I love theatre. And I love classics. I’ve written a list of some good theatre plays that I’ve read, either for my final exam that I have to pass next year or just out of curiosity. All of these are really worth reading or seeing, I promise!
MISS JULIE by AUGUST STRINDBERG
Published in: 1888
The author is from: Sweden
It’s known that Strindberg used to hate women. We can find proves of this misogyny in many of his writings and Miss Julie is not an exception.
There are only three actors in this short play. The story takes place in an aristocratic house during the Midsummer night. The main character Julie is a daughter of a noble who owns the house but is gone until the next day. She spends the night with two of her servants – a valet Jean and his fiancée Christine, who is also a cook and a maid of Julie’s family. Christine sometimes cooks and sometimes is in her room, whilst Jean and Julie talk in the kitchen.
Julie is unstable and.. not quite alright, we could say. Her mother died when she was young and before that, she had told her daughter to never marry and serve a man. After her death Julie is raised by her father who doesn’t know how to treat a girl and Julie is torn between hating men and lusting after their love (all of this isn’t said in the play, it’s just how I see it, some people may understand the play differently). Jean has always been in love with Miss Julie but he knows he can never get this lady from an upper class.
During this midsummer night a relationship between Julie and Jean is getting stronger and more intense. I don’t want to say more about the plot because I don’t want to spoil anything.
I really like this play since it’s very naturalistic and psycho. I’ve read that Strindberg was inspired by Emile Zola who is the father of Naturalism. The atmosphere and the mood between Julie and Jean change so many times, their relationship is dynamic and full of feelings, there is so much love, so much passion and so much hate. It’s also not that common to read a play with only three characters in it – but these three people are enough to create a fantastic psycho plot. I like that Strindberg doesn’t say things as clearly as we would like, I like it that we have to think during reading so we can keep up with the motives and thoughts and feelings of the characters. I’ve read the play once and I’ve seen an awesome film twice (It was made in 2014 and the actors are AMAZING) but I still feel like I have to read it again because I haven’t grasped it entirely. Miss Julie is a great play about the inner conflicts in ourselves and how it all can escalate into something terrible.
SHOPPING AND FUCKING by MARK RAVENHILL
Published in: 1996
The author is from: Great Britain
This. Play. Is. Amazing. I read it a year and a half ago but I still remember some moments very vividly. It’s very violent and drastic but a desire after a tender love is hidden behind all the drugs and vulgar language.
The main characters are called Mark, Robbie and Gary and they’re just trying to deal with life in their own ways. It’s a play about homosexuality, drugs, prostitution, sex and consumerism. How can people end up if they let consumerism get them?
It’s also a story about searching for the love that we all always dream about and not being capable of finding it.
“And I think a long time ago there were big stories. Stories so big you could live your whole life in them. The Powerful Hands of the Gods and Fate. The Journey to Enlightenment. The March of Socialism. But they all died or the world grew up or grew senile or forgot them, so now we’re making up our own stories. Little stories. But we’ve each got one.”
THE BALD SOPRANO by EUGÈNE IONESCO
Published in: 1948
The author is from: Romania (used to write in French)
The Bald Soprano is an absurd play about six people who spend one evening together. Two married couples (the Smiths, who are very old, and the Martins, who I think are in their 40s or 50s), a maid of the Smiths and a fireman who joins their ‘party’ later in the play.
In my opinion this play needs to be read more than once to fully understand it. It’s absurd but it’s not stupid. There are many hidden meanings, many ideas to think about. Some scenes are quite long and the absurd atmosphere can be a bit overwhelming but it’s a very amusing play in general.
Shortly, the play starts with the Smiths who sit in the living room and Mrs Smith keeps babbling about stupidities just to avoid the suffocating silence. Mr Smith does not give a single crap about her, he’s just reading his newspapers. But then they start arguing and everytime they argue, it’s about another stupid thing that doesn’t even make a sense. Then the Martins join them and finally, the maid and the fireman are on the scene as well. The absurdity escalates into its extreme in the end of the play where nothing. Makes. A. Freaking. Sense.
The Bald Soprano is a play about time, about relationships and how they can slowly die, it’s about empty words and about meaningless small talk.
MARYŠA (MARYSHA) by VILÉM MRŠTÍK and ALOIS MRŠTÍK
Published in: 1894
The authors are from: the Czech Republic
I don’t usually read czech literature as it’s not really my cup of tea, but Maryša is a czech play which deserves to be mentioned. I found it quite boring in the beggining but as you keep reading, the story really grabs you in and it makes you think after you finish (which is the kind of books I love the most).
The plot is set in a village in Moravia (that’s an eastern part of the Czech Republic – the prettier and calmer one in my opinion) and it’s about Maryša, a girl who is forced by her father to marry Vávra. Vávra is quite an old man and his previous wife has died. Maryša is in love with Francek but unfortunately, he must go to a war. Maryša refuses to marry Vávra (obviously) but after many fights with her parents, she obeys and does it.
I’m not going to say what follows next. Maryša is a great play about marriage, freedom to choose and mostly about guilt. We read it in our class of creative writing that I attended three years ago and we all agreed on the fact that everybody in this play is guilty in some way. There is nobody that you could really accuse because everybody has done something wrong.
I’ve read it only in Czech but I think it would be interesting to check it out in the English version since the play is written in a moravian dialect.
R.U.R. by KAREL ČAPEK
Published in: 1920
The author is from: the Czech Republic
Talking about czech plays, I’d like to present you another one – R.U.R. This is a play which introduced the word ‘robot’ to the English. Thanks to Karel Čapek, a robot is now a common word in the field of the science fiction.
R.U.R. takes place in the future, in a factory that makes robots. These robots are very similar to normal people when it comes to an appearance and they can also think for themselves. They serve men and they seem to be happy to do so but during the play they start to desire after freedom and so they start a rebellion.
R.U.R. could be taken as a warning to the future generations – do not construct robots since they can get out of hands and destroy the world. Also, there is a hope in the end of the play, which gives this work of art a brand new meaning.
A DOLL’S HOUSE by HENRIK IBSEN
Published in: 1879
The author is from: Norway
If I had to choose one play that is feminist in the best way possible, it would be A doll’s house. Henrik Ibsen criticised the society built solely on men and their laws and he fought for womens’ rights without even realising it (actually, he claimed he only fought for the right of every individual to find out who they truly are).
Nora lives in a big and beautiful house with her husband, servants and her children. She goes to balls and parties, her husband gives her anything she wants. But she is still not happy. One would say that she’s just too spoilt but I strongly disagree – having as many material objects as you want doesn’t mean that you are happy. Because there are more important things in life and Nora realises that.
Nora has no idea who she really is because she has spent her whole life playing an obedient, stupid and cheerful wife as the society has always expected her to. But it’s not enough for her – she has to find the meaning of her life, she has to find out who she truly is. No matter the cost.
That would be all for this article. I hope I gave you some inspiration – if you love theatre (or even if you don’t), you should definitelly read or see these plays, they are awesome!
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