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.
Titles will be around 15,000-18,000 words, priced at £10 and made available in paperback and e-book format. Their audience will consist of:
- Theatregoers looking forward to a new production of an old favourite
- Teachers tackling the canon and looking for a fresh angle
- Undergraduate students looking for an accessible introduction to their set text
Georg Büchner's Woyzeck
Boublil and Schönberg’s Les Misérables
Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Sondheim and Wheeler's Sweeney Todd
Sarah Kane's 4.48 Psychosis
Alistair McDowall's Pomona
July 15, 2019
John Cameron Mitchell and Stephen Trask’s Hedwig and the Angry Inch opened on Valentine’s Day,1998, in New York City, and ever since it and its genderqueer heroine have captivated audiences around the world. As the first musical to feature a genderqueer protagonist as its lead, the show has had an...
February 08, 2019
'Everyone's an abyss. You get dizzy if you look down.' -- Woyzeck Georg Büchner’s Woyzeck was left unfinished at the time of its author’s death in 1837, but the play is now widely recognised as the first ‘modern’ drama in the history of European theatre. Its fragmentary form and critical...
July 16, 2018
"One more dawn! One more day! One day more!" Did Les Misérables make you miserable? Or did it inspire you? When Sarah Whitfield was a teenager, her Dad frequently embarrassed her with his love of this musical above all others. So, after he was diagnosed with late stage cancer, Whitfield set out to...
Michael Y. Bennett
July 11, 2018
Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? shocked audiences and critics alike with its assault on decorum. At base though, the play is simply a love story: an examination of a long-wedded life, filled with the hopes, dreams, disappointments, and pain that accompany the passing of many years...
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...
February 20, 2018
"Everything passes/Everything perishes/Everything palls" – 4.48 Psychosis How on earth do you award aesthetic points to a 75-minute suicide note? The question comes from a review of 4.48 Psychosis’ inaugural production, the year after Sarah Kane took her own life, but this book explores the...
February 14, 2018
‘Who can turn skies back and begin again?’ -Peter This book contends that Peter Grimes, widely regarded as one of the greatest and most influential operas of the 20th century, is also one of the British theatre’s finest ‘lost’ plays. Seeking to liberate Britten and Slater’s work from the...
David Ian Rabey
December 12, 2017
‘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...
October 09, 2017
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...
August 21, 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...
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...
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...