Professor Saccio provides the social background of the plays in an illuminating way without losing focus from the dramatic pieces themselves. I especially liked the way he explained how the "comedy of manners" developed over time and how the various playwrights had adopted it to the transformations of British social environment over the 20th century.
I have listened to plenty of the Great Courses Series as well as Modern Scholar titles here on audible, and this is definitely among the best ones. I am very interested in literature but have never delved deeper intro drama before, and Professor Saccio was able to provide me with great insight into the art of theater. I would also say there is enough here to interest more experienced theater-goers; the speaker introduces the playwright and plays, gives his own interpretations, but never simplifies and often takes many different perspectives into consideration before drawing any conclusions. The course really piqued my interest and made me want to go to Britain to see all these wonderful plays. I had never heard of Tom Stoppard before, for instance, but now all I can think about is how to go see "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead". Too bad I live in Sweden.
I have recently discovered Beckett. At first I excepted not to like his plays much, perhaps because I thought he would a bit too minimalist and avant-garde for me. I was pleasantly surprised, however, that his poetic use of words, wit and subtle existential humor suited my taste perfectly. Waiting for Godot is now one of my favorite plays, and even though some of the more visual comic effects get somewhat lost in a recording, this audio-version of the play still does it great justice. I also liked that it comes with a PDF with some interesting background of the play. Highly recommended.
Judy Dench's performance was magnetic. All the other actors did a wonderful job too and lifted the performance out of the "radio" and onto the stage. It comes to no surprise that these actors were a part of the original live-theater cast.
I have listened to loads of other radio theater and audio drama here on audible, such as the productions of L.A Theater works, BBC plays, as well as others. This is one of the best. As theater goes, maybe Tennessee Williams or Arthur Miller would be be a decent comparison (although they, apart from being American, are also different in many ways), given the social realistic setting. For some reason, Esme made me think of Blanche in "A Streetcar Named Desire".
The whole play was superb and each part brought new things to the story. If I need to pick a scene I suppose it might be when Amy comes back to see Esme in the early nineties. I don't want to give away too much of the story, but the way the scene questions individual responsibility in volatile economic times, or just in life in general, is just brilliant, and Dench is at the top her game here.
Yes it made me cry and it does not happen often.
I was positively surprised of Peter Hare's writing. Since I knew he was a political dramatist I would have expected not to like him too much, since I was never a big fan of political drama or fiction. Political commentary in fiction often comes at the expense of complexity and nuance, and becomes a bit too simplistic in my view. In short overtly political stuff is just boring. This is a great exception. As a matter of fact, the social background and setting gives the play even more pathos here, and even makes it seem more real and authentic than the plays of someone like Tom Stoppard, for instance. It reminds us that we are all political beings, after all.
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