Steven Berkoff

Plays by Steven Berkoff

Acapulco

Faber and Faber
Type: Text

At the bar in the Acapulco Plaza Hotel, a group of film actors on location try to find ways of filling their time.

Developed from Berkoff’s experiences on the set of Rambo II, Acapulco offers a reflection on the nature of art and being an artist.

Acapulco premiered at the Odyssey Theatre, Los Angeles, in August 1990.

Actor

Faber and Faber
Type: Text

An actor speaks on the phone to his agents, his parents, and his fellow thespians, battling with rejection, expectation, disappointment and self-pity.

A short monologue which delves into the heart of the acting industry, Actor humorously and poignantly portrays the trying life of being a struggling artist.

Actor premiered at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, in January 1984.

Actor's Lament

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

'A one-act play is like a confession'. So writes Steven Berkoff in the preface to the collection of his One-Act Plays. In his introduction to the collection, Geoffrey Colman, Head of Acting at Central School of Speech and Drama writes:'It is the one-act play, however, that most profoundly and immediately amplifies Berkoff’s extraordinary literary and theatrical voice. . . In discussion, [Berkoff's] eyes quite literally light up at the mere mention of the one-act construct. With relish, he outlines the bare-knuckled immediacy of its form and fatal but inevitable blow. Perhaps the very real pleasure in reading these nineteen one-act plays by Berkoff should not be about comparing them to his other plays at all, but imagining them newly and in performance. Berkoff’s theatre continues to refuse smallness of theme and narrative, and defies those who wish to collapse the place of theatre into reality-inspired ‘true’. A reading of these pieces will require the need for a performance alertness, ‘real’ at its very threshold.'

In Actor's Lament we meet John, an actor who although 'clever, cynical and witty' is nonetheless bitter as he moulders unappreciated in his career, and his age ticks along from forty to fifty.

Adam and Eve

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

'A one-act play is like a confession'. So writes Steven Berkoff in the preface to the collection of his One-Act Plays. In his introduction to the collection, Geoffrey Colman, Head of Acting at Central School of Speech and Drama writes: 'It is the one-act play, however, that most profoundly and immediately amplifies Berkoff’s extraordinary literary and theatrical voice. . . In discussion, [Berkoff's] eyes quite literally light up at the mere mention of the one-act construct. With relish, he outlines the bare-knuckled immediacy of its form and fatal but inevitable blow. Perhaps the very real pleasure in reading these nineteen one-act plays by Berkoff should not be about comparing them to his other plays at all, but imagining them newly and in performance. Berkoff’s theatre continues to refuse smallness of theme and narrative, and defies those who wish to collapse the place of theatre into reality-inspired ‘true’. A reading of these pieces will require the need for a performance alertness, ‘real’ at its very threshold.'

Of his cycle of Biblical plays, Berkoff writes: 'There is something so vital and dynamic about our wonderful biblical stories, myths or parables that they lend themselves so easily to a modern interpretation. Of course their passion speaks directly to all of us and few of us are immune from the same problems and obsessions.'

Adam and Eve tells of Eden's first parents in a comically exaggerated London slang.

The Bow of Ulysses

Faber and Faber
Type: Text

The man and woman from Lunch return in this sequel. They are still together after twenty years of marriage, conversing and watching the sea. But are they happy?

Berkoff’s one-act play examines the nature of love and marriage, powerfully dramatizing the simultaneous – and paradoxical – isolation and connectedness that comes after decades of coupledom.

The Bow of Ulysses premiered at the Rosemary Branch, London, in 2001.

Brighton Beach Scumbags

Faber and Faber
Type: Text

A typical day in Brighton; two working class couples – Derek and Dinah, Dave and Doreen – are on a day trip to the beach. But Brighton is changing, and the friends can’t keep up. The result is a vengeful act of violence that exposes the gaps and similarities between class, gender and sexual orientations.

Berkoff’s Brighton Beach Scumbags compassionately explores the mutual incomprehension inherent in the divide between heterosexuality and homosexuality, and the middle and working classes.

Brighton Beach Scumbags premiered at the Sallis Benney Theatre, Brighton, in October 1991.

Dahling You Were Marvellous

Faber and Faber
Type: Text

Three actors, a director, and a producer are dining at a trendy London restaurant. In the glamour of it all, they compliment, flatter, and boast – while privately criticising and drowning in self-doubt.

This thoughtful comedy explores the superficial and hypocritical nature of the dazzling thespian world, while also pointing out the vulnerability and good-naturedness that lies beneath it all.

David and Goliath

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

'A one-act play is like a confession'. So writes Steven Berkoff in the preface to the collection of his One-Act Plays. In his introduction to the collection, Geoffrey Colman, Head of Acting at Central School of Speech and Drama writes:'It is the one-act play, however, that most profoundly and immediately amplifies Berkoff’s extraordinary literary and theatrical voice. . . In discussion, [Berkoff's] eyes quite literally light up at the mere mention of the one-act construct. With relish, he outlines the bare-knuckled immediacy of its form and fatal but inevitable blow. Perhaps the very real pleasure in reading these nineteen one-act plays by Berkoff should not be about comparing them to his other plays at all, but imagining them newly and in performance. Berkoff’s theatre continues to refuse smallness of theme and narrative, and defies those who wish to collapse the place of theatre into reality-inspired ‘true’. A reading of these pieces will require the need for a performance alertness, ‘real’ at its very threshold.'

Of his cycle of Biblical plays, Berkoff writes: 'There is something so vital and dynamic about our wonderful biblical stories, myths or parables that they lend themselves so easily to a modern interpretation. Of course their passion speaks directly to all of us and few of us are immune from the same problems and obsessions.'

David and Goliath imagines the young king's battle with the giant Philistine as betraying the muscle, adrenaline and fear of a common street brawl.

Decadence

Faber and Faber
Type: Text

Steve is sleeping with Helen, and Sybil is sleeping with Les. But these aren’t two ordinary couples: Sybil is Steve’s nouveau-riche wife, and Les is the private detective she hired to spy on her adulterous husband.

A play more about British society than about love and fidelity, Decadence satirically explores the divide between the upper and working classes and the humanity beneath.

Decadence premiered at the New End Theatre, London, in July 1981.

Dog

Faber and Faber
Type: Text

London in the 1980s: A racist English football hooligan’s relationship with his beloved pitbull terrier, Roy, gets him into trouble and changes his life.

This short one-man show takes a satirical look at the working class and the similarities between the doggedness of a terrier and the doggedness of a violent lout, ultimately bringing out the loneliness and isolation beneath. Dog premiered (under the title Pitbull) at the Warehouse Theatre, Croydon, in August 1993.

Steven Berkoff was born in Stepney, East London and started acting at the City Literary Institute when he was 19. Following more training at the Webber Douglas School of Drama, he worked extensively in repertory theatre in England and Scotland - doing every job from understudy to stage management. In 1968 he formed his own company, the London Theatre Group. Through mime, gymnastics and voice, the Group liberated themselves from the conventions of mainstream theatre and started to evolve an innovative, more integrated theatrical language. Berkoff's encounter with the mime artist Jacque le Coq in Paris was seminal in this. Steven Berkoff's plays include East, West, Sink the Belgrano!, Decadence, Kvetch, Acapulco, Ritual in Blood, Oedipus, Messiah: Scenes from a Crucifixtion, The Secret Love Life of Ophelia, West, Decadence, Sit and Shiver, Greek, Harry's Christmas, Lunch, Acapulco, Sink the Belgrano!, Massage, Sturm und Drang and Brighton Beach Scumbags. He has written an autobiography, Free Association, and the theatre books I Am Hamlet, Overview and Meditations on Metamorphosis. Among Berkoff's film credits are Octopussy, Beverly Hills Cop and his own production of Decadence.