'Waiting for Godot' voted best modern play in English

THE THREE most important plays of the 20th century in the English language were written by an Irishman and two Americans, according to the results of the largest survey yet to determine the key plays of the last 100 years.

Samuel Beckett's Waiting For Godot heads the list. Arthur Miller's Death Of A Salesman is in second place, and Tennessee William's A Streetcar Named Desire is third.

One has to go to fourth place to find a British playwright - John Osborne, with Look Back In Anger. And this work is followed by two American plays.

The National Theatre asked more than 800 playwrights, actors, directors, theatre professionals and arts journalists to nominate 10 English language plays which they considered "significant". When the results were analysed, 188 writers had been nominated for 377 plays. Arthur Miller was the most nominated writer, closely followed by Harold Pinter and Samuel Beckett.

The results form the basis of NT2000, a project in which the National will present platform readings from 100 plays over the next year or discussions with original cast members and playwrights. The series promises some genuine highlights. Already Joan Plowright, who starred in 1959 in the original production of Arnold Wesker's Roots (which is 45th in the list) has said she will come to the National to talk about the play.

The survey to find the century's most popular plays and playwrights has led to much heated bar-room debate among critics and theatre professionals.

Angus MacKechnie, platforms manager at the National, said yesterday: "The Ameri- cans have shown up very well at the top of the list, and that is a bit of a surprise.

"I was surprised that Loot was nominated above What The Butler Saw as that is the best-crafted of all Joe Orton's plays. But the different opinions have made this such an interesting exercise."

Some theatre directors beg to differ from the National's definitive list. Sam Mendes, artistic director of the Donmar Ware- house puts Beckett at the top of his list - but for Endgame rather than Waiting For Godot. Jenny Topper, artistic director of the Hampstead Theatre has Waiting For Godot in second place with Alan Ayckbourn's The Norman Conquests first. Jude Kelly, director of the West Yorkshire Playhouse puts Pinter's The Birthday Party at number one.

Also proving controversial is the decision by the National not to include any musicals, saying the project is about the written word - even though musicals such as Oklahoma, Guys And Dolls and Carousel have been among the National's most popular productions.

That decision has astonished theatre impresarios among them Sir Cameron Mackintosh. "The big musicals have been seen by more people in the 20th century than most plays," he said "So when they use the word 'significant', I would ask significant to whom? Don't the general public count?"

And West End producer Bill Kenwright said: "It's madness. Not only have musicals been significant in the history of the theatre, they have been significant in the history of the National."

THE TOP TEN

1 Waiting for Godot Samuel Beckett 2 Death of a Salesman Arthur Miller 3 A Streetcar Named Desire Tennessee Williams 4 Look Back in Anger John Osborne 5 Long Day's Journey into Night Eugene O'Neill 6 The Crucible Arthur Miller 7= Private Lives Noel Coward / Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead Tom Stoppard 9= Angels in America Tony Kushner/ The Caretaker Harold Pinter

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Sport
The Queen and the letter sent to Charlie
football
Arts and Entertainment
Eurovision Song Contest 2015
EurovisionGoogle marks the 2015 show
News
Two lesbians hold hands at a gay pride parade.
peopleIrish journalist shares moving story on day of referendum
Arts and Entertainment
<p>
<b>Kathryn Williams</b>
</p>
<p>
When I was supporting Ray La Montagne I was six months pregnant. He had been touring for a year and he was exhausted and full of the cold. I was feeling motherly, so I would leave presents for him and his band: Tunnock's Tea Cakes, cold remedies and proper tea. Ray seemed painfully shy. He hardly spoke, hardly looked at you in the face. I felt like a dick speaking to him, but said "hi" every day. </p>
<p>
He was being courted by the same record company who had signed me and subsequently let me go, and I wanted him to know that there were people around who didn't want anything from him. At the Shepherds Bush Empire in London, on the last night of the tour, Ray stopped in his set to thank me for doing the support. He said I was a really good songwriter and people should buy my stuff. I was taken aback and felt emotionally overwhelmed. Later that year, just before I had my boy Louis, I was l asleep in bed with Radio 4 on when Louis moved around in my belly and woke me up. Ray was doing a session on the World Service. </p>
<p>
I really believe that Louis recognised the music from the tour, and when I gave birth to him at home I played Ray's record as something that he would recognise to come into the world with. </p>
booksKathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
News
Liz Kendall played a key role in the introduction of the smoking ban
newsLiz Kendall: profile
Life and Style
techPatent specifies 'anthropomorphic device' to control media devices
Voices
The PM proposed 'commonsense restrictions' on migrant benefits
voicesAndrew Grice: Prime Minister can talk 'one nation Conservatism' but putting it into action will be tougher
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?