The Fourth Wall

Routledge’s Fourth Wall books are short, accessible accounts of some of modern theatre’s best loved works. They take a subjective but easily digestible approach to their topics, allowing their authors the opportunity to explore their chosen subject in a way that is absorbing enough to be of use both to lovers of theatre and those who are being asked to study a play more deeply.

Each book in the series looks at a specific play, variously exploring its themes, contexts and characteristics while prioritising original, insightful writing over complexity or scholarly weight. While other cultural products such as albums and films are well served by this kind of writing, the Fourth Wall series aims to find room between rigorous analysis and the short format of reviews or articles. They are extended accounts that get to the heart of their chosen works without being bound by the density that academic treatments can often require.


The Fourth Wall series is a growing collection of short books on famous plays. Its compact format perfectly suits the kind of fresh, engaging criticism that brings a play to life.

Each book in this series selects one play or musical as its subject and approaches it from an original angle, seeking to shed light on an old favourite or break new ground on a modern classic. These lively, digestible books are a must for anyone looking for new ideas on the major works of modern theatre.

  • Sondheim and Wheeler's Sweeney Todd book cover

    Sondheim and Wheeler's Sweeney Todd

    By Aaron C. Thomas

    Sweeney Todd, the gruesome tale of a murderous barber and his pastry chef accomplice, is unquestionably strange subject matter for the musical theatre - but eight Tony awards and enormous successes on Broadway and the West End testify to its enduring popularity with audiences. Written by Hugh…

    Paperback – 2018-03-30 
    Routledge
    The Fourth Wall

  • Sarah Kane's 4.48 Psychosis book cover

    Sarah Kane's 4.48 Psychosis

    By Glenn D'Cruz

    "Everything passes/Everything perishes/Everything palls" How on earth do you award aesthetic points to a 75-minute suicide note? The question comes from a review of 4:48’s inaugural production, the year after Sarah Kane took her own life, but this book explores the ways in which it misses the…

    Paperback – 2018-02-26 
    Routledge
    The Fourth Wall

  • Benjamin Britten and Montagu Slater's Peter Grimes book cover

    Benjamin Britten and Montagu Slater's Peter Grimes

    By Sam Kinchin-Smith

    Peter Grimes (1945), Benjamin Britten’s first opera and one of the most widely recognised cultural milestones of the 20th century, is the post-war British theatre’s greatest ‘lost play’. That is the central premise of this provocative volume. Not content to only consider Peter Grimes on the…

    Paperback – 2018-02-14 
    Routledge
    The Fourth Wall

  • Alistair McDowall's Pomona book cover

    Alistair McDowall's Pomona

    By David Ian Rabey

    ‘It’s all real. All of it. Everything bad is real’ - Moe Alistair McDowall’s Pomona was first staged in 2014 and won properly startling, and startled, acclaim. Its edgeland setting permits a surrealistic disengagement of linear forms of time, which is both dreamlike and wildly funny; nightmarish…

    Paperback – 2018-01-19 
    Routledge
    The Fourth Wall

  • Rodgers and Hammerstein's The Sound of Music book cover

    Rodgers and Hammerstein's The Sound of Music

    By Julian Woolford

    Often dismissed as kitsch sentimentalism, The Sound of Music (1959) has proven enduringly popular and surprisingly influential, both within the field of musical theatre and the wider world. The Broadway production won five Tony Awards, the London production became the longest-running West End…

    Paperback – 2018-01-01 
    Routledge
    The Fourth Wall

  • Errol John's Moon on a Rainbow Shawl book cover

    Errol John's Moon on a Rainbow Shawl

    By Lynette Goddard

    Errol John wrote Moon on a Rainbow Shawl (1958) after becoming disillusioned about the lack of good roles for black actors on the British theatre scene. While this situation has only slightly improved since, his response has become the most revived black play in Britain, from its original…

    Paperback – 2017-10-09
    Routledge
    The Fourth Wall

  • Sondheim and Lapine's Into the Woods book cover

    Sondheim and Lapine's Into the Woods

    By Olaf Jubin

    ‘The Woods are just Trees. The Trees are just Wood.’ – All together   In 1987, Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine combined several classic fairy tales including Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, and Jack and the Beanstalk to create Into the Woods. Funny and heartfelt, this musical explores what it…

    Paperback – 2017-08-21
    Routledge
    The Fourth Wall

  • Tim Crouch's An Oak Tree book cover

    Tim Crouch's An Oak Tree

    By Catherine Love

    ‘You will see no false nothing false tonight’ – the Hypnotist Tim Crouch’s second play collapses a tale of loss and grief into an exploration of theatrical representation, in a piece of theatre that is at once formally innovative and profoundly moving. Written for two actors, An Oak Tree depicts…

    Paperback – 2017-06-13
    Routledge
    The Fourth Wall

  • Davies and Penhall's Sunny Afternoon book cover

    Davies and Penhall's Sunny Afternoon

    By John Fleming

    When ‘You Really Got Me’ exploded on Swinging London in 1964, the Kinks forever changed the course of rock ’n’ roll. Ray Davies and Joe Penhall’s Olivier Award-winning Sunny Afternoon (2014) covers the band’s formative years of 1964–7, when four working- class North London lads broke through to…

    Paperback – 2017-06-13
    Routledge
    The Fourth Wall

  • Lerner and Loewe's My Fair Lady book cover

    Lerner and Loewe's My Fair Lady

    By Keith Garebian

    "An Englishman's way of speaking absolutely classifies him,The moment he talks he makes some other Englishman despise him." - Henry George Bernard Shaw famously refused to permit any play of his "to be degraded into an operetta or set to any music except its own." Allowing his beloved Pygmalion to…

    Paperback – 2016-09-15
    Routledge
    The Fourth Wall

  • Samuel Beckett's Krapp's Last Tape book cover

    Samuel Beckett's Krapp's Last Tape

    By Daniel Sack

    "We lay there without moving. But under us all moved, and moved us." - Krapp Samuel Beckett’s most accessible play is also one of the twentieth century’s most moving dramas about aging, memory, and disappointment. Daniel Sack offers the first comprehensive survey of Krapp’s Last Tape (1958) with a…

    Paperback – 2016-09-15
    Routledge
    The Fourth Wall

  • Thornton Wilder's The Skin of our Teeth book cover

    Thornton Wilder's The Skin of our Teeth

    By Kyle Gillette

    "Ladies and gentlemen, I’m not going to play this particular scene tonight." - Sabina Thornton Wilder’s The Skin of Our Teeth (1942) telescopes an audacious stretch of western history and mythology into a family drama, showing how the course of human events operates like theatre itself: constantly…

    Paperback – 2016-09-15
    Routledge
    The Fourth Wall

  • Heiner Müller's The Hamletmachine book cover

    Heiner Müller's The Hamletmachine

    By David Barnett

    "I’m good Hamlet gi’me a cause for grief" At first glance, readers of The Hamletmachine (1979) could be forgiven for wondering whether it is actually a play at all: it opens with a montage of texts that are not ascribed to a character, there is no vestige of a plot, and the whole piece lasts a…

    Paperback – 2016-09-15
    Routledge
    The Fourth Wall

  • J. M. Synge's The Playboy of the Western World book cover

    J. M. Synge's The Playboy of the Western World

    By Christopher Collins

    ‘I’m thinking this night wasn’t I a foolish fellow not to kill my father in years gone by.’ – Christy Mahon On the first night of J. M. Synge’s The Playboy of the Western World (1907) the audience began protesting in the theatre; by the third night the protests had spilled onto the streets of…

    Paperback – 2016-09-15
    Routledge
    The Fourth Wall

  • Harold Pinter's Party Time book cover

    Harold Pinter's Party Time

    By White G. D.

    ‘All you have do is shut up and enjoy the hospitality.’ Terry Harold Pinter’s Party Time (1991) is an extraordinary distillation of the playwright’s key concerns. Pulsing with political anger, it marks a stepping stone on Pinter’s path from iconic dramatist of existential unease to Nobel…

    Paperback – 2016-09-15
    Routledge
    The Fourth Wall