Best books on the theatre. Three experts Emma Smith, Stanley Wells and René Weis choosing the best plays of Shakespeare. No single play is chosen by all three, although, five are chosen by two of our experts, Macbeth, Twelfth Night, King Lear, Anthony & Cleopatra and The Tempest.
Mark Nixon chooses his best Samuel Beckett Books, choosing three of Beckett’s own works, a biography by James Knowlson and a book on Beckett’s library written by himself and Dirk van Hulle. Sos Eltis discusses Oscar Wilde and his socialist-anarchic politics. She chooses the Soul of Man Under Socialism, the Importance of Being Earnest, De Profundis, the short stories and the Picture of Dorian Gray. Charles Isherwood looks at Broadway, explains what makes a Broadway production, and discusses the US’ great contribution to the theatre, the musical.
Michael Billington, theatre critic of the Guardian since 1971, chooses his best books on 20th century theatre, including, amongst others, Curtains by Kenneth Tynan and Peter Hall’s Diaries. Florent Masse discusses French Theatre (in French here) its traditions and how those differ from the traditions of American and Britain. Slavoj Zizek choses his favourite plays, including Oedipus at Colonus by Sophocles, Shakespeare’s Richard II, The Hostage by Paul Claude, The Measure Taken by Bertolt Brecht and Not I by Beckett. Zizek chooses these above others because they all “push our subjective experience to its extreme, they all enact what Lacan calls ‘subjective destitution’”. Basil Jones and Adrian Kohler, founders of the Handspring Puppet Company choose their best books on Puppeteering.
Samuel Beckett remains one of the most significant writers of the twentieth century. Ruthlessly experimental, his plays, novels, and poems represent a sustained attack on the realist tradition. Dr Mark Nixon looks at the mutating nature of Beckett’s literary style and explains why he didn’t choose Waiting for Godot.
Shakespearean scholar Emma Smith picks her five favourite plays of the Bard, and controversially argues that not only are some of his plays just too long, but also that the most moving moments in Shakespeare’s oeuvre are where we might not expect them
Oscar Wilde cultivated an image of himself as an idle genius, dashing off masterpieces with a lazy brilliance. But below the glittering linguistic surface of his works, suggests Sos Eltis, lies an anarchic politics and a phenomenal analysis of power.
French theater is appreciated as much in reading as in performance. Princeton University’s Florent Masse offers us a reading from the point of view of teaching theater. How did the great men of theater—such as Jouvet, Copeau, or Vitez—build their learning? Discover the principles and references that guide the best directors. (You can also read this interview in the original French)
The philosopher and cultural critic recently made a foray into drama when he reworked Sophocle’s Antigone—not out of admiration for the original, but to examine the “stupid and morally problematic” character at its heart. Here he selects five plays he admires—but declines to see performed.