Friday 27 June 2014


Since the beginning of 2014, mostly on Thursdays, I’ve tweeted about one play a week that I recommend reading. Of course, plays are meant to be seen rather than read, yet if you are either unable to see a particular play, fancy brushing up on the classical canon, or just want to read a playtext, then #ReadaPlayaWeek offers a wide range of scripts. From the challenging and the classical to the popular and the contemporary, from a host of playwrights, both well-known and obscure, here are the plays from the first half of 2014’s #ReadaPlayaWeek challenge:

The Caretaker (1960), Harold Pinter
The Night Heron (2002), Jez Butterworth
The Winterling (2006), Jez Butterworth
Separate Tables (1954), Terence Rattigan
A Taste of Honey (1958), Shelagh Delaney

The Shape of Things (2001), Neil LaBute
The Weir (1997), Conor McPherson
random (2008), debbie tucker green
All My Sons (1947), Arthur Miller

Twelfth Night (c.1602), William Shakespeare
Mother Clap’s Molly House (2001), Mark Ravenhill
Plenty (1978), David Hare
England People Very Nice (2009), Richard Bean

The History Boys (2004), Alan Bennett
Cleo, Camping, Emmanuelle and Dick (1998), Terry Johnson
Awake and Sing! (1935), Clifford Odets
Jerusalem (2009), Jez Butterworth

Old Times (1971), Harold Pinter
Shopping and Fucking (1996), Mark Ravenhill
The Permanent Way (2003), David Hare
Birdland (2014), Simon Stephens
Body Language (1990), Alan Ayckbourn

Noises Off (1982), Michael Frayn
Arcadia (1993), Tom Stoppard
Volpone (1606), Ben Jonson
The Secret Rapture (1988), David Hare

The series has mainly had an interest in modern and contemporary works, with three plays each by Jez Butterworth and David Hare. Certainly by the end of the year, more of Hare’s plays will be included and so will all of Butterworth’s. When reading contemporary playtexts, such as Simon Stephens’ Birdland (2014) or debbie tucker green’s random (2008), one easily realises the more collaborative nature of playwriting today – gone are the days of the autonomous playwright. When seeing Stephens’ play for instance, Carrie Cracknell’s production and Ian MacNeil’s design really made the play what it was, so simply reading the play perhaps helps to appreciate both the play and the production more.

Even if some plays and playwrights are more obscure than others here, all of them are significantly successful. Odets and Miller are two American playwrights, whose included plays show some of their most successful work and examples of successful theatre at the time. Comparing Miller’s All My Sons (1947) to Rattigan’s Separate Tables (1954) is useful to help compare American and British theatre post-WWII (Rattigan’s play was seen as one of the first British plays that dealt with difficult issues, an area in which post-war British theatre was considered lagging behind American theatre). In terms of British theatre, the plays give an insight into British trends at the time as well as plays which differed from these. For example, Ravenhill’s Shopping and Fucking (1996) exemplifies the In-Yer-Face wave of theatre popular in the mid-1990s, but choosing Terry Johnson’s Cleo, Camping, Emmanuelle and Dick (1998) and Conor McPherson’s The Weir (1997) also indicates that the deliberately provocative plays perhaps didn’t wholly dominate the 90s.

The series is also a chance to showcase some of Britain’s most prolific playwrights and their well-known and less well-known plays (such as Ayckbourn’s Body Language). Furthermore, it features famous plays which theatrically defined a moment in time: David Hare’s Plenty and Alan Bennett’s The History Boys, for example. In the next half of the year for #ReadaPlayaWeek, there will be more plays by female playwrights, more classic and contemporary plays, and plays from not only Britain but also Ireland, America, France and other countries.


Suggest plays @nobillington