Modern theatre is a dynamic and constantly evolving art form. It is a space where playwrights can take established conventions, interrogate them and reinvent them in bold new ways. Modern theatre frequently experiments with different theatrical techniques, recurrent themes and challenging content. Modern theatre often uses subversive or unconventional elements to provoke an audience or challenge their perceptions of the world. Plays can explore strange or fantastical worlds, highlight issues of identity, question the role of art in society or address universal topics through surrealist performance. As such, there are many different plays in Modern Theatre. This article explains some of the most popular plays in Modern Theatre and what they represent within this ever-changing art form.
The most famous work by Samuel Beckett is also one of the most popular plays in Modern Theatre. Happy Days was first performed in 1956 and is set in a vague and indeterminate period, although it is often interpreted as a critique of post-WWII France. It centers on two characters, Winnie and her friend, Willie. Winnie is a woman who has been confined to a bed for unknown reasons, while Willie is an unkempt man who frequently goes on long monologues. While the play is often described as very difficult to understand, with many academics debating its meaning, it remains one of the most popular plays in Modern Theatre.
Angels in America
A two-part play that has been adapted into both a television series and an Oscar-winning film, Angels in America is one of the most popular plays in Modern Theatre. First performed in two parts in 1991 and 1992 respectively, Angels in America is set in New York City during the 1980s. It follows the lives of two people: a man named Prior Walter, who is living with HIV/AIDS, and his friend, a Jewish doctor named Louis. The play deals with many political and social issues, including the AIDS crisis, the conservative Reagan administration, anti-Semitism, the era’s treatment of LGBTQ+ people and more. Angels in America is an incredibly ambitious and complex play that pushes the boundaries of the theatre form.
The Elephant Man
The Elephant Man was written by Bernard Pomerance in 1979, and it was first performed on Broadway in 1980. It has also been adapted into a film and a musical. The play is set in Victorian London and centres on the famous real-life figure Joseph Merrick, a man who had severe physical abnormalities due to Proteus syndrome. Merrick became a famous figure in Victorian society, even famously meeting with Queen Victoria. The play explores Merrick’s life and his relationships with various other characters, such as the doctor who treats him and the manager of the freak show in which Merrick works. The Elephant Man is a play about humanity and compassion, and it is one of the most popular plays in Modern Theatre.
American Idiot was written by Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong, who also starred in the show’s Broadway production. First performed in 2010, American Idiot was adapted from the band’s 2004 album of the same name. The play is set in a post-9/11 world, and it explores the experiences of three friends who feel disillusioned and alienated from society. As the three friends come together to form a band, they question their future and the path they are on. American Idiot is an energetic and provocative play that is heavily influenced by punk rock. It is one of the most popular plays in Modern Theatre thanks to its blend of musical theatre and rock ‘n’ roll.
A View from the Bridge
A View from the Bridge was written by American playwright Arthur Miller in 1955, and it was first performed on Broadway in 1956. A View from the Bridge tells the story of Eddie, an elderly man who lives with his niece and her husband in an industrial New York City neighborhood. Eddie has an obsession with a young Italian woman who lives in the neighborhood, and the play follows Eddie’s increasingly desperate attempts to keep her as his own. A View from the Bridge was written during the Red Scare, a period of intense paranoia about communism in the United States. The play has been interpreted as a critique of that era, with Eddie standing in for the American people. A View from the Bridge is one of the most popular plays in Modern Theatre.
Black Watch is the most famous play by the Scottish writer David Greig. It is a play about conflict and examines the lives of four Scottish soldiers in the British army as they prepare to leave for Iraq. Black Watch is a very political play that engages directly with contemporary political issues. It has been described as both “a lament for what is past” and also “a cry for what is yet to come.” Greig’s play has been very successful both in Scotland and on the international stage. It is one of the most popular plays in Modern Theatre and has been performed in many countries around the world.