Plays and books we've seen, read and loved recently, all highly recommended by Samuel French staff.
"Johnathan Harvey's 2010 play is a powerful, warming and often heartwrenching commentry on the social fabric of Britain since the middle of the last century. Concurrent timelines weave between the 1960s, 1980s and the present day as Canary shines a light on the struggle against homophobia, the class system and our relationship with the media. Along with cameos from Margaret Thatcher and Mary Whitehouse, this broad, sweeping epic of love and bravery has been rightly hailed as a Liverpudlian Angels in America. Studded with Harvey's trademark combination of humour and poignancy, Canary takes an unflinching and worryingly timely look at our past and how we can better our future"
Recommended by Oli from the Licensing team
"Soper's play was marketed as a hard-hitting look at the conditions inside the 'fulfillment centres' of a large, unnamed online store (COUGHit's AmazonCOUGH). On one level, it is that, but it's a lot more. At its heart it's a tender, beautifully observed relationship play (with wonderful parts for young actors) - a very modern take on kitchen sink drama. The questions it raises about how our society deals with its least fortunate members are subtly posed, but devestating for that. The production at the Royal Court was bleakly beautiful, and Wish List marks new playwright Soper out as a talent to watch"
Recommended by Peter from the Marketing team
"Jill Chamberlain's Cuttin' It entirely blew me away when I was lucky enough to see it at the Young Vic last year. This two-hander explores the painful and intimate issue of FGM through the lense of two teenage girls, both from different countries and social backgrounds, but with one painful shared experience. What elivates Cuttin' It above other 'issue plays' is how extremely well-examined the two central characters are - quite simply I have never seen two teenage girls written with more honesty and nerve. It takes guts to write a play about a topic as harrowing as FGM but it takes lady balls as big as Brazil to make it so funny and enjoyable. It is through getting to know these warm, imperfect and funny girls, that the true horror of their situation becomes realised. This play physically hurt because I knew these girls. An absolute must read."
Recommended by Caroline from the Marketing department
The Integrated Voice
"Sarah is a dedicated and accomplished voice teacher, I should know, she taught me many moons ago! The book combines her inventive and fun teaching style with useful tips and training that are a great tool for training and developing your voice. Best of all it comes with a DVD! Any anecdotes about bothersome ex-students are most definitely not about me... probably"
Recommended by Debbie from the Licensing team
Played in Britain
Kate Dorney and Frances Grey
"This book is an exceptionally good selection of important plays from a period of over 60 years of British Theatre. From Waiting for Godot to Jerusalem, including original production photos (Richard Attenborough in the Mousetrap) and an overview of the plot as well as its lasting cultural significance. IF you want an overview of plays you should know about, this is the book to reach for."
Recommended by Steve from the Bookshop
"I read this play soon after I started in the Bookshop and I love it, it's a beautiful, poignant piece. It was first performed in 2010 but has recently been done at the Battersea Arts Centre. I actually wrote to the author after reading it to tell her how much it moved me, which I've not done with anything else. It's an incredibly lovely play and I'd really recommend it. "
Recommended by Felicity from the Rights team
"As with everything Caryl Churchill writes, every word is chosen with precision. This is a rich and unsettling piece which combines a seemingly benign dialogue between four women of a certain age in a garden over cups of tea, with searing monologues of personal fear and surreal apocalyptic imaginings. The genius of Churchill is that the domestic dialogue resonates with fragility and the visions of the apolocalypse are all too recognisable, so that the aloneness of the title underlies the whole play and is deeply felt. "
Recommended by Douglas, Managing Director
This is Living
"Michael and Alice are a couple having an argument on the banks of a river - the only problem is that Alice is dead. She drowned in that river several hours ago and doesn't seem to know it. This is a beautiful, moving play about love, loss and learning how to say goodbye. I started to read this play when it was first published and could not put it down until I had finished it. The play was originally performed at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2014 and was then performed at Trafalgar Studios in 2016."
Recommended by Simon from the Bookshop
A Vampire Story
"I’m not one for a traditional vampire story, and this is definitely not one of those. Buffini’s vampires appear unannounced, unexplained and certainly don’t sparkle in sunlight. Thirteen titled scenes encompass two intertwining stories. The first is written by Ella, the second by A-level drama student Eleanor who tells the story of Clara, her vampire mother who claims to have died 200 years previously. The play is definitely worth a read for anyone with performers 16+. I absolutely loved the sharp humour that brings lightness to this play darkly rooted in issues of identity, youth and A Level Drama teachers"
Recommended by Hattie from the Licensing team
The Norman Conquests
"These are my favourite Ayckbourn plays. I really enjoy how they all weave together, so throughout each piece you get a little bit more information about what else was happening offstage with the other characters. Norman is a complete scoundrel and is, I'm sure, a really fun character to play. You can perform the three plays separately as stand alone pieces but I think you get the best sense of it as a whole if all three are performed/read in sequence. Sir Alan Ayckbourn really is the master of his art and that could not be emphasised more than in this trilogy"
Recommended by Felicity from the Rights team