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Not Just For Playwrights
on 18 November 2014
This is deeply interesting for anyone with a passion for theatre, whether they are involved in putting theatre on, being in the audience, or studying it academically.
David Edgar has read and seen an exhausting amount of plays in his life, and happily jumps from reference to reference to make his various points, leaving me with an extensive list of plays that I want to read and see myself. Most of them are British, with some others from the Western Canon thrown in, and sometimes he has to reference a novel or film or television series instead to get the storytelling point across that he is describing.
He works his way backwards, beginning with big things like the audience and the genre, working down to scenes and characters, and finishing with the small things in a chapter on devices. But at times he will get carried away on a particular passion of his own, and as his tastes are very similar to mine, that was wonderful. I especially enjoyed the big section on the history of comedy, the section on how different playwrights have messed about with the use of time and time travel, and the section on how ghosts have been staged: - apparently there are eighteen ghosts in Shakespeare's plays, and he was the first playwright to have ghosts that could be seen by some of the characters on the stage, but not others. (Now I know.)
Detective plays, bodice-rippers, gay plays, ethnic plays, female playwrights: - he leaps around all over the place, and it's a very satisfying and stimulating read.