We’ve completed #ReadaPlayaWeek 2016!
There has been a different playwright each week, 26 plays by women and 26 by men.
I first started the initiative three years ago after seeing a suggestion on Twitter to have a sort of theatre book club. In the first year, I was mainly tweeting about plays I was reading for university, things like The Caretaker, A Taste of Honey and about five Jez Butterworth plays. As a young person just starting to get into more regular theatregoing and wanting to pursue writing about it, I often read reviews or books about lauded plays and playwrights that I didn’t know much about. Of course, I had heard of Stoppard and Shaffer and had read several Caryl Churchill plays, for instance, but didn’t really know their work in detail, let alone that of other, lesser-known writers. So I suppose I started #ReadaPlayaWeek as a way to familiarise myself more with the canon to accompany going to the theatre. In its second year, I decided to challenge myself to read more and more widely, and to give an equal split between male and female writers. I succeeded at this, and have continued it into this year.
I’d like to say it’s easy to read a play by a different writer each week and choose 50% male and 50% female playwrights but it’s not. Especially when I don’t buy all of the plays as new. Really, it would be easier if I bulk bought them on Amazon but there’s something fun about the challenge of trying to find plays in libraries and second hand bookshops.
This year’s #ReadaPlayaWeek choices are by no means all male, white, British, establishment playwrights. Indeed, there’s a Hare and a Stoppard and a Shaffer, playwrights so well known that their first names aren’t necessary. But there are also plays by Stephen Adly Guirgis, Stephen Karam, Annie Baker, Tanika Gupta, Winsome Pinnock, Roy Williams, Rachel De-lahay, and so on. There are also four plays from the late 1980s to mid-1990s featured in an anthology of plays by women from the Bush Theatre, and three plays featured from an anthology called ‘Six Plays by Black and Asian Women’.
Several famous playwrights have passed away this year, such as Peter Shaffer, Arnold Wesker, Edward Albee and Dario Fo. Plays (excellent plays if I may add) are all included by them. And if you want to buy some play texts in the New Year sales and want some of the highlights, then I’d particularly recommend Tanika Gupta’s The Empress, Stephen Karam’s The Humans, Annie Baker’s The Flick, Simon Stephens’ Pornography, Gary Owen’s Iphigenia in Splott and David Lindsay-Abaire’s Good People amongst others.
From rickety West End melodramas to plays dealing with contemporary issues presented in the most contemporary and cutting edge of forms, we try to take each play on its own merits. There’s little point in comparing Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes to Bola Agbaje’s Gone Too Far! There were things in them both that I found interesting, thematically at least. I loved the scope and scale of The Empress but I also liked the deft handling of the goings on of middle class suburban people in Ayckbourn’s Time and Time Again.
From plays well-known or only recently produced to plays lost in the canon. From newly bought editions of new plays to dusty scripts dug out from the bookshelves of an amateur theatre. As the stage manager in Alan Bennett’s The Habit of Art puts it: ‘Plays plump, plays paltry, plays preposterous, plays purgatorial, plays radiant, plays rotten’, adding plays forgotten to that list too.
We’re taking a break from #ReadaPlayaWeek next year but will still be reviewing and blogging. Thanks for your support!
Here are the blogs:
· Here We Go by Caryl Churchill (2015)
· Ghosts by Henrik Ibsen (1881)
· Pornography by Simon Stephens (2007)
· Gone Too Far! by Bola Agbaje (2007)
· Good People by David Lindsay-Abaire (2011)
· The Arbor by Andrea Dunbar (1980)
· Painting a Wall by David Lan (1974)
· The Heresy of Love by Helen Edmundson (2012)
· The Motherfucker with the Hat by Stephen Adly Guirgis (2011)
· Three Birds Alighting on a Field by Timberlake Wertenbaker (1991)
· Pub Quiz is Life by Richard Bean (2009)
· By the Bog of Cats… by Marina Carr (1998)
· Closer by Patrick Marber (1997)
· Silent by Pat Kinevane (2010)
· Life X3 by Yasmina Reza (2000)
· Time and Time Again by Alan Ayckbourn (1971)
· Frozen by Bryony Lavery (1998)
· The Philanthropist by Christopher Hampton (1970)
· Christie in Love by Howard Brenton (1969)
· Play with a Tiger by Doris Lessing (1962)
· Pastoral by Thomas Eccleshare (2013)
· Keeping Tom Nice by Lucy Gannon (1988)
· The Westbridge by Rachel De-lahay (2011)
· Steaming by Nell Dunn (1981)
· Iphigenia in Splott by Gary Owen (2015)
· The Little Foxes by Lillian Hellman (1939)
· The Flick by Annie Baker (2013)
· AccidentalDeath Of An Anarchist by Dario Fo (1970)
· ALife in the Theatre by David Mamet (1977)
· Bang Bang Bang by Stella Feehily (2011)
· Every Good Boy Deserves Favour by Tom Stoppard (1977)
· The Breath of Life by David Hare (2002)
· Keyboard Skills by Lesley Bruce (1993)
· One Flea Spare by Naomi Wallace (1994)
· Stacy by Jack Thorne (2007)
· The Humans by Stephen Karam (2014)
· Two Lips Indifferent Red by Tamsin Oglesby (1995)
· Boys Mean Business by Catherine Johnson (1989)
· Know Your Rights by Judy Upton (1998)
· The Empress by Tanika Gupta (1993)
· The Zoo Story by Edward Albee (1958)
· Lettice and Lovage by Peter Shaffer (1987)
· Dr Korczak's Example by David Greig (1998)
· The Riots by Gillian Slovo (2011)
· Chicken Soup with Barley by Arnold Wesker (1958)
· Verdict by Agatha Christie (1958)
· The Mother by Florian Zeller (2010)
· Longing by William Boyd (2013)
· A Hero’s Welcome by Winsome Pinnock (1989)
· Song for a Sanctuary by Rukhsana Ahmad (1990)
· Monsoon by Maya Chowdhry (1991)