More favourite writers – playwrights this time.
21. Tom Stoppard – for Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, some delightful playing with ideas.
22. Samuel Beckett. When Waiting for Godot was first performed in the 1950’s it left most audiences bewildered. It is a sign of the times that there can now be a passing reference to “Happy Days” (the one with the old people in the dustbins) in the Simpsons, and the writers assume that a good proportion of people (if not kids) will get it.
23. John Osborne. I fear “Look Back in Anger” would feel a bit dated now, no matter how it is staged – it is just one of those pieces specific to the post-War, post rationing 1950s. Maybe it would work in Keep Calm and Carry On austerity Britain, but I suspect not. Plenty of other decent work such as the Entertainer to justify inclusion.
24. Joe Orton. Full of wit, energy, and mischief. Favourite play – got to be “Loot”, or “What the Butler Saw”. His diaries and biography (“Prick up your Ears”) are worth reading too.
25. Oscar Wilde. No-one can turn a phrase like Wilde.
26. Harold Pinter. Some extraordinary powerful work, exploring the mundane and banal; the dramatist who rescued silence. Favourite play – The Homecoming – intense, dramatic, incredibly subtle.
27. Noel Coward. A surprise inclusion maybe, but try Blithe Spirit.
28. George Bernard Shaw. Shaw explored some issues that most playwrights of his generation steered well away from. Now we think of Pygmalion and “I’m a good girl I am”, but of course Shaw didn’t marry off Eliza and Professor ‘iggins.
29. Alan Ayckbourn, for “The Norman Conquests”. Farce when well done is brilliant, but really complex to pull off, and in this sequence of plays Ayckbourn does it effortlessly.
30 Ben Jonson. Shakespeare’s contemporary; far fewer of his works have survived, (or did he just write less?) but there is enough to show us how extraordinary the theatre of this time must have been.
A very white, male, English (the language rather than the country, of course) list, admittedly. But it would be fairly pointless claiming admiration for writers whose work I am less familiar with.