Stage struck

25th May 2001 at 01:00
20th CENTURY DRAMA. By Frank Downes. Longman pound;6.50 Teacher's Guide pound;18.50 Available from TES Direct pound;6 and pound;16.50

The approach of this collection of excerpts for GCSE students places a strong accent on accessibility, assuming they may be intimidated by Shakespeare. Its simplistic categorisations of 20th-century drama, concentrating on narrative and realism, exclude many modern dramatists, while the notes, comments and explanations are basic and littered with adjectival assertions ("brilliantly structured", "a wonderful drunk"), without any supportive analysis of the playtexts.

Its saving grace is the extracts themselves, which are interesting and meaty, offering real substance. Within the confines of the author's definition of drama, they are selected fom a wide range, from Alan Ayckbourn to Wole Soyinka. There is a particular focus on women writers, with Debbie Horsfield, Shelagh Delaney and Charlotte Keatley, and on northern working-class drama.

The teacher's guide provides background, biographical information and summaries of the plays, which may be useful for a teacher unfamiliar with a playwright. But the photocopiable resources, such as a page with a box on it for note-taking, are hardly worth pound;18.50.

Discussion points and writing tasks make appropriate suggestions for lines of enquiry, but offer no surprises. As a collection of extracts, the pupils' book may be worthwhile, but the teacher's guide offers little more.

Noel Cassidy teaches English at St Albans School, Hertfordshire


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