Steven Berkoff books
Berkoff´s plays have all been published. As well as plays he has written short stories and most interestingly books about staging plays. These often give extremely useful insights into particular plays and into writing, directing and acting in general. They are also very enjoyable. You can purchase the plays on the shop page.
Sod the Bitches!
Berkoff's first novel.
Tales from an Actor's Life
More writing on being an actor Steven from 2011 "there is a camaraderie amongst actors that is quite rare in other performing arts since that they are doing is basically unravelling their lives in front of you."
Diary of a Juvenile Delinquent
An autobiography by Steven from 2010 "I think we all have an obsession to peep into the distant past and not just our own, but others whose lives have sunk into oblivion."
The Collected Plays, Volumes 1,2 and 3
The collected volumes include some short but sharp introductions by Berkoff, I have included some quotes in my descriptions of the plays. For beginners Volume 1 is best, and includes East. Volume 2 has many of his one-man plays. Volume 3 has the historical plays.
Volume 1: East, West, Greek, Sink the
Belgrano!, Massage, Lunch, Bow of Ulysses, Sturm und
Kafka adapted by Berkoff: The
Trial, Metamorphosis and In the Penal Colony.
Fiction and poetry
Gross Intrusion and other stories 1979
Early stories by Berkoff, with Gross being a
good description of some of them as Berkoff looks at
aspects of sexuality, but more to shock than to reveal
insights. Berkoff is not really a short story
writer, but some are worth reading:
This lack of self knowledge is similar to his claim to have perfected a Scots accent in Prisoner of Rio and Shakespeare's Villains, when in fact it sounds like the sort of thing a drunk would do when impersonating Rob Roy. The paperback version includes the extra stories Hell and Actor.
Requiem for Ground Zero 2002
Berkoff´s well-intentioned but not very good poem about 11 September. 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. The best verse is the personal one: My irony, we play the death of Christ, / I take a needed break to rest my bones, / I switch the TV on to kill the time / And watch time killed in screams and horrid moans.
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.
Graft: tales of an actor 1998
A collection of related short stories about
Harry (an autobiographical failed Berkoff). From the
initial audition to enter actors school to the end of a
career each story picks out a part of Harry's existence
There are some good insights into acting and
Sometimes Berkoff does come too close to sentimentality.
On specific plays, acting and productions
I am Hamlet 1989
Very detailed notes, almost line by line, of Berkoff´s interpretation of Hamlet.
pangs of dispriz´d love
thee to a nunnery
A Prisoner in Rio 1989
Berkoff´s diary during the writing and filming of the film about the British Great Train Robber, Ronnie Biggs, in Rio de Janeiro.
It gets worse and worse. Some kind of horror creeps over me. I have to escape. Grotesque abuse of performers spending all night doing a scene of walking up and down stairs, or spending hours driving pointlessly around. All this will be cut.
Coriolanus in Deutschland 1992
We repeat the scene where the citizens come on like birds flying in to feed on corn...I enjoy the sweep and flow of the scene and how it visually and textually fits and discharges into the air a real sense of the danger to come
Meditations on Metamorphosis 1995
A diary of Berkoff in Japan
staging Metamorphosis. Both the autobiographical
Richard II in New York 1994 published 2008
An older woman in a red duffel coat sits on a stool at the end of Pete's Diner smoking a perpetual cigarette... it is a perfect simulation of a Hopper painting. That reminds me of Richard II, which I am here to direct. We expect the usual flamboyant opening, expect it so much that we protect ourselves against it. We brace ourselves for the expected... We want to be touched deeply but mustn't strive for the obvious and be an easy lay.
On acting and his life
Three Theatre Manifestos 1978
Published in Gambit magazine in 1978, Berkoff´s theory of theatre. Essential reading!!
Get rid of all the covering and social mannerisms of careerism and all protective attitudes. Be a sacrifice and live dangerously.
Poetry and essays. It is no longer available, but most of the essays are included in Overview. The essays are good though the poetry is generally not particularly good
We'll get you in the end,
There are some interesting moments
oh god, oh god, oh god, oh god,
The Theatre of Steven Berkoff 1992
Mainly black and white photos of his work as a director/writer as well as actor. It gives a good feeling for the staging of such works as The Trial. The front cover photo, which I use of the start page of the site, is by Robert Pederson.
Short autobiographical essays, including some previously included in America. Typically Berkoff is staging a play (so in control) or acting in a film (so under someone else's control). He writes at breakfast when he turns up before anyone else, and keeps himself away from other people. He will train at the gym and go jogging. For lunch he will go to different places, seeking out the obscure. When he sees cameras in a shop he wants to buy them but feels guilty at the expense, eventually does buy one then feels shy at using the hi-tech giant lens toy.
He describes a concert of the ageing singer
Free Association 1996
Steven Berkoff´s enjoyable and informative autobiography.
He describes his role in War and Remembrance
with typical modesty
but he also knows when not to take himself too
Shopping in the Santa Monica Mall 2000
to Overview, Berkoff is again in cafes or hotel
breakfasts waiting for a performance of a play (Salome)
or a film (Flynn). The writing is good as Berkoff avoids his
prose pitfalls of metaphors that are just too forced, and
over-sentimental descriptions of women.
And there are sharp observations
and equally sharp condemnations
Enjoyable but it does cover old territory. He needs to get out more.
Tough Acts 2003
Berkoff writing about people he has worked with, including Kubrick and Polanski, Eddie Murphy and Sylvester Stallone, Joan Collins and Al Pacino. Recommended.
As it happened, Sly [Sylvester Stallone] dropped out of the movie [Beverly Hills Cop] and his role as a tough cop was taken over by Eddie Murphy , who turned the film info a raving black comedy, which shows how close any situation can be to humour"
My Life in Food 2007
"Actor, writer and director Steven Berkoff has
had an obsession with food commencing with his earliest
childhood memories at his mothers table and
developed through his travels around the world as an
actor out on tour. Away from the comforts of family and
home cooking, food took on the role of companion and
You remind me of Marilyn Monroe 2009
Steven Berkoff's book of poetry "You Remind Me of Marilyn Monroe" is described as "From sensuous, stream-of-consciousness declarations of love to a brooding meditation on the wreckage of a relationship, this collection of an acclaimed playwright's verse gives us an intimate glimpse into his thoughts, pains and passions."
Diary of a Juvenile Delinquent 2010
Berkoff's autobiography covering his childhood through to entering acting school. Well worth reading, both insightful and beautifully written with painful insights.
What is a suit but a kind of outer skin, a coat or a bird's plumage as it matures and seeks to attract suitable females to its exotic and glorious image.
and on being in solitary confinement in a children's prison
if there was anything I loathed more than anything, it was being left alone. But there I was, and to pass the time I was given rusty metal trays to scrape
Tales from an Actor's Life 2011
More reflections by Steven are now available. "Acting must be one of the strangest professions since the rules are so flexible and few can agree even on the simplest of them".
Steven Berkoff and the Theatre of Self-Performance 2004
Robert Cross´ critical examination of Berkoff´s work. A useful and long-needed appraisal of Berkoff. Recommended.
Bedside Guardian 1991
A compilation of articles from The Guardian. Berkoff writes a short article No one left to blame from 6 Dec 1990. Berkoff picks up on a previous article by Howard Brenton. After referring to him as a distinguished playwright, he then lashes out at him. Berkoff rejects the people who rely on subsidised theatre, and take no initiatives of their own. Like a lot of Berkoff vective, the argument is weakened by the vehemence.
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