Playwriting – Structure, Character, How and What to Write  

By Stephen Jeffreys
Published by NHB

The late Stephen Jeffreys (he died last year) was one of the most respected figures in the playwriting world. With plays such as The Libertine, A Jovial Crew and a world-renowned adaptation of Hard Times under his belt, he ran a highly influential series of workshops for 20 years. This posthumously published book, edited by Maeve McKeown with foreword by April De Angelis, has been in development for a long time.

His gift is his ability to break the art of writing a play into accessible digestible components without ever patronising the reader or dumbing down – actually the mark of a fine teacher in any discipline.

His opening section structure examines (with examples such as three stage Macbeth) different sorts of stories. Then he moves on to character and how a playwright might explore an individual’s story, breadth and depth. The third section is about writing methodology including dialogue, subtext and angle. Finally he moves on to finding material – from research, specific experience, history, novels, films and so on. It’s all very practical as well as immensely informative. No wonder Stephen Daldry is quoted on the cover saying: “What Stephen Jeffreys doesn’t know about playwriting isn’t worth knowing”

There’s plenty of very useful advice and discussion here for any teacher toying with the idea of writing a play or guiding students wanting or needing to.