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on 8 May 2012
This is the best book of its kind that I have read. Rather than being a dry list of rules or confused (but fiercely defended) theories, it gives a very interesting and insightful description of how many techniques are used in different plays. Reading books about writing often leaves me feeling faintly depressed; this one left me feeling inspired.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 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.
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on 11 January 2013
This is a thoughtful and comprehensive analysis of the playwriter's art; it's not about acting or direction. It is very helpful reading for theatregoers and novice playwights. Unlke many screenwriting texts, it's not a prescriptive how to do it manual.
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on 21 August 2014
Very thought provoking read. Great to analyse the great writers' styles and I now have a long reading list of texts that were referenced.

I agree with the premise made in the book that there is a formula to writing plays; there should be a protagonist, an antagonist, an event that changes the behaviour of either or both etc.
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on 8 July 2010
This is a clear, intelligent and surprisingly insightful guide. Leaps and bounds ahead of the competition. It details what makes plays work with great wit and a huge amount of passion and love for theatre and its audiences.
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on 29 March 2014
This book is very informative and really worth buying. It gives lots of great information and advice about how plays work.
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on 12 January 2010
How plays work is not a companion to the likes of How Novels Work, or as practical a how-to handbbok as, say, the Crafty Art. but it is revelatory of the theory of drama and how drama 'works' on the audience. Should be very useful for Drama and Eng Lit students
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on 10 December 2013
This is an excellent book, crammed with useful information but also easy to read. The book obviously can't provide a mentor to tell you if you have ultimately got it right, but the guidance for getting to the end should go a long way. The author makes you think about what you're doing, and, more importantly, why you're doing it
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on 7 November 2012
great very useful, explains things which are slightly obvious but you don't pay attention to them normally and goes into great detail, so what is learnt from reading it can be transferred to most areas
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on 15 August 2013
Love everything about this book. Written in clear yet stimulating style. Not simplistic but accessible to me as a beginner playwright. Highly recommend this book and will search out others by author.
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