Modern Drama: Plays of the '80s and '90s : Top Girls; Hysteria; Blasted; Shopping and F***ing; The Beauty Queen of Leenane, Paperback Book

Modern Drama: Plays of the '80s and '90s : Top Girls; Hysteria; Blasted; Shopping and F***ing; The Beauty Queen of Leenane Paperback

Part of the Play Anthologies series

4.5 out of 5 (1 rating)


With an introduction by Graham Whybrow, literary manager of the Royal Court Theatre, this anthology collects the defining plays of the 1980s and 1990s in one volume - Top Girls 'The best British play ever from a woman dramatist' (The Guardian) Hysteria 'One of the most brilliantly original and entertaining new plays I have seen in years' (The Sunday Times) Blasted 'Her dialogue is both sparse and stunning.

They will call her mad, but then they said that about Strindberg' (Mail on Sunday) Shopping and F***ing 'A real coup de theatre' (Evening Standard) The Beauty Queen of Leenane 'The most wickedly funny, brilliantly abrasive young dramatist ...a born storyteller' (New York Times)The result is a collection of "must reads" that's excellent value for students and theatre fans alike.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Plays, playscripts
  • ISBN: 9780413764904



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This is a really good collection of some of the most noteworthy British plays from the nineties, topped with a portal work by Carly Churchill as a forerunner. I’ve read and/or seen most of them, but two of the plays have been kind of embarrassing gaps is my professional knowledge for many years – something I’m glad to have mended now.“Top Girls” is probably Caryl Churchill’s most well-known play, but I wouldn’t say it’s her best. Still, reading it again after maybe ten years, Churchill still amazes me. From the bold dinner party featuring women from history and fiction (how many scenes inspired by it has been written since???) over the second act’s look at professional women in the early stages of 80ies cold individualism and finally the flashback in the third act tying up Angie’s story so so subtly. Damn. Awesome, in the true sense of the word.“Hysteria” is probably the weakest play in this collection. Or at least it hasn’t received the same status as the rest of the plays here. But this strange mixture of unflinching farce (complete with naked women in wardrobes), psycho analysis and childhood horror, starring Freud and Dalí, works, even though it really shouldn’t. I find myself interested again in why Freud chose to change his viewpoint regarding female hysteria, and the potential betrayal therein. I saw it in the mid-nineties, and wouldn’t mind seeing it staged again.“Blasted” is among my favorite Sarah Kane plays still. It’s just so horrible and stark and yet, right at the end, finds a tiny streak of grace and mercy. And the way Kane brings real war into an abusive relationship in a hotel room in Leeds remains a very clever metaphor. It’s really sad we lost Sarah Kane so much too early. Very in ye face stuff though, and I wouldn’t trust just anyone to produce it.“Shopping and fucking” is one of those modern classics I’ve managed to neither see or read. That’s thankfully mended now. It’ s easy to see Ravenhill’s play’s appeal. It’s a sharp, cold and darkly humorous look at a society where everything is for sale, and where we aren’t even comfortable with love unless we feel we’re paying our dues. Like with Kane, there are a few instances of pure shock value that feels just a little unnecessary. But this play still packs a punch, and is neatly composed, with lots of stuff going on between the scenes.“The beauty queen of Leenane” is another modern classic I haven’t seen or read. Indeed, I haven’t read anything by McDonagh before. Which is strange, since I know he’s a big influence on several playwrights I really like, not to mention that I myself is very involved in telling stories against another backdrop than the urban one. This tragic little tale of dependency, desperation and mutual cruelty is wonderfully composed, and I really enjoyed it. Must be looking for more plays by McDonagh!If you’re at all into reading plays, this is a really good collection presenting a handful of modern classics. I think they are all very readable too – not always the case with modern drama. Bear in mind though that the British nineties were a lot about putting scary things on stage – if stuff like rimming, rape and dead babies scare you off, this is not a book for you. Otherwise, a very good introduction, or a collection well worth reading for itself.

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