Menagerie, by Tennessee Williams

Tennessee Williams breakthrough playThe Glass Menagerie is a very personal portrait of Williams’ own flawed family. It first opened on Broadway in March 1945 to rave reviews, it’s box office success catapulting its 34-year old author to fame and fortune. The play is now a standard on educational curricula and theatrical programs, loved for its heart-wrenching portrayal of the hopes and disappointments of its characters, and admired for its theatrical technique and poetic dramatic language.

The play was brilliantly staged in 2013 on Broadway in a production directed by John Tiffany, which was revived in 2017 in London’s West End, and I am absolutely delighted to be joined in this episode by the director himself, John Tiffany, to share his insights into this enduring classic.

020 – Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, by Edward Albee

020 – Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, by Edward Albee

It is 2:00 am, and George and Martha have invited a young couple for after-party drinks to their home on a New England university campus. What follows is arguably the most extended and vitriolic marital argument ever staged. Over four hours of drunken skirmishing George and Martha tear strips off each other and their young guests, in a terrifying mix of games playing and truth telling, fuelled by anger, shame, disappointment, hatred and possibly even love. As the hostilities intensify both couples are forced to face unvarnished and difficult truths about themselves and their relationships. This is American playwright Edward Albee’s classic play, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, which opened on Broadway in 1962, and was greeted by both moral outrage and critical acclaim. Both types of review contributed to its run-away box-office success, and led to the 1966 Oscar-winning film version with Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor.

Joining me to survey the damage of this blistering marital battle are John Mitchinson and Andy MIller, the co-hosts of the award-winning podcast Backlisted, which as its strap line declares “gives new life to old books”.

019 – The Welkin, by Lucy Kirkwood

019 – The Welkin, by Lucy Kirkwood

It is 1759 in East Anglia. A child has been murdered and a young woman has been convicted to hang for the crime. She ‘pleads her belly’ and a jury of matrons must determine if she is truly with child and thus may escape the gallows. Lucy Kirkwood’s powerful play The Welkin, is an historical thriller and a tense courtroom drama, as well as a vivid representation of the real burdens that women carry in a patriarchal world of any age.
The Welkin premiered at the National Theatre in January 2020 before its run was cruelly cut short by the first Covid lockdown. I’m delighted to be joined by the author herself to talk about her rich new play.

Recent Posts 

The 2020 Theatre Diary – March

The 2020 Theatre Diary – March

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.

The 2020 Theatre Diary – January

The 2020 Theatre Diary – January

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

006 – Betrayal, by Harold Pinter

006 – Betrayal, by Harold Pinter

006 – Betrayal, by Harold Pinter

Pinter’s modern classic dissects the dynamics of betrayal in marriage, friendship and work. The ambiguities of the adulterous affair that is the core of the play are made all the more unsettling by the innovative chronology of the narrative: the play famously opens with the end of the affair and works backwards to its inception.

Joining us to mine the depths of Pinter’s compressed masterpiece is Mark Taylor-Batty, senior lecturer in Theatre Studies at the University of Leeds and author of The Theatre of Harold Pinter (Bloomsbury 2014).

Dr. Mark Taylor-Batty

Mark is a senior lecturer in Theatre Studies at Leeds University. His key areas of interest include the career of Harold Pinter, the theatricality of Samuel Beckett, and twentieth-century French and British theatre. He is a co-editor of the Methuen Drama Engage series of books, and most appropriately for our purposes he is the author of two books on Harold Pinter: The Theatre of Harold Pinter (published by Bloomsbury) and About Pinter: The Playwright and The Work (published by Faber and Faber). He is also a Director of the Harold Pinter Society.

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 five 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 Tim.

Suggest a play

We’re always open to suggestions about plays to talk about, so if you’d like us to discuss a favourite of yours, please email us at plays@theplaypodcast.com. Let us know why you think we should cover it, and if you know anyone who’d be excited and qualified to talk about it with us (even yourself if modesty permits!).

Plays suggested for discussion by our Guests and Listeners - which gets your vote?
  • Add your own suggestion

You might also be interested in …

021 – The Glass Menagerie, by Tennessee Williams

021 – The Glass Menagerie, by Tennessee Williams

Tennessee Williams breakthrough playThe Glass Menagerie is a very personal portrait of Williams’ own flawed family. It first opened on Broadway in March 1945 to rave reviews, it’s box office success catapulting its 34-year old author to fame and fortune. The play is now a standard on educational curricula and theatrical programs, loved for its heart-wrenching portrayal of the hopes and disappointments of its characters, and admired for its theatrical technique and poetic dramatic language.

The play was brilliantly staged in 2013 on Broadway in a production directed by John Tiffany, which was revived in 2017 in London’s West End, and I am absolutely delighted to be joined in this episode by the director himself, John Tiffany, to share his insights into this enduring classic.

020 – Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, by Edward Albee

020 – Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, by Edward Albee

It is 2:00 am, and George and Martha have invited a young couple for after-party drinks to their home on a New England university campus. What follows is arguably the most extended and vitriolic marital argument ever staged. Over four hours of drunken skirmishing George and Martha tear strips off each other and their young guests, in a terrifying mix of games playing and truth telling, fuelled by anger, shame, disappointment, hatred and possibly even love. As the hostilities intensify both couples are forced to face unvarnished and difficult truths about themselves and their relationships. This is American playwright Edward Albee’s classic play, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, which opened on Broadway in 1962, and was greeted by both moral outrage and critical acclaim. Both types of review contributed to its run-away box-office success, and led to the 1966 Oscar-winning film version with Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor.

Joining me to survey the damage of this blistering marital battle are John Mitchinson and Andy MIller, the co-hosts of the award-winning podcast Backlisted, which as its strap line declares “gives new life to old books”.

019 – The Welkin, by Lucy Kirkwood

019 – The Welkin, by Lucy Kirkwood

It is 1759 in East Anglia. A child has been murdered and a young woman has been convicted to hang for the crime. She ‘pleads her belly’ and a jury of matrons must determine if she is truly with child and thus may escape the gallows. Lucy Kirkwood’s powerful play The Welkin, is an historical thriller and a tense courtroom drama, as well as a vivid representation of the real burdens that women carry in a patriarchal world of any age.
The Welkin premiered at the National Theatre in January 2020 before its run was cruelly cut short by the first Covid lockdown. I’m delighted to be joined by the author herself to talk about her rich new play.

Recent Posts 

The 2020 Theatre Diary – March

The 2020 Theatre Diary – March

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.

The 2020 Theatre Diary – January

The 2020 Theatre Diary – January

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

Lungs – Footnotes

Betrayal – Footnotes

Photo © Marc Brenner

Betrayal – Footnotes

These footnotes are a follow-up to our live discussion in episode six 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 Mark.

Joan Bakewell’s version of Betrayal

During our conversation in part one of episode six, we talked about the seven-year long affair that Harold Pinter had with Joan Bakewell, on which his play is based. As Mark pointed out, Bakewell was not happy at the way their relationship was portrayed in the play. In fact back in 1978, the year Betrayal premiered, she wrote her own play in response, giving a different slant on the same affair. Her play, Keeping in Touch, was not produced until it appeared as a radio play on the BBC in 2017.

In Bakewell’s version of the affair, she emphasizes the restrictions that the woman feels within her marriage: “Three years at university and here I am stuck at home with small children,” she pointedly tells her husband, adding “Is this it?”. She is tempted to embark on affair with a famous architect who is pursuing her, but only does so when in a twist on the central scene in Pinter’s play, she discovers while in Venice with her husband that he has been unfaithful.

Perhaps the differences in their portrayals only affirms one of the themes of Betrayal: that we each create our own version of truth.

The Romantic Island of Torcello

The island of Torcello on which Robert read Yeats in his idealistic youth, and which he and Emma were to re-visit during their stay in Venice, sits in the lagoon some 40 minutes by vaporetto from Venice proper. It is well off the beaten tourist track, so if you make the effort to go out there you will find a beautifully peaceful place. There are few inhabitants or dwellings; most prominent is the 11th century church, with its striking bell tower and magnificent Byzantine mosaics. The island also has literary associations: Ernest Hemingway spent a month here in 1948, staying at the small hotel on the island writing his novel Across the River and into the Trees.

Torcello is the perfect place to reference the romantic and literary past for Emma and Robert.

1970s Society – The times Betrayal was written in

We talked briefly in our conversation about the society in 1978 when Betrayal was written. The 1970s was a period of significant social change, and some of these trends are reflected in the lives of the characters. In the early 1970s the so called “women’s liberation movement” was gaining momentum, with wide spread media attention and national conferences being organised. One of the tenants of ‘Women’s Lib’ was the call to allow women to look beyond the limited role of mother and housewife. Germaine Greer’s “The Female Eunuch” proposing that the traditional suburban family represses women (rendering them eunuchs) was a bestseller at the time. Emma is in the forefront of this change, with her busy job running an Art Gallery while maintaining the life of the family.

The 1960s and 70s also heralded an era of increased sexual promiscuity. There were several developments that helped fuel this sexual freedom. The contraceptive pill became available to married women in 1961 and to all women via the NHS in 1967. In 1967 the Abortion Act was passed legalizing abortion, and homosexuality was de-criminalised.

In the early 1970s the UK divorce law also changed to establish a spouse’s equal right to the property of marriage. This would establish conditions that would enable women to exit a marriage. The divorce rate in the UK doubled between 1971 and 1980.

The 1970s also saw an increase in reported incidents of domestic violence, perhaps reflecting the beginning of a change in attitude to the acceptability of the behaviour that Robert refers to so casually in the play. Women’s Refuges were set up in several cities and Victim Support was founded in 1974 with 30 schemes in operation around the country by 1978.

While the play still betrays some of the now outdated features of gender relationships, we also recognise the emerging shape of our world.

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.

Suggest a play

We’re always open to suggestions about plays to talk about, so if you’d like us to discuss a favourite of yours, please email us at plays@theplaypodcast.com. Let us know why you think we should cover it, and if you know anyone who’d be excited and qualified to talk about it with us (even yourself if modesty permits!).

Plays suggested for discussion by our Guests and Listeners - which gets your vote?
  • Add your own suggestion

You might also be interested in …

021 – The Glass Menagerie, by Tennessee Williams

021 – The Glass Menagerie, by Tennessee Williams

Tennessee Williams breakthrough playThe Glass Menagerie is a very personal portrait of Williams’ own flawed family. It first opened on Broadway in March 1945 to rave reviews, it’s box office success catapulting its 34-year old author to fame and fortune. The play is now a standard on educational curricula and theatrical programs, loved for its heart-wrenching portrayal of the hopes and disappointments of its characters, and admired for its theatrical technique and poetic dramatic language.

The play was brilliantly staged in 2013 on Broadway in a production directed by John Tiffany, which was revived in 2017 in London’s West End, and I am absolutely delighted to be joined in this episode by the director himself, John Tiffany, to share his insights into this enduring classic.

020 – Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, by Edward Albee

020 – Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, by Edward Albee

It is 2:00 am, and George and Martha have invited a young couple for after-party drinks to their home on a New England university campus. What follows is arguably the most extended and vitriolic marital argument ever staged. Over four hours of drunken skirmishing George and Martha tear strips off each other and their young guests, in a terrifying mix of games playing and truth telling, fuelled by anger, shame, disappointment, hatred and possibly even love. As the hostilities intensify both couples are forced to face unvarnished and difficult truths about themselves and their relationships. This is American playwright Edward Albee’s classic play, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, which opened on Broadway in 1962, and was greeted by both moral outrage and critical acclaim. Both types of review contributed to its run-away box-office success, and led to the 1966 Oscar-winning film version with Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor.

Joining me to survey the damage of this blistering marital battle are John Mitchinson and Andy MIller, the co-hosts of the award-winning podcast Backlisted, which as its strap line declares “gives new life to old books”.

019 – The Welkin, by Lucy Kirkwood

019 – The Welkin, by Lucy Kirkwood

It is 1759 in East Anglia. A child has been murdered and a young woman has been convicted to hang for the crime. She ‘pleads her belly’ and a jury of matrons must determine if she is truly with child and thus may escape the gallows. Lucy Kirkwood’s powerful play The Welkin, is an historical thriller and a tense courtroom drama, as well as a vivid representation of the real burdens that women carry in a patriarchal world of any age.
The Welkin premiered at the National Theatre in January 2020 before its run was cruelly cut short by the first Covid lockdown. I’m delighted to be joined by the author herself to talk about her rich new play.

Recent Posts 

The 2020 Theatre Diary – March

The 2020 Theatre Diary – March

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.

The 2020 Theatre Diary – January

The 2020 Theatre Diary – January

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