Critical Companions


The Theatre of Brian Friel

Bloomsbury Publishing

Brian Friel is Ireland's foremost living playwright, whose work spans fifty years and has won numerous awards, including three Tonys and a Lifetime Achievement Arts Award. Author of twenty-five plays, and whose work is studied at GCSE and A level (UK), and the Leaving Certificate (Ire), besides at undergraduate level, he is regarded as a classic in contemporary drama studies. Christopher Murray's Critical Companion is the definitive guide to Friel's work, offering both a detailed study of individual plays and an exploration of Friel's dual commitment to tradition and modernity across his oeuvre.

Beginning with Friel's 1964 work Philadelphia, Here I Come!, Christopher Murray follows a broadly chronological route through the principal plays, including Aristocrats, Faith Healer, Translations, Dancing at Lughnasa, Molly Sweeney and The Home Place. Along the way it considers themes of exile, politics, fathers and sons, belief and ritual, history, memory, gender inequality, and loss, all set against the dialectic of tradition and modernity. It is supplemented by essays from Shaun Richards, David Krause and Csilla Bertha providing varying critical perspectives on the playwright's work.

What sets this monograph apart from others devoted to this key playwright are its many illuminating, nuanced, surprising 'framings' of Friel's plays by other plays from the Irish, English, and European stage. Murray's most provocative insights arise from his imaginative juxtapositions, for example, of Philadelphia, Here I Come! and Miller's Death of a Salesman … Murray's fluency with theater history beyond the twentieth-century Irish stage gives his survey its fl[a]vor and edge … I would include [The Theatre of Brian Friel] … among the indispensable recent full-length appraisals of this seminal figure of the Irish stag. English Literature in Transition

Murray's strength is in his citation of those individual performances of the plays which he has witnessed over the years, and it is rarer to find the opening night of a Friel play which he did not attend than one he did. New Theatre Quarterly

Creative, fertile and fresh. … Murray's kind of criticism is best described as classical, representing an exemplary standard within a basically traditional and long-established form or style. As a generalist analysis of Friel's plays and their impact on contemporary theatre, this is the best, most extensive and most up-to-date study so far. Nordic Irish Studies

There are new insights here for those who know Friel's plays well but a sound introduction for others who may be coming to him for the first time. By its combination of a chronological and thematic approach, it contrives to avoid a pedestrian plod through the life and works, its master argument capacious enough to include the many different ways Friel has adapted tradition to the conditions of modernity. The Friel that emerges from Murray's book is a playwright of ideas, a literary playwright for whom language is all important, whose career has been dedicated to the development of an “aesthetic of modern tragedy”. Breac

The Theatre of Caryl Churchill

Bloomsbury Publishing

The Theatre of Caryl Churchill documents and analyses the major plays and productions of one of Britain's greatest and most innovative playwrights. Drawing on hundreds of never-before-seen archival sources from the US and the UK, it provides an essential guide to Churchill's groundbreaking work for students and theatregoers.

Each chapter illuminates connections across plays and explores major scripts alongside unpublished and unfinished projects. Each considers the rehearsal room, the stage, and the printed text. Each demonstrates how Churchill has pushed the boundaries of dramatic aesthetics while posing urgent political and theoretical questions. But since each maps Churchill's work in a different way, each deploys a different reading practice - for many approaches are necessary to characterise such a restlessly imaginative and prolific career.

Through its five interlocking parts, The Theatre of Caryl Churchill tells a story about the playwright, her work, and its place in contemporary drama.

'Gobert offers a refreshing exploration of how the rehearsal process and actual productions help shape viewers' perceptions of the author's work. Students and scholars of today's theatrical landscape will find much to admire in this volume, not the least of which is the research methodology, the contextual analysis, and the timeliness of the subject matter … A real plus is the examination and analysis of the production history of many of Churchill's works. Top Girls, Serious Money, Cloud Nine, Fen, and Blue Heart receive treatment generally not available elsewhere … Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readers.' CHOICE

The Theatre of David Greig

Bloomsbury Publishing

David Greig has been described as 'one of the most interesting and adventurous British dramatists of his generation' (Daily Telegraph) and 'one of the most intellectually stimulating dramatists around' (Guardian). Since he began writing for theatre in the early nineties, his work has been both copious and remarkably varied, defying neat generalisations or attempts to pigeon-hole his work. Besides his original plays, he has adapated classics, is co-founder of the Suspect Culture Theatre Group and is currently Dramaturge for the National Theatre of Scotland.

This Critical Companion provides an analytical survey of his work, from his early plays such as Europe and The Architect through to more recent works Damascus, Dunsinane and Ramallah; it also considers the plays produced with Suspect Culture and his work for young audiences. As such it is the first book to provide a critical account of the full variety of his work and will appeal to students and fans of contemporary British theatre.

Clare Wallace provides a detailed analysis of a broad selection of plays and their productions, reviews current discourses about his work and offers a framework for enquiry. The Companion features an interview with David Greig and a further three essays by leading academics offering a variety of critical perspectives.

Clare Wallace's The Theatre of David Greig is a finely researched book that offers the first comprehensive account of the full range of the Scottish dramatist David Greig's expansive theatre output over the past twenty years. It is impressively rich in detail and broad in scope ... Each chapter in this book is imaginatively assembled, painstakingly researched and richly illustrated with examples from cultural theory as well as the plays ... [It] is impressively authoritative and never less than an intellectually stimulating read about a very important Scottish, British and international playwright. Journal of Contemporary Drama in English

The Theatre of David Henry Hwang

Bloomsbury Publishing

Since the premiere of his play FOB in 1979, the Chinese American playwright David Henry Hwang has made a significant impact in the U. S. and beyond. The Theatre of David Henry Hwang provides an in-depth study of his plays and other works in theatre.

Beginning with his "Trilogy of Chinese America", Esther Kim Lee traces all major phases of his playwriting career. Utilizing historical and dramaturgical analysis, she argues that Hwang has developed a unique style of meta-theatricality and irony in writing plays that are both politically charged and commercially viable.

The book also features three essays written by scholars of Asian American theatre and a comprehensive list of primary and secondary sources on his oeuvre.

This comprehensive study of Hwang's work follows his career both chronologically and thematically. The first chapter analyzes Hwang's early plays, "Trilogy of Chinese America," in which he explores issues of identity and cultural assimilation particular to Chinese Americans. Chapter two looks at four plays characterised as "Beyond Chinese America," which examines Hwang's less known plays. Chapter three focuses on M. Butterfly, which received the Tony Award for Best Play in 1988. In chapter four, Lee explores Hwang's development as a playwright during the decade of the 1990s with a focus on identity politics and multiculturalism. Chapter five examines Hwang's playwriting style in depth with a discussion of Hwang's more recent plays such as Yellow Face and Chinglish. The sixth chapter features three essays written by leading scholars in Asian American theatre: Josephine Lee on Flower Drum Song, Dan Bacalzo on Golden Child, and Daphne Lei on Chinglish. The final section provides a comprehensive compilation of sources: a chronology, a bibliography of Hwang's works, reviews and critical sources.

The Theatre of D.H. Lawrence

Bloomsbury Publishing

This is the first major book-length study for four decades to examine the plays written by D. H. Lawrence, and the first ever book to give an in-depth analysis of Lawrence's interaction with the theatre industry during the early twentieth century. It connects and examines his performance texts and explores his reaction to a wide-range of theatre (from the sensation dramas of working-class Eastwood to the ritual performances of the Pueblo people) in order to explain Lawrence's contribution to modern drama.

F. R. Leavis influentially labelled the writer 'D. H. Lawrence: Novelist'. But this book foregrounds Lawrence's career as a playwright, exploring unfamiliar contexts and manuscripts, and drawing particular attention to his three most successful works: The Widowing of Mrs Holroyd, The Daughter-in-Law and A Collier's Friday Night. It examines how Lawrence's novels are suffused with theatrical thinking, revealing how Lawrence's fictions – from his first published work to the last story that he wrote before his death – continually take inspiration from the playhouse.

This book also argues that although Lawrence has sometimes been dismissed as a restrictively naturalistic stage writer, his overall oeuvre shows a consistent concern with theatrical experiment, and manifests affinities with the dramatic thinking of modernist figures including Brecht, Artaud, and Joyce. In a final section, the book includes contributions from influential theatre-makers who have taken their own cue from Lawrence's work, and who have created original work that consciously follows Lawrence in making working-class life central to the public forum of the theatre stage.

'Moran provides a thorough discussion of the working dynamics of [Lawrence's] plays and displays a keen affinity for demonstrating the theatrical dependency of Lawrence's novels. After an introductory overview of Lawrence and his cultural milieu, Moran devotes chapters to Lawrence's transition into playwriting, his difficulties with the genre, specific correlations with his novels, and his maturation as a dramatist. … Replete with notes and an extended bibliography, Moran's study enhances appreciation of an important facet of Lawrence's artistry. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty and professionals.' CHOICE

'[A] useful companion to the theatrical works.' Times Literary Supplement

The Theatre of Harold Pinter

Bloomsbury Publishing

The plays of the late Nobel laureate Harold Pinter have formed part of the canon of world theatre since the 1960s. Frequently revived on the professional stage, and studied on almost every Theatre Studies course, his importance and influence is hard to overestimate. This Critical Companion offers an assessment of Pinter's entire body of work for the stage, appraising his skill as a dramatist and considering his impact and legacy.

Through a clear focus on issues of theatricality and the effect of the plays in performance The Theatre of Harold Pinter considers Pinter's chief narrative concerns and offers a unifying theme through which over four decades of work may be understood. Plays are considered in themed chapters that follow the chronological sequence of work, illuminating the development of his aesthetic and concerns. The volume features too a series of essays from other leading scholars presenting different critical perspectives on the work, including Harry Burton on Pinter's early drama; Ann Hall on Revisiting Pinter's Women; Chris Megson on Pinter's Memory Plays of the 1970s, and Basil Chiasson on Neoliberalism and Democracy.

[The Theatre of Harold Pinter] offers some valuable original insights and its close analysis of the development of Pinter's dramatic themes and aesthetics will be informative to students and general readers alike. Studies in Theatre and Performance

The Theatre of Martin Crimp

Bloomsbury Publishing

First published in 2006, Alek's Sierz's The Theatre of Martin Crimp provided a groundbreaking study of one of British theatre's leading contemporary playwrights. Combining Sierz's lucid prose and sharp analysis together with interviews with Martin Crimp and a host of directors and actors who have produced the work, it offered a richly rewarding and engaging assessment of this acutely satirical playwright. The second edition additionally explores the work produced between 2006 and 2013, both the major new plays and the translations and other work.

The second edition considers The City, the 2008 companion play to The Country, Play House from 2012 and the new work for the Royal Court in late 2012. The two works that have brought Crimp considerable international acclaim in recent years, the updated rewrite of The Misanthrope which in 2009 played for several months in the West End starring Keira Knightley, and Crimp's translation of Botho Strauss's Big and Small (Barbican, 2012), together with Crimp's other work in translation are all covered. The Theatre of Martin Crimp remains the fullest, most readable account of Crimps's work for the stage.

The Theatre of Sean O'Casey

Bloomsbury Publishing

This Critical Companion to the work of one of Ireland's most famous and controversial playwrights, Sean O'Casey, is the first major study of the playwright's work to consider his oeuvre and the archival material that has appeared during the last decade. Published ahead of the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising in Ireland with which O'Casey's most famous plays are associated, it provides a clear and detailed study of the work in context and performance.

James Moran shows that O'Casey not only remains the most performed playwright at Ireland's national theatre, but that the playwright was also one of the most controversial and divisive literary figures, whose work caused riots and who alienated many of his supporters. Since the start of the 'Troubles' in the North of Ireland, his work has been associated with Irish historical revisionism, and has become the subject of debate about Irish nationalism and revolutionary history.

Moran's admirably clear study considers the writer's plays, autobiographical writings and essays, paying special attention to the Dublin trilogy, The Shadow of a Gunman, Juno and the Paycock, and The Plough and the Stars. It considers the work produced in exile, during the war and the late plays. The Companion also features a number of interviews and essays by other leading scholars and practitioners, including Garry Hynes, Victor Merriman and Paul Murphy, which provide further critical perspectives on the work.

There is no question that this book is the best so far reviewed in the Methuen Drama Critical Companions series. James Moran has worked very hard at understanding the life and work of one of the greats of Irish theatre and does a fine job of conveying his findings in a fashion that will satisfy the general reader as much as professionals … Moran paints a fully-rounded picture of this iconoclastic character and also analyses his plays with deft skill. The author's thorough analysis is also complemented by amongst others director Garry Hynes in an informative interview and academic Paul Murphy who has written an essay on O'Casey and class. This really is a first-class book and is highly recommended both to academics and the general reader, both of whom will learn far more about Sean O'Casey than a simple biography or academic study would achieve. British Theatre Guide

One cannot but admire the reader-friendly fashion Moran goes about presenting his findings – methodically preceding his chapters, as he does, with neat summaries of the major plays before clearly replacing them in their historical, political and cultural contexts. (The researcher will also be glad to find that the study comes with a set of richly documented end-notes most of which refer to unpublished archival material, and, in addition, a detailed chronology and index.) Cercles

This confidently written book serves to bring the career and work of one of Ireland's premier league playwrights slap bang into the twenty-first century. [ . . . ] The amalgamation of conceptual ideas, such as post colonialism and class, with a professional theatre-maker's experience of directing O'Casey's work is engaging, thought-provoking, and illuminating. [ . . . ] In summary, this is a well-researched, clearly written and engaging book . . . [and] something I will be recommending to my students in the years to come. Studies in Theatre and Performance

The Theatre of Tennessee Williams

Bloomsbury Publishing

Perfect for students of English Literature, Theatre Studies and American Studies at college and university, The Theatre of Tennessee Williams provides a lucid and stimulating analysis of Willams' dramatic work by one of America's leading scholars. With the centennial of his birth celebrated amid a flurry of conferences devoted to his work in 2011, and his plays a central part of any literature and drama curriculum and uibiquitous in theatre repertoires, he remains a giant of twentieth century literature and drama.

In Brenda Murphy's major study of his work she examines his life and career and provides an analysis of more than a score of his key plays, including in-depth studies of major works such as A Streetcar Named Desire, The Glass Menagerie, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and others. She traces the artist figure who features in many of Williams' plays to broaden the discussion beyond the normal reference points.

As with other volumes in Methuen Drama's Critical Companions series, this book features too essays by Bruce McConachie, John S. Bak, Felicia Hardison Londré and Annette Saddik, offering perspectives on different aspects of Williams' work that will assist students in their own critical thinking.

[Murphy] brings together ... useful information from Williams' work, writings and correspondence to make this a valuable academic work for anyone studying the playwright or American theatre ... A useful and well-written work British Theatre Guide

Brenda Murphy's The Theatre of Tennessee Williams is a thoroughly enjoyable read. The book describes the genesis and major themes of all of Williams's best-known plays and many of those that are less familiar; it provides, as well, an illuminating account of the plays' first productions and the ways in which they were inflected by their cultural contexts. Murphy writes with lucidity and an eye for the engaging detail, the telling quotation that will appeal to a broad audience. Her book serves as both a useful guide to Williams's work and an important contribution to the ongoing re-evaluation of that work Modern Drama

The Theatre of Timberlake Wertenbaker

Bloomsbury Publishing

The Theatre of Timberlake Wertenbaker offers the first comprehensive overview of Wertenbaker's playwriting career which spans more than thirty years of stage plays. It considers the contexts of their initial productions by a range of companies and institutions, including the Royal Court, the Arcola and the Women's Theatre Group. While examining all of Wertenbaker's original stage works, Sophie Bush's companion focuses most extensively on the frequently studied plays Our Country's Good and The Love of the Nightingale, but also draws attention to early unpublished works and more recent, critically neglected pieces, and the counterpoints these provide.

The Companion will prove invaluable to students and scholars, combining as it does close textual analysis with detailed historical and contextual study of the processes of production and reception. The author makes comprehensive use of previously undiscussed materials from the Wertenbaker Archive, including draft texts, correspondence and theatrical ephemera, as well as original interviews with the playwright. A section of Performance and Critical Perspectives from other scholars and practitioners offer a range of alternative approaches to Wertenbaker's most frequently studied play, Our Country's Good.

While providing a detailed analysis of individual plays, and their themes, theatricalities and socio-historical contexts, The Theatre of Timberlake Wertenbaker also examines the processes and shape of Wertenbaker's career as a whole, and considers what the struggles and triumphs that have accompanied her work reveal about the challenges of theatrical collaboration. In its scope and reference Sophie Bush's study extends to encompass a wealth of additional information about other individuals and institutions and succeeds in placing her work within a broad range of concerns and resonances.

Accessible and informative, The Theatre of Timberlake Wertenbaker engages in a detailed survey of Wertenbaker's career as a playwright. Bush's approach is rooted in a close, textual analysis of play texts and production contexts, whilst her material is structured by means of a chronological charting of the dramatist's work through to the contemporary moment . . . Three-pronged attention [to Our Country's Good], complemented by Bush's own discussion of this major, widely studied and performed work, augers a wide market for the book from secondary to tertiary levels . . . Overall Bush makes a robust case as to why 'the theatre of Timberlake Wertenbaker' deserves our enduring critical interest Studies in Theatre and Performance

Detailed and comprehensive. The Year's Work in English Studies

Ranging across the 20th and 21st centuries, Methuen Drama's Critical Companions series covers playwrights, theatre makers, movements and periods of international theatre and performance. Drawing on original research each volume provides a critical survey and analysis of a body of work by one author, giving attention to both text and performance. In addition, each book features several complementary scholarly essays and interviews with practitioners to provide alternative perspectives on the subject.