‘Why put my head on the chopping-block by writing a book hubristically entitled The 101 Greatest Plays?’ wondered the Guardian’s theatre critic Michael Billington recently. But write it he has – and here is the full list for the first time.
Unlike Robert McCrum’s recent list of the 100 best novels Billington allowed himself more than one entry per writer – room for six Shakespeares and two apiece from greats like Molière Goldoni and Ibsen. He has focused on the west ‘simply because of my ignorance of Asian drama’.
But has he made the right decisions? Why is there only one living female playwright in the list? And who has he unfairly overlooked?
As Michael himself says ‘the book was written not out of scholarly omniscience or in a spirit of truculent assurance but as a way of initiating a debate’.