Can we have proper plays please?

Looking at the West Yorkshire Playhouse programme for the first part of 2017, I am struck by the fact that three of the Big Shows are not properly plays at all, but adaptations for the stage of famous films and novels: La Strada, The Graduate and The Grapes of Wrath. This seems to be a trend, and WYP is certainly not unique in going this way, even The Shawshank Redemption (one of the most loved films of all time) is now a play, but it worries me.

Of course, adaptations of existing source material have been a feature of the stage since Shakepeare’s day and probably long before. Sometimes they are incredibly successful (Susan Hill’s The Woman in Black for example), but are these adaptations really justified artistically or are they – as I fear – a cynical way of getting an audience by trading on the reputation of something that is already successful, well-known and popular? I struggle to imagine what a stage version of The Graduate will bring to the table to replace the magical chemistry between Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft.

There are so many great plays out there. The greats of the canon; forgotten works that should be revived; young new talent. Wouldn’t it be better to concentrate on these?

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