Category Archives: Book Reviews

Book Review: ‘Covering Shakespeare’ by David Weston

“Cymbeline is for the most part stagy trash of the lowest melodramatic order, in parts abominably written, throughout intellectually vulgar and, judged in point of thought by modern intellectual standards, foolish, offensive, indecent and exasperating beyond all tolerance” – George Bernard Shaw

This quote which David Weston uses to open his chapter in Cymbeline in Covering Shakespeare could well be a description of the ex-actor’s book itself.

Covering Shakespeare, written as a follow-up to 2011’s Covering McKellen, gives a play-by-play account of Weston’s various encounters with the plays of the Bard throughout his career, ordered in chronology of original performance. Continue reading Book Review: ‘Covering Shakespeare’ by David Weston

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Book Review: ‘Modern Asian Theatre and Performance 1900-2000’

by Kevin J. Wetmore, Jr., Siyuan Liu and Erin B. Mee

I remember being taught about Japanese, Chinese and Indian theatre in my first term at university; after looking at Ancient Greek theatrical customs, we moved on to the likes of Noh, Kabuki and Kathakali to give us an “overview” of world theatre, and due to my lack of reading believed these theatres to be the dominant forms in their respective countries. This isn’t the case, of course – as the writers of Modern Asian Theatre and Performance 1900-2000 point out in detail over 250 pages, the countries of Asia have just as rich a history of modern text drama as the leading theatrical nations of the West. Continue reading Book Review: ‘Modern Asian Theatre and Performance 1900-2000’

Book Review: ‘New Dramaturgy’

edited by Katalin Trencsenyi and Bernadette Cochrane

As a maker of and writer about theatre, I often find myself wanting different, often contradictory, things from literature on the subject. With my critic’s hat on, I’m interested in the way in which a particular subject can plug into the wider landscape, to give a better understanding of the form for the reader and open up discourse. As someone who makes the stuff, however, I find myself looking for technical insight and ideas which can help my own practice. Granted, these two things aren’t mutually exclusive, but it can be hard to find texts which satiate both appetites. Reading Richard Eyre’s National Service, for example, you get the feeling that anyone would find this fascinating, whilst Stephen Unwin’s The Complete Brecht Toolkit is clearly written for a far more niche audience. Continue reading Book Review: ‘New Dramaturgy’

Book Review: ‘The Complete Brecht Toolkit’ by Stephen Unwin

*Originally written for A Younger Theatre*

Although it’s a cliche, there’s a lot of truth to the old adage that, as Stephen Unwin says in his new book, “Brecht is often sloppily taught”. Many teachers of his plays and theories ignore the importance of contradiction in his work, and formal considerations are frequently given precedence over context. Artists and scholars alike become bogged down in ideas of “gestus” and “alienation” without considering their purpose and practicality, thus separating the ideas from their application. In The Complete Brecht Toolkit, Unwin takes care to knit the two back together, presenting the theoretical and practical ideas of Bertolt Brecht in a clear, concise and connected way so that students and practitioners may consider the importance of his work in the twenty-first century. Continue reading Book Review: ‘The Complete Brecht Toolkit’ by Stephen Unwin

Book Review: ‘Passionate Amateurs’ by Nicholas Ridout

*Originally written for A Younger Theatre*

The subtitle of Nicholas Ridout’s Passionate Amateurs: Theatre, Communism and Love, and its central argument – “that theater in modern capitalism can help us think afresh about notions of work, time and freedom” – may betray an idea of the work as one of niche interest, useful only to the academic and the geek. But though Ridout’s study is intent on adding to the academic discourse surrounding labour and performance, it also holds wider resonance within present debates about pay and work in the theatrical landscape. By deconstructing notions of leisure, freedom, necessity and community, Passionate Amateurs interrogates liberal and centre-left theatrical ideologies, and in doing so reinvigorates a discussion which has become dormant within the structures of late capitalism.

This is a book about neither community theatre nor communist theatre, though as Ridout observes there are books with the same title to be written about both subjects. Continue reading Book Review: ‘Passionate Amateurs’ by Nicholas Ridout

Book Review: ‘Theatre Making’ by Duška Radosavljević

*Originally written for A Younger Theatre*

The title of Duška Radosavljević’s Theatre-making would, you’d expect, refer to professionals who actively do the making, creating works of art for others to experience. And it is, in a big way, about these people. Central to Radosavljević’s argument, however, is the idea that practitioners aren’t the only people who are making theatre. By focussing on work like Tim Crouch’s The Author, Ontroerend Goed’s Internal and Simon Stephens’ Three Kingdoms, Theatre-making presents the notion of audience as co-creators, so that by the end of this hugely readable study, the title takes on a whole new meaning; all of us are discovered to be theatre-makers, no matter what our relationship to the piece in question.

The subtitle to Radosavljević’s book is The Interplay Between Text and Performance in the 21st Century, Continue reading Book Review: ‘Theatre Making’ by Duška Radosavljević