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The Fourth Wall


About the Series

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.

22 Series Titles

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Sondheim and Wheeler's Sweeney Todd

Sondheim and Wheeler's Sweeney Todd

1st Edition

By Aaron C. Thomas
March 20, 2018

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 ...

Sondheim and Lapine's Into the Woods

Sondheim and Lapine's Into the Woods

1st Edition

By Olaf Jubin
August 15, 2017

‘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...

Davies and Penhall's Sunny Afternoon

Davies and Penhall's Sunny Afternoon

1st Edition

By John Fleming
June 13, 2017

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 ...

Tim Crouch's An Oak Tree

Tim Crouch's An Oak Tree

1st Edition

By Catherine Love
June 13, 2017

‘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 ...

Samuel Beckett's Krapp's Last Tape

Samuel Beckett's Krapp's Last Tape

1st Edition

By Daniel Sack
September 15, 2016

"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...

Harold Pinter's Party Time

Harold Pinter's Party Time

1st Edition

By White G. D.
September 15, 2016

‘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 ...

Heiner Müller's The Hamletmachine

Heiner Müller's The Hamletmachine

1st Edition

By David Barnett
September 15, 2016

"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 ...

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

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

1st Edition

By Christopher Collins
September 15, 2016

‘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 ...

Lerner and Loewe's My Fair Lady

Lerner and Loewe's My Fair Lady

1st Edition

By Keith Garebian
September 15, 2016

"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 ...

Thornton Wilder's The Skin of our Teeth

Thornton Wilder's The Skin of our Teeth

1st Edition

By Kyle Gillette
September 15, 2016

"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...

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