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Stage Directions

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On Stage Directions each month I discuss current issues in theatre and performance with colleagues and critics, friends and fellow theatre workers. There are interviews with theatre makers, critics and academics and discussions of the latest shows and the latest theatre research. Stage Directions is brought to you with the support of the Department of Drama, Theatre & Dance at Royal Holloway, University of London.

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On Stage Directions each month I discuss current issues in theatre and performance with colleagues and critics, friends and fellow theatre workers. There are interviews with theatre makers, critics and academics and discussions of the latest shows and the latest theatre research. Stage Directions is brought to you with the support of the Department of Drama, Theatre & Dance at Royal Holloway, University of London.

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The Best Episodes of:

Cover image of Stage Directions

Stage Directions

Updated 5 days ago

Read more

On Stage Directions each month I discuss current issues in theatre and performance with colleagues and critics, friends and fellow theatre workers. There are interviews with theatre makers, critics and academics and discussions of the latest shows and the latest theatre research. Stage Directions is brought to you with the support of the Department of Drama, Theatre & Dance at Royal Holloway, University of London.

Warning: This podcast has few episodes.

This means there isn't enough episodes to provide the most popular episodes. Here's the rankings of the current episodes anyway, we recommend you to revisit when there's more episodes!

Rank #1: Stage Directions October 2017

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Shôn Dale-Jones

'I think actually people go to the theatre because they want a conversation and the play is only an excuse to have that conversation'

In this episode I talk theatre criticism's past and future with Megan Vaughan and Catherine Love; I interview Shôn Dale-Jones about the artistic and political journey that led to his latest show Me & Robin Hood; and then I discuss 'theatrical heterotopias' and the Gate Theatre's The Unknown Island with Professor Kim Solga. 

Podcast outline

  • 00.00.00 Introduction
  • 00.01.21 Theatre criticism: introduction
  • 00.08.11 Theatre criticism: discussion
  • 00.45.47 Shôn Dale-Jones: introduction
  • 00.50.38 Shôn Dale-Jones: interview
  • 01.22.33 Kim Solga: what she's read and what she's seen
  • 01.47.13 Closing remarks and credits.
  • 01.58.51 End

Additional Information

In my introduction on theatre criticism, the information about newspaper sales comes from this report. You can go to their websites to find out more about Megan Vaughan and

Clips of Shôn Dale-Jones's work came from these sources:

And you can find out more about his work and the work of his company Hoi Polloi here

The book I discuss with Kim Solga is:

  • Tompkins, Joanne. Theatre's Heterotopias: Performance and the Cultural Politics of Space. Contemporary Performance Interactions. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014.

And the show we saw was:

  • The Unknown Island, Gate Theatre, September 2017, directed by Ellen McDougall, adapted by Ellen McDoughall and Clare Slater from the short story by José Saramago. Performers: Jon Foster, Hannah Ringham, Thalissa Teixeira, Zubin Varla. Designed by Rosie Elnile. Lighting by Lizzie Powell. 

Kim Solga's staff page at Western University is here:

And her blog about teaching in the academy is here:

And the podcast I recommend at the end is Stage Left run by the wonderful Jen Harvie.

Music by Nick Powell and Nick McCarthy
Graphics by Liam Jarvis
Subscribe to Stage Directions on iTunes, where you can also review the podcast nicely.

Oct 24 2017

1hr 58mins

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Rank #2: Stage Directions August 2017

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It's the oldest form of theatre. Gather round and we'll tell you a story

Paul Miller

In this episode I go in search of right-wing theatre and try to trace out a little history of how and why the theatre might have a liberal bias. I then talk about conservatism in the theatre with Kate Maltby. Finally, I interview Paul Miller, artistic director of the Orange Tree, looking back at his time so far and previewing the new season.

Podcast outline

  • 00.00.00 Introduction
  • 00.01.15 Right-wing theatre: introduction
  • 00.18.45 Right-wing theatre: discussion with Kate Maltby
  • 00.49.44 Interview with Paul Miller
  • 01.24.09 End

Additional Information

Much of the detailed information about things Thatcher said comes from her Foundation's rather brilliant website which has a searchable archive of almost everything she said or did. The inflation details come from this useful online spreadsheet. The unemployment statistics come from James Denman and Paul McDonald. 'Unemployment statistics from 1881 to the present day.' Labour Market Trends. 105 (1996): pp. 5-18, a PDF of which is here. The text of the 1979 Conservative Manifesto is here.

The clips came from various online sources:

  • Sounds from the Brixton riots come from ITN Archive material on YouTube.
  • Thatcher's 'Lady's not for turning' can be seen in full here and that particular moment here.
  • The clip from Frieda by Ronald Miller is actually from the film version (dir. Basil Dearden, 1947) which you can see on DailyMotion.
  • Thatcher's quotation of words attributed to St Francis of Assisi can be seen here.
  • The extract from Christopher Fry's The Lady's Not for Burning comes from YouTube. There it claims it is a 1950 radio version, but the only radio version of the time starred Alec Clunes, not Gielgud. (In the podcast I misleadingly say Gielgud starred in the premiere; in fact, Clunes played it first at the Arts Theatre for a short run.) I think this is from the recording of the original New York cast, mostly the same as the London cast) released on vinyl by Decca in 1951.
  • Thatcher's version of The Parrot Sketch (yes, really) is here.
  • John Wells's Anyone for Denis? opened at the Whitehall Theatre on 7 May 1981 and was adapted for television and broadcast 28 December 1982, from which this clip is taken. It's John Wells and Angela Thorne you can hear in this clip.
  • This dreadful arrangement of 'My Favourite Things' is the original theme tune of the Russel Harty show. Sadly the Thatcher episode has not yet found it to YouTube, so this is taken from, of all things, the Steve Davis episode.
  • In 1989, Judi Dench directed a revival of Look Back in Anger, starring Kenneth Branagh (who you can hear in this clip) and Emma Thompson. It had a run at the Lyric Theatre in the West End in summer that year and was filmed for television the same year, from which production this clip is taken. 
  • In the Thatcher on stage montage the clips are, in order, from:
    • The Audience by Peter Morgan (Royal Alexandra Theatre, Toronto). This Kate Hennig (Thatcher) and Fiona Reid (Queen) that you can hear.
    • Billy Elliot by Lee Hall and Elton John (Victoria Palace, London). This version of the song 'Merry Christmas Margaret Thatcher' comes from a live version on YouTube.
    • Handbagged by Moira Buffini (Tricycle Theatre, London; transferred to the Vaudeville Theatre). This clip is from a segment on The Daily Politics (BBC, April 2014). You can hear Fenella Woolgar being terrifyingly uncanny as Thatcher. Lucy Robinson plays the Queen.
    • Top Girls by Caryl Churchill. This clip is from the 1991 television adaptation of the Royal Court revival from earlier that year, directed by Max Stafford-Clark, starring Deborah Findlay and Lesley Manville as the politically opposed sisters Joyce and Marlene.
    • Margaret Thatcher - Queen of Soho performed by Matthew Tedford. This clip (Let's go girls!') is just from an online trailer.

You find out more about Kate Maltby from her website:

The plays Kate mentions early on are

  • The Heretic by Richard Bean, which opened at the Royal Court in February 2011
  • Holy Warriors by David Eldridge, which opened at Shakespeare's Globe in July 2014. 

The interview I quote with Nigel Lawson, the then-Chancellor of the Exchequer in Thatcher's second term, is:

And you can get more information about the new Orange Tree season (and book tickets) from their website:

Music by Nick Powell and Nick McCarthy
Graphics by Liam Jarvis
Subscribe to Stage Directions on iTunes. And review us there too! (5 stars only please. I do dislike faint praise.)

Aug 23 2017

1hr 24mins

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Rank #3: Stage Directions July 2017

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Theatre and Brexit

"Theatre will be a great place to restore a sense of the meaning, significance, ambiguity, nuance and beauty of language" Chris Megson

In this episode I talk to the wonderful Nadine Holdsworth and Chris Megson about British theatre and Brexit. I report from an academic conference in Reading and ask, what are academic conferences for? And I talk to the magnificent Aoife Monks about something she's seen and something she's read.

Podcast outline

  • 00.00.00 Introduction
  • 00.00.55 Theatre & Brexit: Introduction
  • 00.10.35  Theatre & Brexit: Discussion
  • 00.42.00 Academic theatre conferences
  • 00.58.51  Seen and Read: Aoife Monks
  • 01.21.20 End

Additional Information

The clips from Jerusalem and My Country are gathered from a number of interviews and trailers available online. The clips from England People Very Nice and the interviews with Nick Hytner and Richard Bean come from a Sky Arts documentary which is also online in two parts (here and here). The interviews with Rufus Norris are from a National Theatre preview video and from the National's own podcast. The politicians' various utterances are all on YouTube.

You can find out more about Chris MegsonNadine Holdsworth and Aoife Monks by clicking on their names.

The German Society for Contemporary Drama in English has its own website here.

The book Aoife and I discuss is:

  • Sianne Ngai. Our Aesthetic Categories: Zany, Cute, Interesting. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2012.

And the play we discussed was:

  • Branden Jacobs-Jenkins. An Octoroon. dir. Ned Bennett, Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond, 18 May 2017 - 1 July 2017. [Professional premiere, dir. Sarah Benson, Soho Rep, NYC, 23 April 2014]

Which was inspired by:

  • Dion Boucicault. The Octoroon. Winter Garden Theatre, NYC, 6 December 1859.

Music by Nick Powell and Nick McCarthy
Graphics by Liam Jarvis
Stage Directions is supported by the Department of Drama, Theatre & Dance at Royal Holloway, University of London.

Jul 16 2017

1hr 21mins

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Rank #4: Stage Directions June 2017

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Ellen McDougall

'trying to understand better what it means to be alive now'

In this episode I discuss Donald Trump and performance with my brilliant colleagues Bryce Lease and Sophie Nield. I talk about a paradoxical and strange evening of theatre in January 1886. And I have a chat with the amazing Ellen McDougall about her first season as Artistic Director of the Gate Theatre, Notting Hill.

Podcast outline:

  • 00.00.00 Introduction
  • 00.00.49 Donald Trump and Performance: Introduction
  • 00.07. 57 Donald Trump and Performance: Discussion
  • 00.35.54 Strange Evenings of Theatre: 27 January 1886
  • 00.47.56 Interview: Ellen McDougall
  • 01.15.02  End

Additional Information

You can find out more about Bryce Lease and Sophie Nield here:

In my essay on that evening of theatre, I refer to a couple of essays. These are the full references:

And you can find out more about - and book for - the new Gate season here:

Music by Nick Powell and Nick McCarthy
Graphics by Liam Jarvis
Support gratefully received from Eloise Whitmore, Elaine McGirr and the Department of Drama, Theatre & Dance at Royal Holloway, University of London.

NEXT EPISODE: Chris Megson and Nadine Holdsworth on Theatre & Brexit and Aoife Monks on An Octoroon and the cute, the zany, and the interesting.

Jun 17 2017

1hr 14mins

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