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Steven Berkoff the solo plays


Requiem for Ground Zero

Manhattan's lumbering beast / A window cleaner who wiped the tower's eyes / What is fate? Something that points at you

Berkoff´s long poem about the September 11 attacks.  Written shortly after the event, it became a one-man performance at the Edinburgh Festival in 2002.  Well intentioned and genuine, but the poem is not very good.  The imagery is obvious- the planes surf the sky, moments are precious (and two verses later bonds are also precious), overweight ladies waddle and death is grim-faced.  The poem is often very clumsy Hey Jules... It's Brian, I'm on a plane...' he said, / 'That's just been hijacked; it doesn't look good,' he adds.

Requiem for Ground Zero

Another view by site visitor Linda (thanks Linda) is:

I was extremely moved by Steven Berkoff's poem/performance. Hadn't read it first, so might have had a different impression. But in Edinburgh I wound up sitting right in mid front row & was completely mesmerised. Had been a bit apprehensive, ie couldn't imagine how anyone could do justice to the subject matter & feared it might be full of ego. But in the event found the simplicity of the words, images & delivery - the pictures they painted & normality they evoked - served to accentuate the absolute horror. Felt I hardly breathed for the whole hour & rooted to the seat after - just wanted to sob.

Requiem for ground zero

D o g  / Pitbull

Bless ´im ´e´s got a bite like a steel vice he gets excited but he's sweet as a nut really, I swear
And now me and Roy stay at home and watch Rambo movies ´cause he likes them

A day in the life of another strange beast, says Berkoff. But he is referring to the owner rather than the dog Roy. Originally called Pitbull, but published as Dog, this was part of Berkoff´s one man show. In Dog he plays owner and, on the other end of the leash, the dog.

Steven Berkoff One Man- click for source

Shakespeare's villains

Berkoff plays extracts from Shakespeare (Richard III etc) and tells anecdotes. Strangely the Shakespeare is less effective, with Berkoff too much in aggressive mode, but Berkoff´s stories of acting were funny and insightful, in particular the ghost of Olivier, with Berkoff´s good impersonation, and also the ad-libs. When I saw the performance someone left the auditorium and Berkoff ad-libbed on the ghost of the footfalls. In another performance (which I didn't see) someone's mobile phone went off and Berkoff ad-libbed "it'll be for me, it'll be my manager".

Richard Cooper adds: "I was at the performance of Villain when the mobile phone when off. It was in Nottingham Playhouse. He handled the situation really well and because it was so smooth we thought it may have been a plant".

Shakespeares Villains


If I don't work soon, I don't exist I'm glad to hear all your efforts are beginning to bear ... fruit... is that the word?
theatre... its full of the dead...they rake the graveyards...the walking dead
would that farwells bear to grunt

"Years of struggle, unemployment, auditions, begging, letters, agents, directors who didn't re-employ, self-loathing, disappointment, lack of courage, self-worth, self-pity leading to paranoia, neurosis etc- this is the life of an actor". Another one man piece, consisting of 14 short telephone conversations.

Harry's Christmas

Why do I know that no-one will call...why am I certain in every cell of my body that no-one will come here...phone here... you were involved in your own pain and ignored the world get off the cross kid Every human being who touched me...... or I touched the history of my being

"No play I have done received so many responses from people who found in Harry's dilemma and, may I say, agony, echoes in their own lives". Another one man piece, it could be one of Alan Bennet´s Talking Heads in both the insight into people and the over sentimentality.

"At moments- though not many- I was reminded of two of my favourite depressive literary loners: Dostoevsky’s Underground Man (“I am a sick man. I am a spiteful man. I am an unattractive man. I believe my liver is diseased”) and Beckett’s Krapp, who replay their failed lives over and over, picking at the scabs and relishing the pain while trying to find some explanation for their own futility. The key to those texts is the literary artistry that transforms and transcends the depressing subject matter. Berkoff, I’m sorry to say, shows little such artistry here, and the result is not just depressing but dull. Harry’s monologue and stage actions are prosaic, repetitive, unimaginative and banal" (Jerry Wasserman  in vancouverplays reviewing the Carousel Theatre Studio production of the play in 2006, click here).

Berkoff filmed the play as Silent Night.

click for link

The image is of Mark Newsam directed by Jason Bridgeman in Australia, for the source at theatre.asn.au click here.


An attack of conscience, worst than a heart attack

Berkoff's play about film producer Harvey Weinstein after a series of allegations of sexual abuse.  Berkoff played Weinstein, based on his actual words, and to avoid any sympathy for Weinstein creeping in, he has voiceovers by actresses making allegations of sexual assault against Weinstein.  Berkoff was successful in conveying Weinstein, performing mainly from a chair, only at the end standing. 

The play was presented as a work in progress in the Playground Theatre on 12 April 2019.


They Shall Not Pass:
The Battle of Cable Street

14 October 1936 when the Nazi thugs walked down the East End

Berkoff's play about the Battle of Cable Street.

"It is 80 years since the Jewish community of East London and its allies blocked the streets in order to prevent Oswald Mosley and his British Union of Fascists marching through.  The Fascists were subjected to a humiliating defeat as the police found themselves unable to clear a path.  The Battle of Cable Street, as it has become known, is the most popular anti-fascist victory to have taken place on British soil" (from Cable Street website here).

Steven Berkoff in They Shall Not Pass - The Battle of Cable Street

In the premiere performance at the Arcola Theatre in London Berkoff was accompanied by musician Mark Glentworth.  On the DVD there is no music but there are historical stills, but mainly it is Berkoff seated and facing the camera.

Oswald Mosley "the head of this pestilent tribe, the bunch of rogues... the drunks and the misfits need someone to blame".   Berkoff played a character based on Mosley in the film Absolute Beginners.

Berkoff also brings in Jewish food with his usual enthusiasm and also his childhood.  The photo below show the young Berkoff with his mother.

Steven Berkoff and mother

Images from the DVD.

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