Page extent: 272
ISBN: 9781783192083
Binding: PaperBack

The Time Traveller's Guide to British Theatre: The First 400 Years

Aleks Sierz, Lia Ghilardi

PaperBack (02 Mar 2015)

British theatre is booming. But where do these beautiful buildings and exciting plays come from? And when did the story start? To find out we time travel back to the age of the first Queen Elizabeth in the sixteenth century, four hundred years ago when there was not a single theatre in the land. In the company of a series of well-characterised fictional guides, the eight chapters of the book explore how British theatre began, grew up and developed from the 1550s to the 1950s.

The Time-Traveller's Guide to British Theatre tells the story of the movers and shakers, the buildings, the playwrights, the plays and the audiences that make British theatre what it is today. It covers all the great names — from Shakespeare to Terence Rattigan, by way of Oscar Wilde and George Bernard Shaw — and the classic plays, many of which are still revived today, visits the venues and tells their dramatic stories. It is an accessible, journalistic account of this subject which, while based firmly on extensive research and historical accuracy, describes five centuries of British creativity in an interesting and relevant way. It is celebratory in tone, journalistic in style and accurate in content.

Additional Information

ISBN13 9781783192083
Binding PaperBack
Page Extent 272


'I am bowled over by The Time Traveller’s Guide to British Theatre... I’ve read many histories of theatre in my time, some very dry and academic and others rather more basic and banal for young readers or people still in the foothills of the Everest of theatre history. But never before have I chortled and marvelled my way through anything quite so informative and entertaining – and for the authors to have done both with such aplomb is quite an achievement... Had I not also read Antony Sher’s outstanding – but completely different – Year of the Fat Knight a couple of months ago I would have had no hesitation in declaring that The Time Traveller’s Guide to British Theatre is the best theatre book I’ve read in years. As it is, I’m just thankful I shan’t have to choose between them.' Susan Elkin, The Stage

‘A great deal of research and erudition has been expended to ensure that readers will learn much about British theatre in the 405 year the period from 1550, when the authors suggest that the modern play was born...This book is the perfect introduction to British theatre ... even those who know a great deal about the subject will be entertained and learn a great deal as they enjoy this page turner.’ British Theatre Guide

‘An immensely entertaining, informative guide to 400 years of British theatre that wears its considerable learning lightly.’ Michael Billington (Guardian)

‘It combines the latest insights of today with the story of yesterday. It reads like a fast-moving ride on a theatre-go-round — only much more informative. The gossip is fun, too.’ Sir Christopher Frayling

‘From Elizabethan penny stinkards to iffy, unstoppable Binkie Beaumont, here is a spry, vivid overview of that throbbing and wondrous organism, British theatre.’ Quentin Letts (Daily Mail)

‘It's an entertaining, original and imaginative bird's eye view of British theatre - writers, actors, customs, audiences, social commentary - from Shakespeare to Rattigan conducted by a group of amusingly characterised official guides of each period. Ideal for students and fans alike, there's nothing remotely comparable in the contemporary library of theatre history.’ Michael Coveney, What’s On Stage

‘A cheerful romp, an excellent gift for the theatre-mad among your family and friends, and it’s likely you’ll pick up a few interesting nuggets of theatrical history yourself, no matter your own expertise.’ George Hunka

'Dividing the journey into chapters on commonly recognised periods of theat­rical history – Elizabethan, Jaco­bean, Res­toration, etc – and taking us up to the edge of the kitchen sink era in the mid-1950s, Sierz and Ghilardi (and illus­trator James Illman) guide readers through a mixture of history and anec­dote, pen portraits of writers, actors, producers and directors, insight into the notable plays of each period and the changing themes with which they deal and accounts of important moments in theatrical history – not to mention the all-too-frequent attempts to suppress and censor drama.

They use a series of period characters to tell the story rather than offering a straightforward narrative, which is a slightly schoolbookish conceit, but it works well, and the result is entertaining and informative. This is not the detailed historical analysis of an academic treatise, but a book for theatre lovers who want the missing links in their knowledge of the art joined with a bit of humour, as well as comprehensive research.’ Tribune