Steven Berkoff Original Plays

Salome

A drama-poem, 'Salome' as written by 0scar Wilde mostly in 1891 stirred by his attraction to Lord Alfred Douglas. Taken from the New Testament tale, Herod is so infatuated with his stepdaughter Salome that he promises her on oath up to half his kingdom in return for a favour, a libidinous dance. The favour she demands though is the head of John the Baptist on a plate. The play moves to Herod's battle to break his oath, and Salome's incredible scene with the Baptist´s head.

Reviews:

Cork Examiner:

“Watching the spectacle that is Salome is like sifting grains of a rainbow, with perfect parts of a whole appearing, disappearing, fading off, coming back singly, together in a glowing whole. This is a production of symmetrical beauty.”

 

Chicago Reader;

“ Oscar Wilde would have admired actor-director Steven Berkoff’s staging of Salome the poetic drama Wilde adapted from the biblical tale. Opting for a dark, dream like, slow motion performance evoking the silent films of the 1920s. A piece of powerful, audacious writing.”

With thanks to Phillip Allen for his Youtube musical cover to part of the original play:

Oedipus

Oedipus is a classic story of prophecy, destiny and betrayal.

In his adaptation of the tragedy, Berkoff cuts beneath the rhetoric of the tale and reaches towards its timeless truths. Steven Berkoff's Oedipus premiered at the Liverpool Playhouse in February 2011.

 

 

Reviews:

‘Oedipus’– Liverpool Playhouse

 

Sunday Times;

“His rough, eight strong male chorus clearly represent the ordinary people of Thebes, roaring their lines beautifully, but always clearly like an organised earthquake. This is still the bravest most exciting and moving production of a Greek tragedy I have seen in years.”

 

The Telegraph;

“The most easily admired aspect of the evening is its physical confidence. Simon Merrell plays the self-damned protagonist with a swaggering ease, a glowering presence that commands attention. It's beautiful to look at as they strike poses that recall the disciples gathered around Christ at the last supper.”

With thanks to Phillip Allen for his Youtube musical cover to part of the original play:

Decadence

In the film the two main actors, Steven Berkoff and Joan Collins play two roles each.

''When we came to shooting...the working-class couple, I managed to persuade Joan to reveal herself on screen for the first time ever without make-up. She is at first aghast at my request and probably more aghast than if I had asked her to strip, but she agrees. Suddenly I see a new Joan and she looks young and vital'' (from Tough Acts.

 

Reviews:

Variety;

 

“Decadence is a ripe, belching, heaving power drill satire of Thatcherite Britain. Joan Collins emerges with the greatest credit in a role well suited to her talents.”

 

The Telegraph;

 

“ If Steven Berkoff did not exist we would have to invent him. Berkoff might easily seem absurd but it weren’t for one fact – the size of his ego is matched by the size of his talent. Decadence now revived at Wyndham’s, is a thrilling tour de force. Berkoff lays in to the ruling classes “So called by virtue of strangulated vowel tones rather than any real achievement”. Unforgettable moment Linda Marlowe imagining a fox hunt pretending her lover is her horse. Played by Berkoff and the excellent Linda Marlowe, they are grotesque, mechanised caricatures all twitching limbs and ravenous carnal appetites.”

With thanks to Phillip Allen for his Youtube musical cover to part of the original play:

East

Shakespeare's Villians

East is "a play of boundless vitality. A piece of roller-coasting invention... Its two central characters are a couple of razor-happy randy tearaways of almost total moral repellence and absolute physical charm... Berkoff razzle-dazzles their lifestyle in a tumult of imagery; the language flashes from Shakespearean parody to the shatteringly profane... Restores one's faith and fills the cup of expectation to overflowing". Daily Mail.

The verse plays East (1975), Greek (1980) and West (1983) share the same atmosphere of poetic violence and excitement.

Decadence (1981) saw the form expanded as a further level of sophistication entered.

Other plays in verse are Sink the Belgrano! (1986) an attack on the Falklands war, Massage (1997), Sturm und Drang and the recent The Secret Love Life of Ophelia (2001).

Metamorphosis

Metamorphosis (1969) is Kafka's fable of a man who wakes up turned into a large insect: "the story shook me when I read it and it has clung to me as has most of Kafka's work. I identified strongly with his dream-like stories and his acute perception of detail, detail that is not ordinary and programmed, the detail of life below the frustrations".

The Trial (1970) repeated the critical and commercial success of Metamorphosis, and both are fringe favourites.

The other adaptations are a third Kafka, In the Penal Colony (1969), Poe's The Fall of the House of Usher (1974) and The Tell-Tale Heart, and the classical Greek plays Agamemnon (1973) and Oedipus (2008).

The Trial and The Tell-Tale Heart are available on video. Meditations on Metamorphosis was published as production journal by Berkoff.

 

Reviews:

Sunday Times;

“Connoisseurs of horror which is a legitimate aesthetic experience should on no account

miss Steven Berkoff’s adaptation of Franz Kafka’s ‘Metamorphosis’ which he also directs.

The story is a parable and a terrible one, revolting and pitiable at the same time. The actor

brings it off without the use of any kind of disguise his power resides, not in the triumph

of a make-up department but the devastating grip he establishes over our imagination.”

Shakespeare's Villains is called a Masterclass in Evil. Berkoff explores and analyses Shakespeare's most villainous characters- Iago, the Macbeths, Shylock, Richard III… characters who are inherently evil, others whose situation leads them to evil deeds, others at the mercy of an evil society.

The other solo plays are Harry's Christmas (1985), Dog (1993), Actor (1994). Dog and Actor are often performed together with Poe's The Tell-Tale Heart under the title One Man.

Two-handers include Lunch (1983) and its companion piece The Bow of Ulysses (2002) as well as The Secret Love Life of Ophelia (2001).

Messiah

Messiah (2000) looks at the resurrection. Was Christ divine, or a political victim, or a clever manipulator? A piece for chorus and actors, using typical Berkoff mime as the devil, Pilate, Mary etc. develop the story.

Medium scale works are Kvetch (1986), Acapulco (1990) written while Berkoff was filming Rambo, Brighton Beach Scumbags (1991) and the recent Sit and Shiver (2004).

The other large scale works are Dahling You were Marvellous (intended as a television play) and Ritual in Blood (2001).

Coriolanus

"My chorus for Coriolanus will be all men, a combination of soldiers, rebels, citizens, servants and messengers. A team will evolve like a corps de ballet and that is what it shall be... the heart of the production". Shakespeare's play about Caius Marcus who has military successes but cannot handle raw emotion.

Other plays directed by Berkoff include Hamlet, Richard II and Oscar Wilde's Salome.

Coriolanus and Salome are available on video. I am Hamlet and Coriolanus in Deutschland were published as production journals by Berkoff.

With thanks to Alastair Muir for the photo.

Reviews:

New York Newsday;

“ The words ‘entertaining’ and ‘Coriolanus’ are not often said in the same breath but

here they are – bizarrely right together in Steven Berkoff’s updated and truncated,

impertinent, overboard but overwhelmingly beautiful production that opened Sunday

at the Public Theatre.”

 

New York Post;

“ On the other hand, these choric gangland shenanigans – are mostly choreographed

in a jerkily balletic expressionist style not unlike Kurt Jooss’ ‘The Green Table’ does

not run against the spirit of the play which pits this vainglorious boy/general against

the people.”

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