Oct. 09, 2017
Theatre has a reputation for edgy plays and ‘going there’ that few other mediums can match. There’s something about being metres from the site of something horrible taking place that truly lets it sink in. As one of the only forms of popular entertainment for a good chunk of history, theatre was one of the only places where people could be transgressive.
If you’ve got strong nerves (and sometimes a strong stomach) then check out these plays that have pushed the envelope, from 411 B.C. to the modern day.
Lysistrata by Aristophanes
As the Peloponnesian War grinds on, one Greek woman organizes a strike to end the war- a sex strike. This is an explicitly feminist, pacifist play from a time when slavery was still uncontroversial, enlivened by gender stereotypes and raunchy humour that will resonate with modern viewers. Being so anti-war, it has been banned in many places, including modern Russia.
Titus Adronicus by William Shakespeare
The Bard’s dramatic debut is also his most violent and nihilistic. A Roman general and Goth queen are caught up in a cycle of vengeance that ends horribly for everyone involved. A commercial smash in its time that has since fell out of favour, and has only recently started to be performed again—though its positive portrayal of what today we’d call honour-killing may turn modern viewers off.
Mrs. Warren’s Profession by George Bernard Shaw
The profession in question is brothel owner, which wasn’t exactly okay with Victorian audiences. The avowedly socialist playwright wanted to show the lack of opportunity available to women at the time—everyone else thought that he wanted to corrupt society. The play is hardly offensive by today’s standards, so it’s become a Broadway staple.
Equus by Peter Schaffer
A teenage boy has blinded six horses with a steel spike- but why? This often-performed modern play dives deep into themes of madness, bestiality and theology, making it a tough play to watch, but incredibly rewarding.
Angels in America by Tony Kushner
Any play in which AIDs and Christianity come up together is likely to be poorly received in the US, and even more so nowadays, since this 1993 play prominently features real-life closeted gay man and AIDs death Roy Cohn, who was Donald Trump’s lawyer for many years.
The Book of Mormon by Matt Stone and Trey Parker
Two naive Mormon missionaries in Africa are confronted by the reality of the continent and find their faith tested… and one accidentally starts a new religion. The creators of South Park are huge Broadway buffs, and that comes across in musical numbers that’ll have you tapping your toes while you’re asking yourself ‘did they really just say that?’
Do you have an idea for an edgy play that we should produce? Contact us and let us know!