“If you want to change something by Tuesday, theatre is no good. Journalism is what does that. But, if you want to just alter the chemistry of the moral matrix, then theatre has a longer half-life.”
– Tom Stoppard
I love plays. Watching or reading them, I am a fan. Sadly, like most, I’m not able to get to the theatre as much as I’d like; too costly. So I read what I can instead.
Being all dialogue or monologue, plays are much snappier than novels. Less of the wordy description that often weighs me down when I’m trying to get through a fictional story.
Although plays are written to be performed, and of course the magic lies in seeing the characters come alive on the stage, there’s still a great deal to be gained from reading the play alone. After all, it all comes down to the story and the messages being conveyed.
One has a very different experience reading a play as opposed to watching it, but it does allow for a different type of study. I often stop to look up words or phrases, I’ll re-read sections to gain a better understanding. I’ll read vast chunks out loud, just for the joy of it. If anything, it challenges the imagination further.
A wise old owl (acting teacher) once told me to “read a play a week!”. (I rarely do.)
So here are my top 5 plays of this year..
1.) Yerma by Simon Stone after Federico García Lorca – The tragic tale of “a young woman driven to the unthinkable by her desperate desire to have a child.”
I found it witty, sharp and in the end heartbreaking, a brilliant play.
2.) Patricia Gets Ready (for a date with the man that used to hit her) by Martha Watson Allpress – A bold one woman play focusing on the legacy and aftermath of an abusive relationship.
A powerful play that “deals with a hard subject matter in a real and often humorous way without trivialising it.” (London Pub Theatre).
3.) Nine Night by Natasha Gordon – The amusing exploration of the rituals of a Jamaican family in mourning.
I loved this play. Lively, touching and funny, I could imagine each character so clearly.
4.) Random by Debbie Tucker Green – A heart-wrenching one woman play about the killing of a black schoolboy.
We’re taken through a day in the life of an ordinary family hit by a random act of violence. Written in beautifully observed London-Caribbean dialect, this was unlike any play I’ve ever read.
5.) Out of Love by Elinor Cook – A sharp and moving play about female friendship, love and rivalry.
I wasn’t sure about this play at first, but as the characters and plot unfolded I founded myself hooked.
Other favourites, not pictured, include Chewing Gum Dreams by Michaela Coel, Josephine and I by Cush Jumbo and Constellations by Nick Payne.