Focal Press: Book Series

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 Lapine's Into the Woods

    By Olaf Jubin

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

    Paperback – 2017-08-08 
    Routledge
    The Fourth Wall

  • 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 – 2017-06-27 
    Routledge
    The Fourth Wall

  • Davies and Penhall's Sunny Afternoon

    By John Fleming

    ‘They make the Rolling Stones look like US Marines’ – police officer 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…

    Paperback – 2017-06-27 
    Routledge
    The Fourth Wall

  • 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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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