Steven Berkoff

Plays by Steven Berkoff

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

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.