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Twentieth-Century Drama

Scope of the Collection

When complete, Twentieth-Century Drama will contain 2,500 published plays from throughout the English-speaking world, covering the history of modern drama from the 1890s to the present day. The full range of dramatic styles, genres and traditions will be represented, from widely studied and frequently performed plays to important examples of radical theatre, regional theatre, postcolonial theatre, women's theatre and popular forms such as farce and thriller that are often under-represented in surveys of the period.

Contents of Release One

Containing 238 plays by 25 authors from Britain, Ireland and Australia, the first release of Twentieth-Century Drama covers many of the key moments of innovation and revolution in modern theatre. Full details of the works currently included in the collection are given in the bibliography. The first release has a particular emphasis on the period from the 1890s to 1920s, which saw a rebirth of British drama under the influence of European modernism, and the rise of strong regional and national theatres. Key historical milestones that are represented include:

  • The emergence of the social problem play, bringing controversial subject matter to the Victorian stage: The Second Mrs Tanqueray (1893) and The Notorious Mrs Ebbsmith (1895) by Arthur Wing Pinero, and Mrs Dane's Defence (1900) by Henry Arthur Jones.
  • The first Naturalist plays in English, including plays from Harley Granville Barker's legendary 1904-07 repertory seasons at the Royal Court: John Galsworthy's The Silver Box (1906) and Granville Barker's own The Voysey Inheritance (1905).
  • The founding of the Irish National Theatre: landmark plays such as W.B. Yeats's On Baile's Strand and Lady Augusta Gregory's Spreading the News (the two plays that opened the Abbey Theatre in 1904), and J.M. Synge's The Playboy of the Western World (1907) and Deirdre of the Sorrows (1910).
  • The explosion of new repertory theatres in regional cities in Britain: from the Gaiety Theatre, Manchester, home to the 'Manchester School' playwrights Stanley Houghton (Hindle Wakes, 1912) and Harold Brighouse (Hobson's Choice, 1916), to the Birmingham Repertory Theatre, where Laurence Olivier played his first major role, in John Drinkwater's 1927 comedy Bird in Hand.
  • Realistic depictions of the First World War and its aftermath: Miles Malleson's radical plays 'D' Company and Black 'Ell (both 1916), R.C. Sherriff's Journey's End (1928) and W. Somerset Maugham's For Services Rendered (1932).
  • A cross-section of popular West End comedies: from J.M. Barrie's lightly satirical fantasies (The Admirable Crichton, 1902; Peter Pan, 1904) and Arnold Bennett's more naturalistic The Great Adventure (1913) to the brilliant comedies of manners of Oscar Wilde (The Importance of Being Earnest, 1895) and Somerset Maugham (The Circle, 1921).
  • The '1956 revolution' at the Royal Court Theatre, which brought avant-garde European works to the London stage, along with works by a new generation of British writers: Arnold Wesker's hugely influential depictions of working-class life in Chicken Soup with Barley (1958), Roots (1959) and I'm Talking About Jerusalem (1960).
  • The rise of alternative theatre in the 1970s: companies such as the 7:84 Theatre Company, the left-wing group that staged one of the most significant pieces of post-war British political theatre, John McGrath's The Cheviot, the Stag, and the Black, Black Oil (1973); and the Australian Performing Group, the Melbourne-based cooperative that launched the career of Australia's most successful playwright, David Williamson (Don's Party, 1971; The Removalists, 1971).

The collection also includes plays by important literary authors of the period, including poetic dramas such as Thomas Hardy's The Dynasts (1904-08), James Elroy Flecker's popular success Hassan (1923), and Joseph Conrad's adaptation of his novel The Secret Agent (1922).

Criteria for Selection of Texts and Editions

Authors and plays have been selected by an academic advisory board, largely according to their current profile in both teaching and research at universities, colleges and schools. For major authors, we have aimed to include each writer's complete dramatic works; for less prominent authors, a representative sample has been selected; in some cases, a single play by a given author has been included owing to its particular significance. While the emphasis has been on selecting authors who feature prominently in both the academic canon and the current theatrical repertoire, we have also aimed to include plays that have suffered neglect owing to lack of availability in print, and to others by authors of historical importance.

Selection has been limited to works originally written in English. However, translations of non-English-language works have been included where these form part of a playwright's main oeuvre: examples include W.B. Yeats's Sophocles' King Oedipus (1928) and Lady Augusta Gregory's translation of Molière's The Doctor in Spite of Himself (1906).

A single edition of each play has been included. We have limited the source texts to published play texts in book form. Authoritative collected editions of an author's dramatic works have been selected where available; where no such edition exists, we have selected either the first reliable edition of each play, or, as in the case of Thomas Hardy's The Dynasts, a later edition incorporating revisions by the author (in this case, the 1927 limited edition that contained Hardy's final revisions). In the case of Harley Granville Barker, the 1909 texts of Waste and The Voysey Inheritance have been preferred to the later texts used in collected editions, owing to their historical interest.

Each text is reproduced in full, including any accompanying text by the author, plus relevant supplementary matter such as dramatis personae and any illustrations that are integral to the text. Other front and back matter may have been omitted. In all cases, the edition used is stated in full in the bibliographic details, along with details of what has been included or omitted from the printed volume.

Editorial Board

Trevor R. Griffiths is Professor of Theatre Studies at London Metropolitan University, and has published widely on Renaissance and twentieth-century theatre. He was chair of Foco Novo Theatre Company, and is editor of the Nick Hern Books Drama Classics series, and of Theatre Notebook (the journal of the Society for Theatre Research). His most recent publication is The Theatre Guide (A&C Black, 2003).

Ian Clarke was until recently Senior Lecturer and Director of Drama at Loughborough University, and is the author of Edwardian Drama: A Critical Study (Faber & Faber, 1989). He now works as a freelance writer and researcher. In addition to numerous essays on nineteenth-century and twentieth-century drama, theatre, and performance, he has also written on Dickens, Shakespeare, and popular culture, and edited two volumes of critical essays on Shakespeare's plays.

Margaret Llewellyn-Jones is a former Principal Lecturer at London Metropolitan University, and is the author of Contemporary Irish Drama and Cultural Identity (Intellect, 2003). She has also edited Spectacle, Silence and Subversion: Women's Performance Language and Strategies (a special issue of Contemporary Theatre Review; Harwood, 1994), co-edited British and Irish Dramatists Since 1958: A Critical Handbook with Trevor R. Griffiths (Open University Press, 1993), and also co-edited Frames and Fictions on Television: The Politics of Identity Within Drama with Bruce Carson (Intellect, 2000).

Mary Luckhurst is Lecturer in Modern Drama at the University of York, and is also a playwright and director. Her research specialisms include post-war European drama, modern plays by British and Irish women, Brecht, acting theory, and dramaturgy and literary management. She has co-edited The Creative Writing Handbook (Palgrave, 1996), On Directing (Faber & Faber, 1999) and On Acting (Faber & Faber, 2001), and co-authored The Drama Handbook: A Guide to Reading Plays (Oxford University Press, 2002).

Ralph Yarrow is Professor of Drama and Comparative Literature at the University of East Anglia. His teaching and research cover drama and literature from India, South Africa and Europe, including absurd theatre, feminist theatre, and theatre and social change. His publications include Improvisation in Drama (with A. Frost; Macmillan, 1990), Consciousness, Literature and Theatre: Theory and Beyond (with P. Malekin; Macmillan, 1997), Indian Theatre: Theatre of Origin, Theatre of Freedom, (Curzon, 2000), and Lecoq in Britain (co-editor; Harwood, 2001).


The majority of the plays contained in Twentieth-Century Drama are copyright works that have never before been licensed for electronic reproduction. In accordance with the high value of this content, the rights that have been granted by the rights holders have certain restrictions attached to them: users can only download smaller divisions of a work, such as an act or scene, and users wishing to print sections of a text must first confirm that they will not infringe conditions of fair usage. Public domain texts can be accessed without such restrictions, but users will notice that full-text links for any copyright text will trigger the opening of a satellite window with restricted functionality for printing and saving of texts. Care has been taken to minimise the disruption to the user experience of Twentieth-Century Drama whilst ensuring that the requirements of our publishing partners are met.

Copyright plays cannot be performed without the permission of the author or author's agent. If you wish to perform a copyright text from the collection, please consult the Performing Rights Index to find contact details of the relevant rights holder.


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