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EN107 British Theatre Since 1939

Taste of Honey

British Theatre Since 1939
Module Convenor 2022-23
: Dr. Matt Franks


The module will serve both as an introduction to contemporary theatre and as a first investigation of the relationship between literary texts and the conditions of performance. Major plays of the period will be studied in their own right but also as examples of trends and developments in the period. Design, theatrical architecture, performance styles, organisations and repertoires will be studied, with special attention to assumptions concerning the social role of the drama. Where possible, texts will be related to specific productions.

'It wasn't until director Dominic Cooke arrived at Warwick University in 1985 that he began to understand theatre's capacity to be both a political and a moral force. Fittingly enough, it was the Royal Court that seized his attention:

"We did this brilliant course, which was basically all about the Court – about the shift from TS Eliot's The Cocktail Party to Look Back in Anger, right through Wesker, Bond, all those writers. Plays that really engaged, which were asking questions."'

Dominic Cooke, Artistic Director of the Royal Court Theatre (Guardian, 29.1.2011)


Week 1: Terence Rattigan, The Deep Blue Sea (1952)

Week 2: John Osborne, Look Back in Anger (1956)

Week 3: Shelagh Delaney, A Taste of Honey (1958)

Week 4: Arnold Wesker, Chicken Soup With Barley (1958)

Week 5: Barry Reckord, You in Your Small Corner (1962)

Week 6: Reading Week

Week 7: Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot (1953)

Week 8: Harold Pinter, The Birthday Party (1957)

Week 9: Joe Orton, Loot (1965)

Week 10: Edward Bond, Saved (1965)


Week 1: John McGrath, The Cheviot, the Stag, and the Black, Black Oil (1973)

Week 2: Brian Friel, Translations (1980)

Week 3: Tom Stoppard, Arcadia (1993)

Week 4: Caryl Churchill, Top Girls (1982)

Week 5: Jackie Kay, Chiaroscuro (1986)

Week 6: Reading Week

Week 7: Sarah Kane, Blasted (1995)

Week 8: debbie tucker green, random (2008)

Week 9: Alecky Blythe, London Road (2011)

Week 10: Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Fleabag (2013)


Student-led seminars on post-2000 plays by British playwrights not yet studied on the module.

Examples might include: Bola Agbaje, Mike Bartlett, Alice Birch, Breach Theatre, Jez Butterworth, Ella Hickson, Lucy Kirkwood, Kwame Kwei-Armah, Duncan Macmillan, Alistair McDowall, Lucy Prebble, Nina Raine, Ambreen Razia.

Week 1: Group A: Nick Payne, Constellations (2012); Group B: Helen Edmundson, Small Island (2019)

Week 2: Group A: Alice Birch, Anatomy of a Suicide (2017); Group B: Sadie Hasler, Pramkicker (2015)

Week 3: Group A: Jez Butterworth, Jerusalem (2009); Group B: Mike Bartlett, Albion (2017)


Teaching is seminar-based, with weekly 2 hour sessions.


Assessment is by two essays, each of 2,500 words - one due Term 2, Week 4 and another in Term 3, Week 4.

There is also a formative essay due in Term 1, Week 8 - this is compulsory, but its mark does not count towards the final module mark. You do need to complete this essay to pass the module, however.

Each essay will have the following elements:

  • A full bibliography, including publication details, showing evidence of secondary critical reading.
  • The essay will be anonymous, but will have your student number on every page.


The reading list for this module is on Talis Aspire. All books can be purchased either from the University or other bookshops, or secondhand online; any edition is fine. The Library has a very limited number of physical copies of all books. It is essential for all students to bring copies of the week's reading (book, printout, or laptop/e-reader; not mobile phone copy) to seminar.

Please note:

  • Sarah Kane's Blasted is the only play we are reading that is not also available to read freely as an ebook through the Library (via "View Online" on Talis).
  • Barry Reckord's You In Your Small Corner has never been published, and we will be watching the television broadcast play adaptation.


Michael Billington, State of the Nation: British Theatre Since 1945 (London: Faber, 2007)

Colin Chambers, Black and Asian Theatre in Britain: A History (London: Routledge, 2011)

Claire Cochrane, Twentieth-Century British Theatre: Industry, Art and Empire (Cambridge: CUP, 2011)

Dominic Dromgoole, The Full Room (London: Methuen, 2000)

David Edgar, ed. State of Play (London: Faber, 1999)

Christopher Innes, Modern British Drama: The Twentieth Century (Cambridge: CUP, 2002)

Stephen Lacey, British Realist Theatre: The New Wave in its Context 1956-1965 (London: Routledge, 1995)

Mary Luckhurst, ed. A companion to modern British and Irish drama, 1880-2005 (Oxford: Blackwell, 2006)

Dan Rebellato, 1956 And All That - The Making of Modern British Drama (London: Routledge, 1999)

Dominic Shellard, British Theatre Since the War (New Haven: Yale UP, 2000)

Aleks Sierz, In Yer Face Theatre (London: Faber, 2001)

John Russell Taylor, Anger and After (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1964)

Micheline Wandor, Look Back in Gender (London: Methuen, 1987)

Photo credit: Trafalgar Studios production of A Taste of Honey (2019)