Play acting

18th September 1998 at 01:00
PLAYFORMS: seven scripts for secondary drama. By James Saunders and Robin Rook. Cambridge University Press Pounds 4.50.

A modern morality play, a fantasy set in suburbia and a farce of middle-class manners all feature in this short collection of scripts.

Some of the plays work better than others. "Naturalism" and "farce" lend themselves quite easily to contemporary render-ings, but "Brechtian" theatre might have been better served by a short piece of Brecht, and "absurdism" by an extract from, say, Adamov or Ionesco. Sim-ilarly, the authors' melodrama is not quite 19th-century pastiche nor does it sit comfortably in the present day where pupils' experience of melodrama is most likely to be in the form of an episode of EastEnders or Brookside. Genre is bound by history; pulled from their historicalcontexts, some of these examples seem a bit stranded.

It is good to see a volume that broaches the subject of dramatic genre and does so in such an accessible way. For some young readers it may be their first glimpse of the dramatic possibilities that lie beyond spontaneous role-play and improvisation.

David Hornbrook is arts inspector for the London borough of Camden.

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