All the men and women merely players: books about theatres

I had a request on Twitter for books about theatres, and seeing as that is quite a wide topic, I have split some options into fiction featuring theatres in an interesting way and non-fiction talking about theatres (mostly Shakespeare, though nothing I actually read for my Shakespeare MA funnily enough).


  • Miss Treadway and the Field of Stars by Miranda Emmerson – This isn’t just about theatres, but it is a novel with its heart in the 1960s London theatre scene. It focuses on an actress who goes missing and how her dresser attempts to track down her whereabouts, plus has a big focus on social injustice of the time.
  • Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters – Waters’ novel isn’t famed just for being about the theatre, but its representation of Victorian melodrama, stage success, and gender on stage are fantastic, and it’s a very enjoyable read.
  • Evelina by Fanny Burney – Theatres (and pleasure gardens) play an important part in this fun eighteenth-century novel about an innocent girl who ends up finding out a lot about life, good and bad. There are a lot of extended descriptions of her going to the theatre and everybody’s reactions and social etiquette.


  • The Genius of Jane Austen by Paula Byrne – This is a book about Jane Austen’s interest in the theatre which gives a lot of detail about the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century stage and also has a fantastic final chapter about less traditional Hollywood adaptations of Austen.
  • Hamlet: Globe to Globe by Dominic Dromgoole – This is the former artistic director of the Globe theatre’s account of their taking Hamlet to (almost) every country in the world, which gives an insight into the endeavour whilst also admitting that theatre both can and can’t change the world.
  • Shakespeare And Co by Stanley Wells – A very readable account of the other playwrights around at the same time as Shakespeare, which gives a good idea of the early modern theatre and admits that it was a collaborative affair.
  • The English Shakespeare Company by Michael Bogdanov and Michael Pennington – Apologies for all the Shakespeare, but I really love this book, which is written by the creators of the English Shakespeare Company about their tour of the history plays in the 1980s, with funding struggles, life issues, and attempts to make the history plays subversive and relevant.