Five more performing arts books with training/learning/development potential have reached me in the last month or so. Just in case you haven’t finished your Christmas shopping and need gifts for young performers, or those who work with them, here is a bit of information about these titles: three today and two on Friday. These three are all play texts.
Thirteen Monologues by Jean Cocteau and Georges Feydeau, translated by Peter Meyer and published by Oberon Books, is the first paperback edition of delicious pieces such as ‘Duet for One Voice’, written by Cocteau for Edith Piaf and first performed by her in 1940. A second Cocteau monologue written for Piaf is included along with five others written as radio pieces for Jean Marais.
Six monologues, all written between 1892 and 1898, by Feydeau include ‘The Schoolboy’ and ‘A Man who Hates Monologues.’ The translations were commissioned for BBC Radio and broadcast in the late 1970s. Richard Briers, for instance, performed ‘A Man who Hates Monologues.’ ‘The Antipodes’ was the work of Eileen Atkins and Timothy West did ‘A Member of the Jury.’ Some fine audition material here.
Second up, from Trentham Books, is Six Plays for Theatre in Education and Youth Theatre by Geoff Gillham. Gillham, who died in 2001, was a well-known figure in theatre in education — at the Cockpit Theatre, for example, and internationally — and a playwright for over thirty years. This is the first publication of his work.
‘Lessons’ - which needs a large cast and runs for two hours - was first performed in 1982 and meant for what we would now call Years 10 and 11. The play asks questions about the nature and purpose of education and needs to be considered against the early 80s background of the Brixton and Toxteth riots and the Falklands War. There’s certainly plenty here to think about.
There is a detailed and enlightening Introduction by David Davis, Professor of Drama in Education at Birmingham University after an upbeat foreword by Edward Bond. Each play is introduced by Chris Cooper, Artistic Director of Big Brum Theatre in Education Company, who has always championed Gillham’s work.
My third choice is another from Oberon Books. Tim Crouch: Plays One gives us four plays: My Arm, An Oak Tree, ENGLAND and The Author with an introduction by Professor Stephen Bottoms, Wole Soyinka Professor of Drama and Theatre Studies at University of Leeds. It’s innovative stuff and you can only get a whiff from reading the text because Crouch has always performed his own work with a small group of other actors the play requires it.
‘The Author’, for example, makes each audience member an object of scrutiny as four actors work between and amongst two rows of banked seats facing each other. It tells the story of another, very disturbing, fictional play which three characters were involved in and the fourth saw as audience. Shades of Noises Off - except that it’s quite different.
The book is an ideal gift for Tim Crouch fans, for students looking for meaty modern texts to work on or for newcomers to Crouch wanting to explore his interesting work. I bet it won’t be long before I see and hear some of it in drama school student showcases.