The Play Podcast is a podcast dedicated to exploring the greatest new and classic plays. In each episode we choose a single play to talk about in depth with our expert guest. We discuss the play’s origins, its themes, characters, structure and impact. For us the play is the thing.
Best of Enemies re-enacts the explosive TV debates between American political pundits Gore Vidal and William F Buckley from 1968, and in so doing turns the lens on the corrosive nature of political discourse in our media today. Playwright James Graham joins us to talk about his fascinating new play.
Macbeth is a tragedy of love, ambition and betrayal, propelled by relentless energy and shocking violence, and infused by an air of the supernatural. Professor Emma Smith from Hertford College, Oxford, joins us to explore Shakespeare’s notorious ‘Scottish play’.
Timberlake Wertenbaker’s award-winning play retells the unlikely story of a group of convicts who put on a production of George Farquhar’s Restoration Comedy The Recruiting Officer in Botany Bay in 1789. It made complete sense to follow-up our episode on The Recruiting Officer with this wonderful play and to invite Director Matt Beresford back to talk us through it.
George Farquhar’s rollicking Restoration Comedy The Recruiting Officer is ostensibly a portrait of officers engaged in the nefarious art of impressing men into the army in the country town of Shrewsbury, but it is as much a tale of the local ladies themselves recruiting for lovers and husbands. Director Matt Beresford joins us to assess the ‘recruiting officers’ respective strategies and successes.
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.
The Footnotes to our episode on Tom Stoppard’s majestic play Leopoldstadt include observations on the origins of its title, the metaphoric resonances of the child’s game, Cat’s Cradle, and how Gustav Klimt’s art is an apt choice to help paint the play’s story.
The Footnotes to our episode on Samuel Beckett’s timeless play Happy Days include observations on the power of Beckett’s theatrical imagery, as well as the indeterminate nature of time in the play.
The Footnotes to our episode on Caryl Churchill’s prophetic play Escaped Alone include further thoughts on Churchill’s uncanny prescience, as well as some background on the experience of filming the play during lockdown.
The Footnotes to our episode on Shelagh Delaney’s classic A Taste of Honey include thoughts on the sins of the mother, and Delaney’s radical portrait of real people in 1950s Britain.
The Footnotes to our episode on Girl from the North Country include brief thoughts on Elizabeth’s ability to see and say the truth, more on the echoes of Chekhov in Conor’s play, and the melding of Bob Dylan’s songs with the play.
The Footnotes to our episode on Present Laughter include thoughts on the real Garry Essendine, and the morality of the amorous liaisons that they all prosecute.
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Your host …
I’m Douglas Schatz, founder and host of The Play Podcast.
I had the great privilege to work for a number of years as the Managing Director of Samuel French, the renowned play publishers and theatrical licensing agent. I was lucky enough to be able to read plays and go to the theatre, and call it work. One of the most rewarding parts of my job was the time spent talking in depth with writers, directors, agents, and colleagues about plays. We talked endlessly about plays.
The idea for The Play Podcast is to continue those conversations. To talk in depth about a play, more than you will find in the reviews of a single production. To look at the origins of the play, its plot, themes, characters, and structure. To consider it in the context of the playwright’s life and times, its place in the dramatic canon, and its current and enduring relevance.
Each episode focuses on a single play, or perhaps very occasionally two, to talk about for up to an hour with one or more of our expert guests. We will often choose a play that is live on stage somewhere in the UK, which gives us and listeners the added opportunity to see and review a current production. This is not a review show though, because we are interested in the play itself. We want you to enjoy listening whether or not you are able to see a particular production, and whenever you find us.
Please feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org with your comments on our conversations, and with suggestions about plays that you recommend that we could explore on the podcast.
You can email us at email@example.com
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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!).