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The Secret Life of Plays

The Secret Life of Plays

By Steve Waters
Imprint: Nick Hern Books
Paperback : 9781848420007, 224 pages, April 2011


A guide to the hidden workings of plays and the trade secrets that govern their writing—by the acclaimed playwright Steve Waters.

Drawing on a wide range of drama, both historical and modern, Waters takes the reader through the key elements of dramatic writing—scenes, acts, space, time, characters, language and images—to show how a play is more than the sum of its parts, with as much inner vitality as a living organism.

Almost uniquely amongst accounts of playwriting, Waters' book looks at the ways in which good plays move their audiences, generating powerful emotional responses that often defy conventional analysis.

The Secret Life of Plays is for playwrights at any stage of their career, and will inspire and inform drama students as well as working actors and directors. Most of all it is for anyone who has ever laughed or cried in the theatre—and wants to know why.


"Steve Waters' book is like his plays: clear, elegant and stimulating throughout. "

- David Edgar

'Waters analyses what makes plays work on stage, discussing—brilliantly—Hamlet and Woyzeck as examples of structure and characterisation, thereby opening new understandings of drama for everyone. "

- Christopher Innes, Times Higher Education Supplement

"Thrilling. .. crammed with good, old-fashioned close reading of a diverse range of plays, which means that although Waters does primarily address those who write for the theatre, he does not forget those who like watching and reading it. "

- Times Literary Supplement

"Essential for aspiring playwrights. "