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.

East

Faber and Faber
Type: Text

It’s London in the 1970s and Mike, Les and Slv are fighting for their youth. Filling their days with sex and violence, they battle both the boredom they fear and the inevitable future they see in their parents, ultimately finding that history is doomed to repeat itself.

East offers a stylized and humorous examination of the violence and uncertainty of growing up in the east end of London.

Steven Berkoff’s East premiered at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, in August 1975, in a London Theatre Group production.

'Ere

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 ’Ere, Doreen and Bill are in economic and emotional debt – nothing touches their vapid lives – that is, until they are visited first by a debt collector and then by the most unlikely of men: Jesus.

Exit

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 Exit, we encounter a young couple having a domestic squabble, the sort of which we overhear or have every day of our lives . . . Berkoff’s use of language is so closely observed that the argument at first seems playful, but then a dramatic war of language ensues.

Gas

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.'

'The plays in the ‘Persecution’ sequence have the removed authority of poetry, being more like fragments or woodcuts with all detail captured . . . Gas, at three pages long, is arguably the most impacting and devastating of all the plays in this collection. Three prisoners await the gas that will finally extinguish them, appearing here simply as nameless figures at their mortal end. The cold, last moments of their being are laid out as though on an undertaker’s slab, last desperate prayers are uttered, and exchanges so pitiful and grasping are made in a desperate attempt to mean something. At the end comes not a prayer or scream, but the simple protestation of five simple, gasping, repeated statements of love.'

Greek

Faber and Faber
Type: Text

In spite of Eddy’s humble beginnings, he manages to find happiness by solving the Sphinx’s riddle and ending the plague of poverty that surrounds him. He gains wealth and loves his beautiful wife – but will the gypsy’s prophecy come true? Does a fate worse than death await him?

Steven Berkoff’s exciting retelling of the ancient Greek tragedy Oedipus Rex puts the hero in contemporary England, and explores the story from a whole new angle, emphasizing the positive and redemptive power of love.

Greek premiered at the Half Moon Theatre, London, in February 1980, in an Arts Theatre production.

Guilt

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.'

'Guilt displays Berkoff’s extraordinary ear for the shifting and complex rhythms of speech.'

Harry's Christmas

Faber and Faber
Type: Text

It is a few days until Christmas and Harry is waiting for someone to be in touch, for an old lover to have a drink with him, for a friend to show up. But as the big day comes, he falls into lonely and isolated despair.

A dark and searing portrait of one man’s solitude and its repercussions, Harry’s Christmas examines society’s hypocrisy at the time of year when emotional pressure is at its highest.

Harry’s Christmas premiered at the Donmar Warehouse, London, in December 1985.

Howl

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.'

Berkoff in his author note describes the scenario of Howl as showing 'two actors, in the autumn of their years, reflect on the past as all actors, especially olders, are prone to do. In doing so they discover some less-than-palatable events.'

How to Train an Anti-Semite

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.'

The plays in the ‘Persecution’ sequence have the removed authority of poetry, being more like fragments or woodcuts with all detail captured. We encounter middle-aged racists in How to Train an Anti-Semite, with well-rehearsed justifications for their hate.

I Wanna Agent

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.'

I Wanna Agent sees John, an actor 'between thirty and forty', complaining in his desperation to find an agent, to his friend, the more comfortable and secure Bruce. Through their conversation, we see the difficulty of the life of the actor, forever licensing out his ability to work, to unnamed and capricious proxies, the ever-elusive agents.

Kvetch

Faber and Faber
Type: Text

What happens when an ordinary gathering is peeled back to expose the fears and insecurities beneath? Frank and Donna are having dinner with her mother-in-law and friends George and Hal, but under the surface there lie anxieties and desires waiting to be unleashed.

In Kvetch Steven Berkoff examines the tension and frustration seething under the surface of domesticity in an American marriage that has run out of steam.

A play that explores the nature of neurosis, but also personal and cultural identity, Kvetch was named London’s Evening Standard comedy of the year in 1991.

Kvetch premiered at the Odyssey Theatre, Los Angeles, in March 1986.

Line-up

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.'

'The plays in the ‘Persecution’ sequence have the removed authority of poetry, being more like fragments or woodcuts with all detail captured . . . Line-up sees two nameless men in a Nazi death-camp suffling up towards their fate, a fate which they cannot fully appreciate, making the audience feel it with all the more horror.'

Lunch

Faber and Faber
Type: Text

A man and a woman meet on a bench by the sea, and the man tries to sell what he can – space, in a magazine.

Lunch premiered at the King's Head, London, in December 1983.

Massage (Berkoff)

Faber and Faber
Type: Text

Britain in the 90s: Dad sneaks visits to a nearby prostitute, while Mum, a typical English housewife, secretly earns extra money by working at a massage parlor, 'relieving' clients.

In Massage, Steven Berkoff creates a comedy that dramatises the power dynamics inherent in sex and prostitution, highlighting the hypocrisy within British society.

Massage premiered at the Odyssey Theatre, Los Angeles, in February 1997.

Mediocrity

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 Mediocrity actor friends Steve and Barry discuss their various respective careers; the former has been less than successful as he doggedly maintains his standards; while the latter has proven more malleable, and ultimately more successful.

Messiah (Berkoff)

Faber and Faber
Type: Text

The Messiah begins with the image of Christ on the cross and pits His humanity and transcendent goodness against the evil of those who would kill him and all he stands for. In Berkoff’s controversial reinterpretation of the Crucifixion, Christ is depicted not as divine prophet, but as a cult leader, whose desire for infamy leads to extreme action with disastrous consequences.

Steven Berkoff’s Messiah was first performed at Three Mills Studios, London, in March 2000.

Moses

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.'

Moses sees that most famous prophet of the Old Testament bargaining with the Pharaoh for the release of his people from Egypt.

Oedipus (adapt. Berkoff)

Faber and Faber
Type: Text

Oedipus: the classic story of prophecy, destiny and betrayal. In his adaptation of the tragedy, Berkoff cuts beneath the rhetoric of the tale and reaches towards its timeless truths.

Steven Berkoff’s Oedipus premiered at the Liverpool Playhouse in February 2011.

Pound of Flesh

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.'

'The plays in the ‘Persecution’ sequence have the removed authority of poetry, being more like fragments or woodcuts with all detail captured . . . Pound of Flesh sees John and David, two 'average, young' men discuss the ‘Jewish thing’ and are well informed on both current and ancient Jewish history. Their conversation, however slips easily in to anti-Semitism, their comfort with that terrible language of hate as marked as is our discomfort at hearing it.'

Purgatory

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.'

Purgatory finds John, an unsuccessful but nonetheless hopeful, middle-aged actor, lodging in a run-down guest house, the haunt of many a touring actor in an underfunded production

Ritual in Blood

Faber and Faber
Type: Text

Lincoln, 1255. A young boy is missing. The fallout is hysteria and antisemitism from the Christians who believe the Jewish population have abducted the child in the quest for a blood sacrifice. One small incident frighteningly escalates and mob hatred is fomented by the cool cynicism of the moneyed classes. A play wider in scope and relevance than its historical setting, Ritual in Blood looks at the persecution of the Jews and, by implication, the persecution of all peoples.

Steven Berkoff’s Ritual in Blood was first performed by Nottingham Playhouse Company in summer 2001.

Roast

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.'

'The plays in the ‘Persecution’ sequence have the removed authority of poetry, being more like fragments or woodcuts with all detail captured . . . An ‘appalling tale’, so described by Berkoff in his author’s note for Roast, this play describes a horrific anti-Semitic story in such rich and exquisite language that it acts as a sort of morphine-like cloak, numbing our ability to resist such an utterly gruesome account of a mother telling a story to a child. The antique repetition of its language sets this play apart from our own age, feeling almost late nineteenth century in style, as Wilde or Maeterlinck might have described the atrocity of a twentieth-century world war.'

Samson's Hair

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.'

Samson's Hair places the famous lovers centre-stage, emboldened by the poetry of their words, showing the devastating betrayal that will ruin them both.

The Secret Love Life of Ophelia

Faber and Faber
Type: Text

Hamlet and Ophelia express the infinite variety of their passion in a work which takes the form of an epistolary play in verse. Steven Berkoff's startlingly original drama charts the lovers' story beneath the surface of Shakespeare's play. With a muscularity of language tempered with tenderness, Berkoff's play is shot through with images of courtly love, sexual desire and intimations of future tragedy. The chill of the ending perfectly offsets the preceding violent heat in what is another unique piece of work from the individual talent that is Steven Berkoff.

The Secret Love Life of Ophelia was first performed at the King's Head Theatre, London, on 25 June 2001.

Sink the Belgrano!

Faber and Faber
Type: Text

Inspired by the events and personalities of the Falklands War, Steven Berkoff’s verse satire Sink the Belgrano! is primarily concerned with the underlying values and attitudes revealed during the war at all levels of society.

Sink the Belgrano! premiered at London's Half Moon Theatre in September 1986.

Sit and Shiver

Faber and Faber
Type: Text

How a certain Jewish family mourns a dead patriarch. The term is 'sitting Shiva' (mourning for seven days), when friends and relatives commiserate, usually in the home of the deceased. As children, we always understood this to be 'sit and shiver', which also seemed most appropriate. While death has claimed the old man and triggered the usual inflated eulogies - 'how important a man becomes when they die' - it has also brought to the surface hidden anxieties and grievances, only exacerbated when a visitor shows up bearing strange news that threatens to tear the family apart.

A Jewish black comedy in the Berkoff tradition.

Sit and Shiver was first presented at the Odyssey Theater, Los Angeles, in March 2004. The European premiere was held at the New End Theatre, London, in association with Saw Productions, in May 2006.

Six Actors in Search of a Director

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.'

Six Actors in Search of a Director shows the run of secondary actors in a major Hollywood production. Filming somewhere in the biting cold, the various actors are awaiting their call in the green room. All of them are in awe of the unseen star of the movie, and all of them feel the crushing reality of their own secondary existences – important only when the star's eyes, or more exactly, the director's camera, should light upon their forms.

This is an Emergency

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.'

This is an Emergency pits Brian, an unemployed actor in his sixties, and his wife, Barbra – who is getting increasingly frustrated with Brian's inert career, against Joe, a rather loutish cab-driver who invades their lives on evening.

West

Faber and Faber
Type: Text

There will be a gang fight at midnight on London’s Stamford Hill, the central crossroads between Tottenham, Dalston and Hoxton. Who will win: Mike, the hero of Stamford Hill or Curly, the leader of the Hoxton Mob?

A story that centers on place and time as much as on courage and youth, West poetically explores identity and violence in London’s West End.

West premiered at the Donmar Warehouse, London, in May 1983.

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.