Literature Reviews

Play Review: The Romans in Britain


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Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Play: The Romans in Britain

Playwright: Howard Brenton

Genre: Historical

Publication Date: 1 Jun. 1988

Publisher: Methuen

Where to buy: The Romans in Britain

Summary: “The Romans in Britain contrasts Julius Caesar’s Roman invasion of Celtic Britain with the Saxon invasion of Romano-Celtic Britain, and finally Britain’s involvement in Northern Ireland during The Troubles of the late twentieth century.” (Source: Amazon)

Trigger Warnings: violence, rape, war, death.

Interesting contrast, but horrendous to read

It is certainly a play that I will not read again, but I may see it as it may make more sense onstage.

Brenton’s play draws on the concept that humanity has not changed over the course of history. I believe the intention of Brenton’s drama is to insinuate that although these specific events appear quite different from each other, they all are built on the same foundation of fear.

There is one particular scene which was rather controversial at the time (1980s) concerning sexual violence. It is overall a rather violent play which draws on colonialism. I think it is important to remember that theatre is about the expression of the times. Despite this, I struggled to read the play due to the amount of tension produced from the play’s content.

Why did I read it?

It was required university reading for my Theatre course.

Does the playwright have other works?

Howard Brenton has written several plays, such as Pravda, Bloody Poetry, and In Extremis.


I did not enjoy reading it at times due to its xenophobic content, however, I would like to see the visual contrast of history onstage one day.

– Melissa Jennings

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