Naturalistic/realistic drama

Plays

2nd May 1997

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Jack Thorne's play 2nd May 1997 is a drama set over the course of the 1997 UK General Election in which the Labour Party under the leadership of Tony Blair won a landslide victory over the Conservatives. The play presents three separate personal stories from different points on the political spectrum as the scale of Labour's victory becomes clear. It was first performed at the Bush Theatre, London, on 8 September 2009 in a co-production with nabokov theatre company, in association with Watford Palace Theatre and Mercury Theatre Colchester.

The action takes place in three bedrooms over the course of the night following the election, and the morning after. In Part One, set just before midnight, Tory MP Robert prepares to attend the electoral count. With defeat looming large, he fears becoming a forgotten man, while his wife Marie counts the cost of her sacrifice to politics. In Part Two, set in the early hours of the morning, Lib Dem footsoldier Ian has brought home party-crasher Sarah from an election get-together, but they’re about to connect in a way neither of them expected. Lastly, in Part Three, teenage best friends Jake and Will wake up to a new political reality, with a new set of Cabinet ministers to memorise before their A-level Politics class. Jake dreams of Number 10 and a life in politics, while Will dreams of Jake.

In his introduction to Jack Thorne Plays: One (Nick Hern Books, 2014), Thorne writes: '2nd May 1997 was and is my attempt to write a political play without the politics. ... I wanted to tell the story of that election from all sides. I was also frustrated by my inability to write a play about anyone else but me, so doing a triptych – inspired by David Eldridge’s Under the Blue Sky – felt like an opportunity to force myself outside of my comfort zone. Three political parties, three love stories, one night.'

The Bush Theatre premiere was directed by George Perrin and designed by Hannah Clark. It was performed by James Barrett, Geoffrey Beevers, Linda Broughton, Jamie Samuel, Hugh Skinner and Phoebe Waller-Bridge. The production then embarked on a regional UK tour.

3 Sisters on Hope Street

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

3 Sisters on Hope Street is a re-imagining of Chekhov’s classic play Three Sisters, set amongst the Jewish community in wartime Liverpool and written by playwright Diane Samuels and actor/writer Tracy-Ann Oberman.

Liverpool, 1946. A year after the sudden death of their father, sisters Gertie, May and Rita Lasky share their once grand home on Hope Street with their asthmatic brother Arnold, Auntie Beil (who still keeps her packed suitcase under the spare bed) and an old family friend Dr Nate Weinberg (who claims, hand on heart, to be on the wagon). As the sisters regularly welcome GIs and pilots from the nearby American base, each continues her own search for meaning amidst the shattered remains of their city, in a rapidly changing world.

3 Sisters on Hope Street was first performed at the Everyman Theatre in Liverpool in 2008 before transferring to Hampstead Theatre in London.

3 Winters

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Tena Štivičić’s play 3 Winters follows a single Croatian family living in Zagreb throughout the vicissitudes of the nation's history between 1945 and 2011. It was first performed in the Lyttelton auditorium of the National Theatre, London, on 3 December 2014 (previews from 26 November) and went on to win the 2015 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize.

The play's action is set in and around the Kos family house in Zagreb, Croatia, in three alternating time periods: November 1945, January 1990, and November 2011 (with the exception of the first scene, which takes place in an office in Zagreb in 1945). In 1945 we see Rose, with her mother, husband and their baby daughter, Maša, moving into a partitioned house at the time of the victory of Tito’s communist partisans. By 1990, Maša and her history-teacher husband, Vlado, are occupying the same house, with their young daughters, at the very moment when Croatia and Slovenia are about to break up the dominant Yugoslavian communist regime. Finally we meet the Kos family in 2011 when Maša’s youngest daughter, Lucija, is about to marry an avaricious entrepreneur and Croatia is on the brink of joining the capitalist club of the European Union.

In an article published on the National Theatre's blog (http://national-theatre.tumblr.com/post/103126868756/tena-%C5%A1tivi%C4%8Di%C4%87-on-3-winters), Štivičić writes: 'The very first moments of inspiration for this play came from stories in my family. My mother’s, my aunt’s, my grandmother’s and even my great grandmother’s when I was very little. These women spoke in very different voices, each with a different set of tools, or in fact, lack of tools to express their circumstances and articulate the plight of their life.'

The National Theatre premiere was directed by Howard Davies and designed by Tim Hatley. It was performed by Charlotte Beaumont, Lucy Black, Susan Engel, Siobhan Finneran, Daniel Flynn, Hermione Gulliford, Jo Herbert, Alex Jordan, Gerald Kyd, James Laurenson, Jonny Magnanti, Jodie McNee, Alex Price, Adrian Rawlins, Sophie Rundle, Bebe Sanders and Josie Walker.

After the Dance

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Terence Rattigan’s After the Dance – an attack on the hedonistic lifestyle of the ‘bright young things’ of the 1920s and 30s – signalled a more serious direction in his writing after the relative frivolity of the hugely successful French Without Tears. It was first produced at the St James’s Theatre, London, on 21 June l939.

The play's action takes place in the drawing-room of the Scott-Fowlers’ flat in Mayfair, a fashionable part of London. David Scott-Fowler is a successful writer who revels in his hard-drinking and hard-partying lifestyle. He and his wife Joan are still clinging to their Twenties heydays, and are joined in their plush flat by parasitic lodger, John. However, not everyone is convinced by their constant jollities. David’s cousin Peter and his earnest wife Helen remain unimpressed by their almost wilful evasion of their responsibilities. Helen’s attempt to reform David sparks a relationship between the two that turns to love. As a result, Joan, unable to wrestle her husband back, throws herself off the balcony during one of their parties. In the final act, John persuades David, now a broken man, that his relationship with Helen will not survive the heartbreak of losing Joan. But David has no intention of learning from past mistakes and would rather drink himself to death than face the reality of his home life and the looming threat of global war

The premiere production was directed by Michael Macowan, with Martin Walker as John Reid, Hubert Gregg as Peter Scott-Fowler, Gordon Court as Williams, Catherine Lacey as Joan Scott-Fowler, Anne Firth as Helen Banner, Robert Kempson as Dr George Banner, Viola Lyel as Julia Browne, Leonard Coppins as Cyril Carter, Robert Harris as David Scott-Fowler, Millicent Wolf as Moya Lexington, Osmund Willson as Lawrence Walters, Henry Caine as Arthur Power and Lois Heatherley as Miss Potter.

The production opened in June 1939 to euphoric reviews, but only a month later the European crisis was darkening the national mood and audiences began to dwindle. The play was pulled in August after only sixty performances.

The play subsequently sank into obscurity until a BBC TV revival in 1994. It was revived by the Oxford Stage Company at Salisbury Playhouse in October 2002, and subsequently at the National Theatre, London, in June 2010 in a production directed by Thea Sharrock with a cast including Benedict Cumberbatch, Nancy Carroll and Adrian Scarborough.

#aiww: The Arrest of Ai Weiwei

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Howard Brenton's #aiww: The Arrest of Ai Weiwei is about the detainment and interrogation of Chinese artist Ai Weiwei by the Chinese authorities in 2011. The play, which is based on Ai Weiwei’s own account in Barnaby Martin’s book Hanging Man (first published March 2013), was first performed at Hampstead Theatre, London, on 11 April 2013.

On 3 April 2011, as he was boarding a flight to Taipei, Ai Weiwei was arrested at Beijing Airport. Advised merely that his travel ‘could damage state security’, he was escorted to a van by officials, after which he disappeared for eighty-one days. The play depicts the story of his detention and the relationships he develops with his captors. It is a portrait of the artist in extreme conditions and also an affirmation of the centrality of art and freedom of speech in civilised society.

The Hampstead Theatre premiere was directed by James Macdonald with Benedict Wong in the title role.

One of the performances at Hampstead Theatre – the one on Friday 19 April – was live-streamed over the internet for a worldwide audience to watch for free. Ai Weiwei, in a comment posted on Hampstead Theatre's website on 10 April 2013 (accessible here: http://www.hampsteadtheatre.com/news/2013/04/aiww-the-arrest-of-ai-weiwei-to-be-live-streamed-across-the-world/), said: ‘China is a society that forbids any flow of the information and freedom of speech. This is on record, so everybody should know this. I am delighted that #aiww: The Arrest of Ai Weiwei will be livestreamed to the world. It will bring the play’s themes of art and society, freedom of speech and openness, the individual and the state to a new, broad and receptive global audience. Without freedom of speech there is no modern world – just a barbaric one. I’d like to thank my close friend Larry Warsh and Hampstead Theatre for supporting the story by allowing it to be heard on a much bigger scale – and for free, which is true to its spirit. I would really like to be there on opening night but unfortunately my passport still hasn’t been returned to me.’

Albert Speer

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

David Edgar's Albert Speer is a panoramic adaptation of Gitta Sereny’s biography of the man whose devotion to Hitler blinded him to the worst crime of the twentieth century. It was first performed in the Lyttelton auditorium of the National Theatre, London, on 25 May 2000.

Plucked from obscurity to be Hitler’s chief architect and Minister of War, Albert Speer became the second most powerful man in Nazi Germany and the closest Hitler had to a friend. Having narrowly escaped hanging at Nuremberg, Speer emerged from twenty years at Spandau gaol, as he thought, a changed man. But even as he publishes his bestselling accounts of the Third Reich, the extent of his complicity in Nazi crimes returns to haunt him – and his long-suffering family.

The National Theatre premiere was directed by Trevor Nunn and designed by Ian MacNeil, with a cast of 28 actors playing more than 65 parts, including Alex Jennings as Albert Speer and Roger Allam as Hitler.

Albion  

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Mike Bartlett's play Albion is a tragicomic drama about national identity, family, mourning and the disappointment of personal dreams. It was first performed at the Almeida Theatre, London, on 17 October 2017 (previews from 10 October).

The play is set in a garden (known as Albion) attached to a country house in Oxfordshire. The house has been bought by successful businesswoman Audrey Walters, who intends to restore the garden, now in ruins, to its former glory, and to use it to memorialise the son she recently lost in a foreign war. In the course of the play, Audrey alienates her daughter Zara, her son’s lover Anna, her oldest friend Katherine, and the entire village.

The premiere production was directed by Rupert Goold and designed by Miriam Buether. It was performed by Nigel Betts, Edyta Budnik, Wil Coban, Christopher Fairbank, Victoria Hamilton (as Audrey), Charlotte Hope, Margot Leicester, Vinette Robinson, Nicholas Rowe, Helen Schlesinger and Luke Thallon.

All Our Children  

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Stephen Unwin's debut play All Our Children explores the fate of disabled children in Nazi Germany, examining the moral dilemma facing those in whose care they were placed. It was first produced by Tara Finney Productions in association with Jermyn Street Theatre, and was first performed at Jermyn Street Theatre, London, on 26 April 2017.

The play is set in January 1941, in the Winkelheim Clinic near Cologne, run by paediatrician Victor Franz. Having created the clinic in peacetime to help sick children, Victor is now being forced to use it to dispatch severely disabled people to their deaths. His own growing qualms about the process are brutally countered by a young SS officer, Eric, who has been installed as his deputy. In the course of the play's action, Victor is forced to defend himself against two visitors: a mother, Elizabetta, anxious about the fate of her son; and the historical figure of Bishop von Galen, who, as in life, challenges both the practice and the philosophy of the extermination of the supposedly 'unproductive citizens'.

In a note in the published script, Stephen Unwin writes: 'All Our Children is very much a work of fiction. There is no evidence that von Galen had a meeting of the kind that I have dramatised (though he did talk with senior figures in the SS) nor do we know of a doctor involved in the programme having qualms about what he was doing. What’s clear, however, is that his intervention raised the most profound questions about the innate value of the human being, regardless of cost or productivity, and his voice, for all its stubborn absolutism, deserves to be heard.'

The premiere production was directed by Stephen Unwin and designed by Simon Higlett. It was performed by Edward Franklin, Rebecca Johnson, Lucy Speed, Colin Tierney (as Victor) and David Yelland (as Bishop von Galen).

All the Little Lights

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Jane Upton's play All the Little Lights is a drama about the sexual exploitation of young girls who have fallen through the system. It was produced by Fifth Word and Nottingham Playhouse, and first performed at Nottingham Playhouse, on 20 October 2015, later touring the UK in 2017. The play was the joint winner of the George Devine Award for most promising playwright in 2016.

The play is set 'somewhere on the outskirts of an urban sprawl, high up overlooking houses, next to a railway line.' Joanne (age 16) is throwing an impromptu birthday party for her friend Lisa (15), who has recently been taken into foster care and has reluctantly agreed to come along. Joanne has brought her new sidekick, Amy (12), promising to introduce her to TJ, an older man from the local chip shop. As the three young women camp out near the railway line, they talk about anything but the traumatic experiences Joanne and Lisa have been through. They also play games, from a version of chicken when they hear the trains approaching, to imagining who lives in the ‘little lights’ that they can see in the distance. But the horror of what has happened to them in the past, and what might yet happen to Amy, gradually emerges.

The original production was directed by Laura Ford and designed by Max Dorey. It was performed by Esther-Grace Button as Amy, Sarah Hoare as Lisa and Tessie Orange-Turner as Joanne.

All the Way Home

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Ayub Khan Din's All the Way Home is a family drama set in the author's native Salford. It was first performed by the Library Theatre Company at The Lowry, Salford, on 29 September 2011.

Bonfire Night in Salford. Brian, a successful photographer who left for London, returns to the city (now in the throes of regeneration) to a family living in the shadow of cancer. Confined within the walls of their home, Brian and his siblings await the death of their brother Frankie, who (unseen) lies dying upstairs in bed, his empty armchair standing in the corner of the kitchen, unused. Amidst the cut and thrust of spiky Salford banter, long harboured resentments rise to the surface, and loyalties are tested as family bonds unite and divide, unravel and unwind.

The premiere production was directed by Mark Babych and designed by Hayley Grindle, with Sean Gallagher as Brian, Susan Cookson as Janet, Kate Anthony as Carol, Julie Riley as Sonia, Paul Simpson as Phillip, Judith Barker as Auntie Sheila, Naomi Radcliffe as Samantha and James Foster as Mickey.

Anna Karenina (adapt. Edmundson)

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Helen Edmundson's adaptation of Leo Tolstoy's novel, Anna Karenina, is a meditation on the nature of love. It was first performed by Shared Experience at the Theatre Royal, Winchester, on 30 January 1992 at the start of a nationwide tour.

Married to a provincial governor, the punctilious Alexei Karenin, Anna revolts against her life of compromise when she meets the charming officer Count Vronsky. She embarks on a scandalous affair, which completely destroys her family life and brings her to the brink of destruction. Interspersed with Anna’s tragic downfall is the story of Levin, an idealistic landowner striving to find meaning in his life – a character often seen as a self-portrait of Tolstoy himself. Edmundson's adaptation illuminates the story's grand pattern: how the adulterous Anna travels towards disintegration and death, while the young landowner, Levin, travels toward maturity and a sense of wholeness.

Edmundson frames the action of Tolstoy’s novel within an imagined dialogue between Levin and Anna. She brings Anna and Levin together in the opening scene: 'This is my story,' says Anna. 'It seems it is mine too,' replies Levin, and for the remainder of the play scenes are set and emotions summarised through the imaginary exchange of their confidences. The device allows Edmundson to distil the novel down to a carefully curated selection of episodes; she is able to translate almost a thousand pages, and a cast of nearly as many, into an intimate chamber drama.

In an author's note in the published text, Edmundson explains her decision not to cut the Levin strand of the novel, as many adaptations do: 'Without Levin, Anna Karenina is a love story, extraordinary and dark, but essentially a love story. With Levin it becomes something great.'

The Shared Experience production was directed by Nancy Meckler and designed by Lucy Weller. The cast was Annabelle Apsion, Katherine Barker, Tilly Blackwood, Gregory Floy, Max Gold, Richard Hope, Nigel Lindsay and Pooky Quesnel. The production then toured to Cardiff, Oxford, Leeds, Leicester, Taunton, Salisbury, and finally to the Tricycle Theatre, London, where it opened on 10 March 1992.

The play was revived at the Arcola Theatre, London, in 2011 by The Piano Removal Company, directed by Max Webster.

Apologia

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Alexi Kaye Campbell's second play, Apologia presents a disastrous family reunion as the occasion for a critical look at what has happened to 60s idealists and their children. It was first performed at the Bush Theatre, London, on 17 June 2009.

Kristin Miller is an eminent and successful art historian in her sixties. As a young mother she followed her politics and vocation, storming Parisian barricades and moving to Florence. Now she has written a book about her life – a book that fails to mention her two children, Peter and Simon. So when her sons and their partners, Trudi and Claire, gather at Kristin's cottage in the countryside to celebrate her birthday, she finds herself ambushed by their very different versions of the past. Over the course of the evening, everyone must confront the cost of Kristin’s commitment to her passions.

The Bush Theatre premiere was directed by Josie Rourke with Paolo Dionisotti as Kristin, Tom Beard as Peter, John Light as Simon, Sarah Goldberg as Trudi, Nina Sosanya as Claire and Philip Voss as Hugh, an old friend of Kristin's.

The play was well received by the critics, with several remarking on how it built on the promise of Campbell's previous play, The Pride. Charles Spencer in The Daily Telegraph wrote that Campbell was 'fast emerging as a dramatist of rare distinction', while Henry Hitchings in The Evening Standard concluded that the play 'confirms his standing as a fresh and sensitive voice'.

Arthur & George

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

David Edgar's Arthur & George is a stage play based on Julian Barnes’ Booker Prize-nominated novel of the same name (first published in 2005), itself based on a real-life case in which Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (the creator of fictional detective Sherlock Holmes) found himself playing detective. The play takes the form of a detective thriller that raises questions about guilt and innocence, identity, nationality and race. It was first performed at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre on 19 March 2010 in a coproduction with Nottingham Playhouse.

In 1903, Birmingham solicitor George Edalji was found guilty of a series of brutal attacks on farm animals, known as the Great Wyrley Outrages. He was sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment with hard labour. Desperate to prove his innocence, he recruited Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of the world famous detective Sherlock Holmes, to help solve his mysterious case and win him a pardon.

Edgar restructures Barnes's story. He starts with a meeting between Conan Doyle and Edalji that took place after the latter's prison sentence had been commuted, although his conviction remained intact. Through flashbacks, we learn the details of the case: how Edalji, his Parsee-born vicar father and his Scottish mother had been subjected to a campaign of sustained intimidation. We also learn how the sober, industrious Edalji had been accused of being part of the Great Wyrley gang that brutalised local cattle, and of being the source of the poison-pen letters to his own family. Conan Doyle determines to clear Edalji's name and, assuming the mantle of Sherlock Holmes, uncover the true culprits.

The Birmingham Repertory Theatre production was directed by Rachel Kavanaugh and designed by Ruari Murchison, with Adrian Lukis as Arthur and Chris Nayak as George. Other members of the cast were Richard Attlee, William Beck, Simon Coates, Daniel Crowder, Kirsty Hoiles and Anneika Rose.

The production subsequently transferred to Nottingham Playhouse, with performances there from 22 April 2010.

The Aspidistra Code

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Mark O’Rowe’s The Aspidistra Code, the first play he wrote, is a sinister but comic drama of honour and violence. It was selected by Ireland's National Association of Youth Drama as one of the winners of the Stage IT! Young Playwright’s Project, an initiative founded to encourage playwrights between the ages of eighteen and thirty. The play was first presented as a rehearsed reading at the Peacock Theatre, Dublin, on 2 December 1995, directed by Gerard Stembridge

The play is set in an 'average-sized living room' belonging to Brendan and Sonia, who are in debt. They fear the arrival of the Drongo, a violent and unpredictable loan shark. But Brendan’s brother Joe has hired protection in the person of Crazy Horse. As it turns out, Crazy Horse and the Drongo are old mates and the crisis seems to have been averted. That is until the Drongo’s code of honour is called into question, precipitating a bloody showdown.

In his foreword to Mark O'Rowe Plays: One (Nick Hern Books, 2011), O'Rowe describes the play as 'a light, funny piece, probably most easily categorised as a kitchen-sink-crime-comedy-drama'.

The Astronaut’s Chair

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Rona Munro's The Astronaut's Chair is a play about the race to be the first woman in space. The second of a proposed trilogy of plays about space exploration, it followed her earlier play Little Eagles (2011), about the engineer behind the Soviet space programme.

The Astronaut's Chair was commissioned by and first performed at the Drum Theatre, Plymouth, on 20 September 2012.

The play's protagonist, Renee Coburg (loosely based on pioneer woman aviator Jacqueline Cochran), is a gritty, glamorous aviator, the fastest, highest, bravest woman in the world. A self-made pilot, she battled against a poor childhood to fly planes in World War II. As America and the USSR enter the space race, she becomes determined to be the first woman to go into orbit. However, it won’t all be plain sailing as she faces stiff competition from an ambitious new rival. Jo Green is a determined, brilliant and much younger pilot with her eye on all Renee’s records. They both want to be the first woman in space but there’s only one chair at the top of the rocket.

The Drum Theatre production was directed by Simon Stokes and designed by Bob Bailey. The cast included Ingrid Lacey (as Renee Coburg), Tom Hodgkins, Jack Sandle, Eleanor Wyld and Amanda Ryan.

The Authorised Kate Bane

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Ella Hickson’s The Authorised Kate Bane is a play about families and how we're defined by shared family memories, both real and invented. It was first performed at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, on 12 October 2012 in a production by Grid Iron Theatre Company.

Kate Bane, a 30-year-old playwright, returns home to her parents' house in Kelso, Scotland, for a winter weekend to introduce her new boyfriend, Albin. As the snow falls, she finds herself searching with increasing desperation for the truth about her family’s past. Are her memories fact, or are they continually shifting acts of imagination? Unable to pin down the truth, she attempts to write a version of the family mythology that might ensure her own future happiness.

The playtext indicates four different settings: Kate’s flat in London, where she is writing a play; the imagined Bane family home in Kelso, where the action of Kate's play takes place; Kate's memory; and edited versions of the play as Kate rewrites it.

The premiere production was directed by Ben Harrison and designed by Becky Minto. The cast was Nicky Elliott, Jenny Hulse, Anne Kidd and Sean Scanlan.

The production transferred to the Tron Theatre, Glasgow, with performances from 30 October 2012.

Bad Weather

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Robert Holman's Bad Weather is a play exploring the nature of violence and the possibility of redemption. It was first performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company at The Other Place, Stratford-upon-Avon, on 22 April 1998.

The play begins on a grim housing estate in Middlesbrough, North Yorkshire. There’s been a fight at a local Chinese restaurant. A man is badly injured. Two young men are involved, Luke and Jamie. Despite the fact that both boys are guilty of the attack, loudmouth Luke manages to get off whilst Jamie, unwilling to grass up his best mate, is sent to prison. To complicate matters, Jamie’s girlfriend (and Luke’s sister) Rhona is carrying his child. The court case takes its toll on Jamie’s French mother, Kay, whose stress is aggravated when her former nanny, Agnès, turns up unannounced having been estranged for twenty years. However, her appearance may just offer a means of escape for everyone involved and transform the storm in which they are trapped into a far brighter outlook.

As Colin Chambers writes in an introduction to the published script, 'Much of Holman's work has been seen to startling effect in small theatres because, as in Bad Weather, he reveals the larger picture beyond through small and often domestic detail, driven by sharp observation of life rather than a particular ideology and by a deceptive economy of style that is spare and steely, yet compassionate and emotionally powerful.'

The Royal Shakespeare Company premiere was directed by Steven Pimlott and designed by Ashley Martin-Davis. The cast was Emma Handy, Paul Popplewell, Ryan Pope, Susan Brown, Barry Stanton and Susan Engel.

The Beaux' Stratagem

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

The Beaux’ Stratagem (1707) is George Farquhar’s last play: it premiered a month and a half before his untimely death aged 30, at the Queen’s Theatre in Haymarket, a new venue built by dramatist and architect John Vanbrugh on the Western fringes of the city of London. Seen as one of the most humane and democratic writers of the post-Restoration stage, Farquhar did not live to see the play become one of the most performed plays of the eighteenth century.

Farquhar’s last play is the story of two fortune-hunting beaux, Aimwell and Archer, who have journeyed from London to the provincial town of Lichfield. Their plan is to work their way through several towns, alternately pretending to be master and servant until one of them finds a rich heiress. But at the first hurdle, Aimwell falls sincerely in love with his prey, and begins to woo the beautiful Dorinda in earnest. Meanwhile his ‘footman’ Archer arouses the wistful interest of the unhappily married Mrs Sullen, the wife of a boorish squire. The play is further populated by a corrupt innkeeper, his lovely daughter, a highwayman, a disguised Irish priest, a country gentlewoman who believes she has healing powers, and a lowly servant who became one of the best-loved comic roles of the eighteenth century.

The Beaux’ Stratagem has been praised for the range, depth and naturalism of its characters: at a time when most comedies were written in, for and about London, Farquhar leaves behind the tendency to portray country folk as uncouth and laughable rustics. In addition, the play has been seen as broaching the gap between the sharp wit of Restoration comedy and its plots full of rakes and rascals, and the more genteel, sentimental comedy of the eighteenth century, whose focus falls not on sexual one-upmanship but on the realities of marital discord. The use of marriage as a way to improve social status had been long dramatized and satirized, but it is in his discussions of divorce that Farquhar reaches out to a humane understanding of the feasibility of marital harmony.

Feminist criticism has read into the play an early stirring of woman’s rights. In the previous century, plagued by the failings of patriarchal authority in kingship and commonwealth, questions had been raised about marriage being the best and/or only option for women, as it brought with it the possibility of unkind husbands and further loneliness. Farquhar’s comedy, ending with both marriage and divorce, highlighted the need for a reform of the divorce laws; this was a pertinent topic, as, despite the ills of marriage, only six divorces were granted by an Act of Parliament between 1660 and 1714.

Before It Rains

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Katherine Chandler's Before it Rains is a play about parenthood, protection and provocation set on a proud, forgotten Cardiff estate. It was first performed at Bristol Old Vic, on 10 September 2012.

The play's action mostly takes place on a council state allotment. Gloria is a single mum who enjoys sitting in her deckchair drinking her troubles away while her son Michael (a man with high-functioning Asperger syndrome) digs the soil and makes sure everything is in order. Carl, a newcomer to the area, is a charismatic, articulate wild boy whose approach is invariably heralded by the sound of the ball he is always bouncing. Carl lives with a psychopathic older brother and a violent, drug-addled father, and when he takes the gentle Michael under his wing, it is the start of a great deal of trouble.

The Bristol Old Vic premiere was directed by Róisín McBrinn and designed by Alyson Cummins, with Craig Gazey as Michael, Lisa Palfrey as Gloria and Harry Ferrier as Carl.

Be My Baby

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Amanda Whittington’s debut play Be My Baby sheds light on teenage pregnancy in 60s Britain. Featuring an all-female cast the play has proved incredibly popular with schools and drama groups across the UK and is currently a set text for GCSE English Literature.

Set in a Mother and Baby Home in 1964 in the north of England, the play follows the fortunes of Mary Adams, aged 19, unmarried and seven months pregnant. Forcibly sent there by a mother intent on keeping up appearances, Mary – along with the other girls in the home – has to cope both with the shame and the dawning realisation that she will have to give the baby up for adoption whether she likes it or not. Despite this, and an overbearing matron, the girls’ youthful effervescence keeps breaking through, as they sing along to the girl-group songs of the period.

Commissioned by Soho Theatre, the play started out as a story of a grown woman meeting her adopted child. However, as Whittington began to research she came across the story of Britain’s Mother and Baby Homes. These homes were a well-kept secret that nonetheless blighted the lives of thousands of young women to whom Whittington has given a voice in this play.

Be My Baby was first performed by the Soho Theatre Company at the Pleasance Theatre in London in 1998. Since its initial production, the play has been revived many times including at the Soho Theatre, Salisbury Playhouse, Oldham Coliseum, New Vic Theatre and Hull Truck Theatre.

Berlin Bertie

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

An intimate and at times savagely funny psychological study of two sisters, one of who has made her home in East Berlin and one who has stayed on in their native London.

Fleeing from an encounter that has destroyed her marriage, Rosa Brine leaves Berlin in the wake of the downing of the Wall and seeks shelter with her sister Alice. But the sinister figure of 'Berlin Bertie' follows and finds her. A turbulent Easter weekend of explosive confrontations ends in an oddly comic kind of salvation.

Beyond the Big Bangs

Aurora Metro Books
Type: Text

Beyond the Big Bangs tracks a day in the life of three female characters both as they interact with each other and in their individual engagements of the day. The structure of dialogues and long monologues is quite unique and is testimony to the skills of a writer who can command the attention of his reader through diverse and interrelated anecdotes. Sandra is a domestic worker who has been asked by her employer to work on a Saturday because her culinary and domestic skills are required to make an impression on the guests who will be arriving during the weekend. Gita is a grandmother who lives with her family and chooses to go gambling whenever possible. Lindiwe is a teacher who has to report to a disciplinary hearing following assaulting a student who had frequently provoked her and had made a racist statement. Sandra and Lindiwe work in the area where Gita resides which provides the opportunity for their meeting but it is their individualism and integrity that results in them connecting emotionally. Each character is quite different from the other, possessing contradictions, insecurities and strengths. The value in reading a slice in the life of each of them is that it allows the reader to engage with the façade and then it explores the emotional drive and centredness of the women.

Bird

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Katherine Chandler's Bird is a play about two girls making the precarious transition from the care home they have shared to independent adult life. It was the winner of a Judges' Award in the 2013 Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting, and was first performed in a co-production by Sherman Cymru and the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester, at the Sherman Theatre, Cardiff, on 17 May 2016, before transferring to the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester, on 8 June 2016.

The play's action begins with Ava (age 15) and Tash (age 13) standing on a cliff, looking out at the flocking birds and thinking about their future. They have been living in a care home for three years, sharing a room. Soon, Ava will turn 16 and will have to leave the care home. She wants to return home to her mother, Claire, who wasn’t much older than Ava is now when she gave birth. But Claire hasn’t had any contact with her daughter for years and doesn’t want Ava back in the family home. While Ava’s social worker tries to find her temporary accommodation, Ava teeters on the edge and discovers the world through the teenaged Dan and the creepy, middle-aged taxi-driver Lee, who plies her with vodka and gifts.

The premiere production was directed by Rachel O’Riordan and designed by Kenny Miller, with Georgia Henshaw as Ava, Siwan Morris as Claire, Connor Allen as Dan, Guy Rhys as Lee and Rosie Sheehy as Tash.

Birdboy

Aurora Metro Books
Type: Text

On an ancient fortress, two boys swear a pact of friendship. Eddie and Tim create their own den up on the Knoll, a secret place for heroes. The only problem is, winter is setting in and Eddie won't come down. As the snow falls, Tim must decide whether to take food to Eddie or betray him by telling the grown ups where he is. It is a play about transitions from childhood to adolescence, from loner to friend.

The Birds

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Conor McPherson's The Birds is a loose adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s 1952 short story. It was first performed at the Gate Theatre, Dublin, on 29 September 2009.

Mysterious flocks of birds have begun to attack at high tide, driving strangers Nat and Diane to take refuge in an isolated, abandoned house by the sea. They quickly form a bond as they attempt to survive in their new circumstances. But with no electricity and a scarcity of food, the tension is palpable and hope is waning. The sudden arrival of a mysterious young woman, Julia, ruffles feathers in the house and quickly threatens to destroy their so-called sanctuary.

The Gate Theatre premiere was directed by Conor McPherson and designed by Rae Smith, with Ciarán Hinds as Nat, Sinead Cusack as Diane, Denise Gough as Julia and Owen Roe as Tierney.

The play received its American premiere at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis on 25 February 2012. The production was directed by Henry Wishcamper with J.C. Cutler as Nat, Summer Hagen as Julia, Angela Timberman as Diane and Stephen Yoakam as Tierney.

Black Mountain  

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Rebecca and Paul are running away. Away from memories and mistakes.

They're trying to save their relationship. They need time and space. An isolated house in the country is the perfect place to work things out. They set themselves rules: they have to be honest, they have to listen and they have to be fair.

But you can't run forever. Especially when you're being followed.

Black Mountain
is a tense psychological thriller about betrayal and forgiveness by winner of the Harold Pinter Commission Brad Birch.

A Paines Plough, Theatr Clwyd and Orange Tree Theatre production, Black Mountain was first performed at Theatre Clwyd, Mold, in July 2017. 

The Blinding Light  

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Howard Brenton's play The Blinding Light is about the playwright August Strindberg, focussing on a period of crisis in his life when, in 1896, he suffered a mental breakdown in a hotel room in Paris. The play was first performed at the Jermyn Street Theatre, London, on 6 September 2017.

The play is set in February 1896 in a squalid top-floor room in the Hotel Orfila, Rue d’Assas, Paris. The room is occupied by the famous Swedish playwright August Strindberg, who, having abandoned theatre, is living a life of squalid splendour, attempting to make gold by finding the philosopher’s stone, the secret of creation. As his grasp on reality weakens, his first two wives, Siri and Frida, visit him to bring him to his senses. But their interventions spin out of control.

In an introduction to the published script, Howard Brenton writes: 'I wrote The Blinding Light to try to understand the mental and spiritual crisis that August Strindberg suffered in February, 1896. Deeply disturbed, plagued by hallucinations, he holed up in various hotel rooms in Paris, most famously in the Hotel Orfila in the Rue d’Assas. ... Before and after the crisis in Paris he always wanted to make the theatre more real, at first by being true to the minutiae of everyday life – the famous cooking on stage in Miss Julie – then by trying to stage psychological states so vividly you think you are dreaming wide awake. By ‘realist’ or expressionist’ means he wanted audiences to see the world in a new light.'

The Jermyn Street Theatre production was directed by Tom Littler with a set designed by Cherry Truluck for Lucky Bert. It was performed by Laura Morgan, Jasper Britton (as August), Susannah Harker and Gala Gordon.

Blood and Ice

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Liz Lochhead's earliest play, Blood and Ice is a psychodrama that tells the story of Frankenstein’s creation and weaves a web of connections between Mary Shelley’s own tragic life and that of her literary monster. It was first performed at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August 1982. It was later revived, in a revised version, by David McVicar at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 1988, and subsequently toured by McVicar's company, Pen Name. It was again revived, in the version that was ultimately published, at the Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh, on 24 October 2003.

The play unfolds as a series of flashbacks from the perspective of Mary Shelley in later life, disillusioned, let down by her friends, and struggling to understand her own creation, Frankenstein, or why she wrote it in the first place. It focuses on the summer of 1816, when eighteen-year-old Mary and her husband Percy Bysshe Shelley are joined at a house party on the shores of Lake Geneva by Mary’s half-sister Claire and the infamous Lord Byron. They take part in a challenge to see who can write the most horrifying story. Little do they know that Mary’s contribution is to become one of the most celebrated novels of all time, nor how her life, already burdened with the death of her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, is to be so full of tragedy.

Liz Lochhead, in a 2009 Introduction to the published text, writes 'It’s exactly thirty years since I first took down from a library shelf Muriel Spark’s Child of Light, her wonderful biography of Mary Shelley, and, shortly after, began my own pursuit. Could I make a play…? Naively, I was, at the time, quite blithely unaware that I wasn’t the first, and certainly wouldn’t be the last, to be fired by the dramatic possibilities of this moment in history, that iconic stormy summer of 1816 by the shores of the lake and beneath the high Alps.'

The 2003 Royal Lyceum production was directed by Graham McLaren and performed by Lucianne McEvoy, Phil Matthews, Alex Hassel, Susan Coyle and Michele Rodley.

Bloody Wimmin

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Lucy Kirkwood’s Bloody Wimmin is a short play written for the Tricycle Theatre’s Women, Power and Politics season, staged at the Tricycle, London, in June–July 2010. The play examines the impact of the 1980s Greenham Common protests and the fight for nuclear disarmament. It was first performed at the Tricycle on 4 June 2010, in rep with short plays by Marie Jones, Moira Buffini and Rebecca Lenkiewicz.

It’s 1984 and the peace camp at Greenham Common is in full swing. Mother-to-be Helen is torn between her commitment to the cause of nuclear disarmament and her expectant husband back home. Twenty-five years later and her now adult son, James, is an environmental activist, railing against what he perceives as sexual exploitation in the way the media is covering their protests.

The Tricycle Theatre production was directed by Indhu Rubasingham with a cast including Niamh Cusack, Stella Gonet and Kika Markham.

Blue Stockings

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Blue Stockings follows the story of four young women fighting for education and self-determination against the larger backdrop of women’s suffrage written by director and writer, Jessica Swale.

1896. Girton College, Cambridge, the first college in Britain to admit women. The Girton girls study ferociously and match their male peers grade for grade. Yet, when the men graduate, the women leave with nothing but the stigma of being a ‘blue stocking’ – an unnatural, educated woman. They are denied degrees and go home unqualified and unmarriageable.

In Swale’s play, Tess Moffat and her fellow first years are determined to win the right to graduate. But little do they anticipate the hurdles in their way: the distractions of love, the cruelty of the class divide or the strength of the opposition, who will do anything to stop them. The play follows them over one tumultuous academic year, in their fight to change the future of education.

Blue Stockings premiered at Shakespeare’s Globe in London in 2013.

Bodies  

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Vivienne Franzmann's play Bodies is a family drama exploring the ethical and social dilemmas raised by surrogate motherhood. It was first performed at the Royal Court Theatre Upstairs, London, on 5 July 2017.

The play's action takes place over the course of nine months. White, middle-class TV producer Clem, age 43, is desperate for a baby. So she and her husband, Josh, pay £22,000 to an agency and find themselves locked into a global transaction in which a Russian woman’s egg is fertilised by Josh and implanted in the womb of an Indian woman. But Clem is increasingly estranged from her old-fashioned socialist dad, David, who has motor neurone disease, and who says she should be ashamed of herself. Her residual guilt surfaces in Skype conversations with the Delhi doctor supervising the surrogacy, and is compounded when legal difficulties arise.

The premiere production was directed by Jude Christian and designed by Gabriella Slade. It was performed by Lorna Brown, Brian Ferguson, Philip Goldacre, Salma Hoque, Justine Mitchell (as Clem), Hannah Rae, Manjinder Virk, Alexander Molony and Rohan Shinn.

born bad

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

debbie tucker green's born bad is an intensely theatrical play about a vicious family dispute. It was first performed at Hampstead Theatre on 29 April 2003.

Dawta wants the family to talk. Furious, she calls out each member of her family, demanding they join in her outrage or, at the very least, recognise it. Some long-ago horror has occurred, and she demands information from her sisters, her mother and her brother. Meanwhile, the perpetrator – Dad – stays nearly silent.

The Hampstead Theatre premiere was directed by Kathy Burke and designed by Jonathan Fensom, with Jenny Jules as Dawta, Sharlene Whyte as Sister 1, Nadine Marshall as Sister 2, Alibe Parsons as Mum, Nicholas Pinnock as Brother and Ewart James Walters as Dad.

The play won debbie tucker green the Olivier Award for Most Promising Newcomer in 2004 and was shortlisted for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize.

Boy

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

In this vivid and troubled story of an isolated young man, playwright Leo Butler casts a sharp eye over the city and picks someone for us to follow.

A bleak portrait of modern London and a scathing critique of the economic forces that destroy communities and promote isolation, Boy provoked considerable debate upon its first production. Michael Billington wrote in the Guardian that “there are distinct echoes of Georg Büchner’s fragmented drama Woyzeck in the portrayal of the hero as a victim of social circumstance”, while writing in the Telegraph Laura Shilling observed that “its power to disturb is all the more troubling because it offers neither accusation nor redemption. You find yourself wondering about the morality of turning hopelessness into a beautifully crafted theatrical experience. But what would be a more virtuous alternative?"

Boy received its world premiere at the Almeida Theatre, London, on 5 April 2016.

Boys

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Ella Hickson's play Boys is about a group of young men making the tricky transition from university to adult life. It was first performed at the HighTide Festival, Halesworth, Suffolk, on 3 May 2012, before transferring to the Nuffield Theatre, Southampton, and Soho Theatre, London.

The play is set in the kitchen of a student flat in Edinburgh over an unusually hot summer. The class of 2011 are about to graduate and Benny, Mack, Timp and Cam are due out of their flat. Hedonistic Timp has been stuck in a dead-end job for as long as he can remember whilst Cam is struggling with the pressures of a nascent classical music career. Benny is just trying to make sure everyone is alright, much to the chagrin of cynical Mack. Stepping into a world that doesn’t want them, these boys start to wonder if there’s any point in getting any older. Before all that, though, they’re going to have one hell of a party.

The premiere production was directed by Robert Icke and designed by Chloe Lamford. The cast was Samuel Edward Cook, Danny Kirrane, Lorn Macdonald, Tom Mothersdale, Alison O’Donnell and Eve Ponsonby.

A Breakfast of Eels

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Robert Holman's play A Breakfast of Eels is a two-hander about two young men trying to find their way in the world after the death of the man they thought of as their father. It was first performed at the Print Room at the Coronet, London, on 20 March 2015.

The play is set in the present day in Highgate, London, and in Northumberland. When the play opens, the two characters, Penrose (aged 21) and Francis (aged 35), are preparing for the funeral of Penrose’s father. They both refer to the deceased man as 'Daddy', but it becomes clear that he was not Francis's father. Penrose seems emotionally immature and fey, while Francis appears more confident, even protective of Penrose, insisting that Penrose dress properly for the funeral. As the play develops, Penrose tries to gift the ancestral manor he's inherited to Francis, together with a small fortune in cash. They banter, battle, and bond over the course of five Acts, and both are changed, not necessarily in ways they understand.

The Print Room premiere was directed by Robert Hastie and designed by Ben Stones, with Andrew Sheridan as Francis and Matthew Tennyson as Penrose.

In an introduction to the published script, Holman explains that he wrote the play specifically for Andrew Sheridan and Matthew Tennyson to perform (both had appeared in previous plays of his: Sheridan in Holes in the Skin and Jonah and Otto, Tennyson in the 2012 revival of Making Noise Quietly). Holman goes on to describe how each of them contributed to the play: 'When Making Noise Quietly was over, Tennyson and I went for a walk along the Thames. I said how, now and again, I’d had a go at writing parts for actors and would he be interested if I was to write a play for him, and that at some point I would need the name of his character. The only thing I knew for certain was that I wanted the play to be set in London (Tennyson is a Londoner) and would he show me his favourite part of London? ... We must have walked ten miles that afternoon in the drizzle without an umbrella. He said he would show me Highgate Cemetery, and a few days later said "Penrose". Penrose is a character I never would have written had Tennyson not said what he did.'

Broken Biscuits

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Tom Wells's play Broken Biscuits is a coming-of-age story about three teenagers who decide to solve their personal problems by forming a band. It was first performed at Live Theatre, Newcastle upon Tyne, on 5 October 2016, at the start of a UK tour, in a co-production by Paines Plough and Live Theatre.

The play takes place in Megan's shed. Megan and her friends Holly and Ben are sixteen-year-old school leavers who by their own admission are 'total losers'. Determined to reinvent themselves for the start of the college term, Megan co-opts Holly and Ben into forming a band, armed with a drum kit and a tin of broken biscuits.

The premiere production was directed by James Grieve and designed by Lily Arnold, with songs by Matthew Robins. It was performed by Faye Christall as Megan, Grace Hogg-Robinson as Holly and Andrew Reed as Ben.

Brothers in Arms

Aurora Metro Books
Type: Text

Using a mixture of storytelling, theatre and song, Brothers in Arms draws on the true story of two brothers from a Yorkshire pit village – one of whom steadfastly refused to fight in World War I, while the other volunteered and served on the front line in France. Cast: eight minimum

Bull

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Mike Bartlett's Bull is a play about vicious office politics. It was first performed at the Crucible Studio Theatre, Sheffield, on 6 February 2013, before transferring to 59E59 Theaters, New York, as part of the Brits Off Broadway season on 25 April 2013.

The play is intended to be performed with 'a minimum of scenery, props and furniture, in order to keep the focus on the drama of the scene'. Three youngish business people – Tony, Isobel and Thomas – are waiting to hear which of them will lose his or her job. As they await the arrival of their boss, Carter, to deliver the verdict, the three of them debate each other’s chances of survival. For alpha male Tony and calculating Isobel, it’s clear that Thomas is getting the chop. And in the struggle for survival, no blow is too low.

The play was seen by some critics as a companion piece to Bartlett’s earlier play Cock (Royal Court Theatre, 2009), which unpicks a love triangle with the same unflinching honesty.

The premiere production was directed by Clare Lizzimore and designed by Soutra Gilmour, with Adam James as Tony, Adrian Lukis as Carter, Eleanor Matsuura as Isobel and Sam Troughton as Thomas. In New York, the part of Carter was played by Neil Stuke.

Bull won Best New Play at the UK Theatre Awards in 2013.

The production was revived at the Young Vic, London, on 8 January 2015. It went on to win the Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in an Affiliate Theatre in 2015.

Bully Boy

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Sandi Toksvig's Bully Boy is a play that tackles the challenging moral issues of contemporary military occupation and its effect on the mental health of serving soldiers. It was first performed at the Nuffield Theatre, Southampton, on 13 May 2011 (previews from 10 May). It was revived in a new production first performed at the Royal & Derngate, Northampton, on 24 August 2012, before transferring to the St James Theatre, London, on 18 September 2012, where it was the new West End theatre's inaugural production.

The play is written for two performers. Falklands War veteran Major Oscar Hadley, now confined to a wheelchair, is sent to a combat zone to probe allegations of severe misconduct by Eddie Clark, a young squaddie from Burnley and part of a self-styled ‘Bully Boy’ unit of the British Army. Eddie is accused of throwing an eight-year-old boy down a well during a military raid in the Middle East. As the interrogation develops, Oscar begins to discover that ‘truth’ in a modern insurgency can be a point of view rather than a fact.

In an Introduction to the published script, Toksvig writes: 'For someone who thinks of themselves as a pacifist I have written a lot about war lately. Perhaps it is not so surprising. We are all subjected to images of conflict every day as one faction or another shoots it out in Syria or Iraq or Afghanistan or Sudan or any number of other distant places which come home to us through the television. ... I began to read about the effect of war on the individual. In particular, Dave Grossman’s book On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society, which had a huge effect on me. ... When Patrick Sandford, artistic director of the Nuffield Theatre in Southampton, said he wanted to commission a play from me it was as if Bully Boy poured out of my head.'

The Nuffield Theatre premiere was directed by Patrick Sandford, with Anthony Andrews as Oscar and Joshua Miles as Eddie.

The revival at the Royal & Derngate and in the West End was directed by Patrick Sandford and David Gilmore, and designed by Simon Higlett. The cast was the same.

Calcutta Kosher

Aurora Metro Books
Type: Text

Set in the Indian Jewish community in Calcutta, how do young women educated in the West deal with family secrets back home? Sunday Times Pick of the Day

Cathy

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Ali Taylor's play Cathy is about the impact of spiralling living costs and the UK government's austerity measures on the most vulnerable in society. It was inspired by Ken Loach's 1966 television drama, Cathy Come Home.

The play was produced by Cardboard Citizens, a theatre company that makes work with and for homeless people, and first performed at the Pleasance Theatre, London on 11 October 2016 as part of a UK tour.

The play follows Cathy (age 43) and her 15-year-old daughter Danielle as they struggle to find a suitable home after being forced out of their East London flat following a change of landlord. Reluctant to move away for fear of disrupting Danielle's exam preparations, or becoming unable to visit her father in his care home, Cathy seeks help from the local housing office, only to find herself falling through cracks in the system, with no one willing or able to stop her descent.

Cardboard Citizens commissioned Ali Taylor to write the play as a piece of 'Forum Theatre', marking the 50th anniversary of Ken Loach's film, and, at the same time, the 25th anniversary of the theatre company. Adrian Jackson, Artistic Director of Cardboard Citizens, explains in a note included in the published script: 'One purpose in our staging of Ali Taylor’s powerful and tender portrait of a family dealing with these pressures is indeed to open our audience’s eyes to what is going on all around us, and, as in Cathy Come Home, hopefully to stoke up an anger which might lead to change. In a Forum Theatre presentation, after showing the play to an audience which has a stake in the issues, a discussion ensues, as to what might be different – how, in particular, the protagonists of the play, in this case Cathy and maybe Danielle, might have dealt with the oppressions that confront them in other ways, to try to overcome their problems. This is in no way intended to suggest that they are responsible for their situation – rather it is a provocation to see how all of us, however little power we appear to have, might confront the powerful institutions and mind-sets that surround us, to bring about change.'

The production was directed by Adrian Jackson and designed by Lucy Sierra. It was performed by Cathy Oweny as Cathy, Hayley Wareham as Danielle, Amy Loughton, Alex Jones, Carrie Rock, Adrian Jackson, Terry O’Leary and Kerry Norridge.

The Changing Room

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

On a cold morning in Northern England, a large group of men gather in the changing rooms of their local rugby club, preparing for the match. Through David Storey’s three-act play we see the players, and the men who own, run and work for the club, before the match, at half-time and after the game has finished. What emerges from this tripartite structure is a touching picture of camaraderie, community and commitment to their team.

Describing being inspired by the rituals of the footballer, Storey writes ‘he came into a room, changed from a private individual (conspicuously) into a public performer (he wore a uniform), went out, performed, returned, reverted to his previous persona – and departed: simultaneously the room itself underwent a not dissimilar transformation: empty to begin with, gradually filling, emptying again, the room, in short, both object and subject, active and passive: it changed those within it and, in turn, was changed itself.’

Described by The Times as ‘An excellent example of Storey’s ability to evoke lives from snippets and a society from those lives’, The Changing Room was first performed at the Royal Court Theatre, London, on 9 November 1971.

Chicken Shop

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Anna Jordan's play Chicken Shop is a dark coming-of-age story centring around a sixteen-year-old boy and his attempts to prove his masculinity. The play was first performed at Park Theatre, London, on 2 September 2014. Jordan had already won the 2013 Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting with her play Yen, although that play was yet to receive its premiere (it was premiered at the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester, in 2015).

In Chicken Shop, sixteen-year-old Hendrix has a growing resentment for his mother, Hilary (43), and her constant preaching on the virtues of an organic lifestyle. He also has a troubled relationship with his mother's 27-year-old girlfriend Katie (Australian, 'sparky, stunning, hyper-sexual'), who winds him up relentlessly. But most of all he's sick of the bullies at school, who think if his mum is gay then he must be too. In a desperate attempt to prove his masculinity, Hendrix visits the brothel above the local fried-chicken shop, where he meets Luminita (24, Moldovan), who Hendrix naively believes is trying to earn money to go to university, when in reality she has been trafficked and is in thrall to the thuggish Leko (38, Albanian). As the secret friendship between Hendrix and Luminita grows in snatched moments, his eyes are gradually opened to the reality of Luminita's world.

The Park Theatre premiere was directed by Jemma Gross and designed by Florence Hazard, with Angela Bull as Hilary, Jesse Rutherford as Hendrix, Millie Reeves as Katie, John Last as Leko and Lucy Roslyn as Luminita.

The Children (Kirkwood)

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Lucy Kirkwood's play The Children is a near-future drama about the aftermath of a catastrophe at a nuclear power station, exploring the responsibilities we have towards future generations. It was first performed at the Royal Court Theatre Downstairs, London, on Thursday 17 November 2016.

The play is set in 'a small cottage on the east coast', where Hazel and Robin, two retired nuclear scientists in their sixties, are living in the wake of a disaster at the local power station where they used to work. Even though electricity is rationed and a Geiger counter is on hand to check for signs of radiation, they seek to preserve a semblance of normality: Robin now farms, while Hazel practises yoga and the pair keep in touch with their eldest daughter, Lauren. But when Rose, a fellow nuclear physicist whom they haven’t seen for 38 years, suddenly turns up, their precariously ordered existence is disrupted, and they are forced to consider the impact of their lives on the next generation.

The Royal Court premiere was directed by James Macdonald and designed by Miriam Buether, with Francesca Annis as Rose, Deborah Findlay as Hazel and Ron Cook as Robin.

Ciphers

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Dawn King's play Ciphers is a thriller about spies, double agents, and the opaqueness of the human soul. It was first produced by Out of Joint, the Bush Theatre and Exeter Northcott Theatre, and first performed at Exeter Northcott Theatre on 16 October 2013 before touring the UK.

Justine is a British Intelligence Officer. She is pursuing Kareem, a youth worker, whom she believes may have information on a suspected terrorist living in the UK. But when Justine is found dead in mysterious circumstances, her sister Kerry sets out to find out what happened and stumbles into a world of secrets and subterfuge that make her question who Justine really was.

The play's exploration of the fluidity of personal identity is heightened by the use of doubling in production, particularly the doubling of Justine and Kerry, who the script stipulates should be played by the same actor.

The premiere production was directed by Blanche McIntyre and designed by James Perkins. It was performed by Bruce Alexander, Ronny Jhutti, Gráinne Keenan and Shereen Martin. The production subsequently toured to Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham; Tobacco Factory Theatre, Bristol; Oxford Playhouse; Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh; Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry; Bush Theatre, London and Salisbury Playhouse.

The Clearing

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Helen Edmundson’s The Clearing is an original play about the effects of Oliver Cromwell’s military campaign in Ireland. It was first performed at the Bush Theatre, London, in November 1993.

The play is set in Ireland in 1652. Oliver Cromwell has passed the Act for the Settlement of Ireland, decreeing that all Catholic landowners must relocate to the province of Connaught, a blighted and barren land in the west of the country. Madeleine, an Irish woman married to an English man, Robert Preston, has just given birth to their first child, but their joy is short-lived. Their union becomes the focus of an ever-rising resentment within their small farming community. As the English parliament under Cromwell’s command mount their ‘to Hell or Connaught’ policy, the Prestons’ happy world is torn apart.

The Bush Theatre premiere was directed by Lynne Parker, with Adrian Rawlins as Robert Preston and Susan Lynch as Madeleine. The play went on to win a Time Out Theatre Award and the John Whiting Award.

The play was revived by Shared Experience in 2002 on a tour starting in Birmingham on 7 March and including a month-long engagement from 23 April to 25 May at London's Tricycle Theatre. The production was directed by Polly Teale and designed by Angela Davies. The cast was Amelda Brown, Pip Donaghy, Aislin McGuckin, Mairead McKinley and Joseph Millson.

Closing Time

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Owen McCafferty's Closing Time is a tender portrait of love, dignity and emotional damage set in a Belfast pub. It was first performed at the National Theatre, London, on 9 September 2002. Performances took place in the Lyttelton Loft as part of the National Theatre’s Transformation Season.

The play is set in a 'grubby pub/hotel' owned by feisty but fading Vera and her permanently half-drunk husband Ronnie. The pub provides a sanctuary from the outside world for those who live or drink there. Images on the large-screen television (which is always on, but with its sound muted) tell of Belfast’s ‘transformation’ after years of sectarian violence. But as the drinks flow and night closes in, the reality of life sinks in and everybody’s ability to cope with each other and themselves is eroded.

The National Theatre premiere was directed by James Kerr and designed by Rae Smith. It was performed by Pam Ferris, Patrick O’Kane, Jim Norton, Lalor Roddy and Kieran Ahern.

Clybourne Park

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Bruce Norris's Clybourne Park is an acerbic satire tracing the fault line between race and property through the changing ownership of a property in Clybourne Street, central Chicago. It is also a witty riff on Lorraine Hansberry’s seminal 1959 drama A Raisin in the Sun, the first play by a black female playwright to run on Broadway.

Clybourne Park was first performed at Playwrights Horizons, New York City, on 21 February 2010.

The play is set in the interior of 'a modest three-bedroom bungalow, 406 Clybourne Street, in the near north-west of central Chicago'. In the opening act, set in 1959, Russ and Bev are moving out after a family tragedy. Their son committed suicide in the house, after going off the rails during the Korean War, and they are desperate to get out. They are selling the place for a knock-down price, which means that a black family will be moving in, much to the disquiet of neighbourhood resident Karl, who pops round to tell Bev and Russ – in front of the black maid Francine – that they are undermining property values. In the second act, set in 2009, the same property is being bought by Lindsey and Steve, a young white couple who want to build a new house on the same plot, but face hostility from the all-black residents' committee who are concerned that white newcomers will erase the cultural significance of the area.

Part of the power of Clybourne Park derives from how the events in the play intersect with those in Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun. In the earlier play, the black Youngers plan to move into a white neighborhood when a character named Karl Lindner, a representative of the community association, offers to buy them out. In the first act of Clybourne Park, the same Karl Lindner tries to persuade the house’s white owners not to sell to a black family – the Youngers, it is assumed – out of fear of what that would do to the property values and the culture of the neighbourhood.

The Playwrights Horizons production was directed by Pam MacKinnon. It was performed by Frank Wood, Christina Kirk, Crystal A. Dickinson, Brendan Griffin, Damon Gupton, Jeremy Shamos and Annie Parisse. The production transferred to Broadway the following year.

The play received its European premiere at the Royal Court Jerwood Theatre Downstairs, London, on 2 September 2010 (previews from 26 August), directed by Dominic Cooke and designed by Robert Innes Hopkins. It was performed by Steffan Rhodri, Sophie Thompson, Lorna Brown, Sam Spruell, Lucian Msamati, Martin Freeman, Sarah Goldberg and Michael Goldsmith.

This production received its West End premiere at the Wyndham’s Theatre, London, on 8 February 2011 (previews from 28 January), with some changes to the cast.

The play received numerous awards, including the London Evening Standard Award for Best Play, the Critics Circle Award for Best New Play, the Olivier Award for Best New Play, the Tony Award for Best Play and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

Come On Over

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Conor McPherson's Come On Over is a short play for two characters that was first performed at the Gate Theatre, Dublin, on 27 September 2001.

Matthew, a Jesuit priest sent to investigate a ‘miracle’ in his hometown, re-encounters Margaret, the woman who loved him thirty years before.

The Gate Theatre premiere was directed by Conor McPherson with Jim Norton as Matthew and Dearbhla Molloy as Margaret.

Coming Clean

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Coming Clean, Kevin Elyot’s first professionally produced play, looks at the breakdown of a gay couple’s relationship and examines complex questions of fidelity and love. It was first performed at the Bush Theatre, London, on 3 November 1982.

The play is set in a flat in Kentish Town, north London, in 1982. Struggling writer Tony and his partner of five years, Greg, seem to have the perfect relationship. Committed and in love, they are both open to one-night stands as long as they don’t impinge on the relationship. But Tony is starting to yearn for something deeper, something more like monogamy. When he finds out that Greg has been having a full-blown affair with their cleaner, Robert, their differing attitudes towards love and commitment become clear.

In his foreword to Kevin Elyot: Four Plays (Nick Hern Books, 2004), Elyot writes 'From 1976 to 1984 I'd acted in several productions at the Bush Theatre, and Simon Stokes, one of the artistic directors, had casually suggested I try my hand at a play. I presented them with a script entitled Cosy, which was passed on to their literary manager Sebastian Born. He responded favourably and, largely through his support, it finally opened on 3 November 1982 under the title Coming Clean. Cosy had fallen out of favour – a pity, as I'd always liked the pun on the opera which plays such an important part. I came up with the present title as a necessary compromise after what had proved to be quite a bumpy ride from acceptance to premiere.'

The Bush Theatre premiere was directed by David Hayman and designed by Saul Radomsky. The cast was Eamon Boland, C.J. Allen, Philip Donaghy, Ian McCurrach and Clive Mantle.

Coming Clean won the Samuel Beckett Award for writers showing particular promise in the field of the performing arts.

Consensual

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Evan Placey's Consensual is a play about a pupil-teacher relationship that has overstepped the mark. It was first performed by the National Youth Theatre of Great Britain at Ambassadors Theatre, London, on 18 September 2015.

The play's action revolves around a British secondary school, with an ensemble group of students maintaining an insistent presence throughout the first half. Diane is a teacher and Head of Year 11, charged with implementing the new ‘Healthy Relationships’ curriculum. Seven years ago, as a 22-year-old teaching assistant, she made a mistake: she got too close to one of her unhappy 15-year-old pupils, Freddie. Now she is a fully-qualified teacher and heavily pregnant, and Freddie has turned up. Lost and unhappy, he's intent on pressing charges. Though we see both of their stories, in the first half we're never sure the truth of what happened. While Diane tries to teach a bunch of teenagers SRE – the new educational buzzword for Sex and Relationships Education – her world unravels in the background. Freddie, meanwhile, is undermined and ridiculed by his brother for going to the police. At the time, he crowed about his conquest. Unsettlingly, who is right and who is wrong is not clear cut.

The National Youth Theatre production was directed by Pia Furtado and designed by Cecilia Carey. The cast was Lauren Lyle, Oscar Porter-Brentford, Grace Surey, Megan Parkinson, Conor Neaves, Cole Edwards, Oliver West, Luke Pierre, Gavi Singh Chera, Jason Imlach, Oliver West, Andrew Hanratty, Francene Turner, Melissa Taylor, Alice Feetham, Paris Iris Campbell and Ellise Chappell.

Consent

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Nina Raine's Consent is a play about attitudes towards rape, and how victims of rape are treated by the current British justice system. It was first performed as a co-production with Out of Joint in the Dorfman auditorium of the National Theatre, London, on 4 April 2017 (previews from 28 March).

The plot of Consent revolves around a contentious rape case: a working-class woman, Gayle, alleges that she was raped on the night of her sister’s funeral, while the accused claims that she consented. The barrister acting for the defence, Edward, and his wife, Kitty, are friends with the case’s crown prosecutor, Tim. When Edward and Kitty try to set Tim up with an actress friend, Zara, who’s auditioning for a big legal drama herself, their own marriage comes under strain. Having counselled their best friends Jake and Rachel, also lawyers, through their own rocky patch, Edward and Kitty find themselves in a similar situation. Fraying under the pressures of motherhood, and never having forgiven Edward over a previous indiscretion, Kitty winds up in an affair of her own and, after a fraught argument, she accuses him of rape.

The National Theatre production was directed by Roger Michell and designed by Hildegard Bechtler. It was performed by Adam James, Anna Maxwell Martin, Ben Chaplin, Priyanga Burford, Pip Carter, Heather Craney and Daisy Haggard.

The Contingency Plan

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

A double bill of plays from the frontline of climate change - an epic portrait of an England of the near future, in the grip of unprecedented and catastrophic floods.

On the Beach is set in an England in the grip of unprecedented flooding, glaciologist Will Paxton returns from months in Antarctica to tell his parents that he will take up a role within Government. Thirty years ago, his father silenced his own radical thinking on climate change. Yet behind the reunion with his father lies years of secrecy and bitterness. As the truth surfaces, the family is torn apart, and Will’s parents must face the rising tide alone. The dialectic between Will and his father is explored with an urgent intensity which reflects the state of national emergency in which England finds itself. Waters blends the personal with the political turning this large-scale play into a compelling human drama.

In Resilience, England faces an uncertain future as catastrophic flooding on an unprecedented scale is predicted to hit its battered shores. The Tory Government that has just come to power wants radical answers to the imminent floods. Their newly appointed expert Will Paxton (who features prominently in the first part of the double bill, On the Beach) posits an extreme scenario. He declares England, potentially from coastline to capital, to be in total peril. Tory Minister for Climate Change, Chris is blind to the realities being placed before him, much to the chagrin of Will and his colleague, Colin, the Government’s Scientific Advisor. Resilience shows that Will’s fight to implement a proper policy, built from scientific research, derives in part from the old familial wounds aired in On the Beach.

Resilience and On the Beach premiered as a double bill at the Bush Theatre in London in 2009.

Impressive in scale and chilling as a prediction of our immediate future, the two plays are complementary but can also stand alone.

The Contractor

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Mr Ewbank, tenting contractor for all outside and inside occasions is organising the marquee for his daughter's wedding. His team of labourers banter and backbite as they work, erecting a huge muslin tent. The audience watch as these skilled men come together to facilitate an event they won't be attending, and come back the following day, after the fun has been had, to remove the construction again. Meanwhile, Ewbank watches as his labour and business are reined to deliver a send-off that will mark a fundamental shift in his working and family life.

Described by the Observer as 'A subtle and poetic parable about the nature and joy of skilled work, the meaning of community and the effect of its loss', The Contractor was first performed at the Royal Court Theatre, London, on 20 October 1969.

Coram Boy

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Helen Edmundson's stage adaptation of Jamila Gavin's Whitbread Award-winning children's novel, Coram Boy (published in 2000), is a Dickensian tale of philanthropy, foundling children, and families both divided and, ultimately, reunited. It was first performed, with music composed by Adrian Sutton, in the Olivier auditorium of the National Theatre, London, on 15 November 2005 (previews from 2 November).

In 18th-century Gloucestershire, the evil Otis Gardner preys on unmarried mothers, promising to take their babies (and their money) to Thomas Coram's hospital for foundling children. Instead, he buries the babies and pockets the loot. But Otis's downfall is set in train when his half-witted son Meshak falls in love with a young girl, Melissa, and rescues the unwanted son she has had with a disgraced aristocrat. The child is brought up in Coram's hospital, and proves to have inherited the startling musical gifts of his father – gifts that ultimately bring about his father's redemption and a heartbreaking family reunion.

The National Theatre premiere was directed by Melly Still and designed by Ti Green and Melly Still. It was performed by Jack Tarlton, Justine Mitchell, Nicholas Tizzard, Abby Ford, Anna Madeley, Paul Ritter, Ruth Gemmell, Inika Leigh Wright, Adam Shipway, Rebecca Johnson, Kelly Williams, Eve Matheson, Katherine Manners, Sophie Bould, William Scott-Masson, Bertie Carvel, Sharon Maharaj, Akiya Henry, Chetna Pandya and Stuart McLoughlin.

It was revived at the National Theatre from November 2006 to February 2007.

The play opened on Broadway at the Imperial Theater on 2 May 2007, with previews from 16 April 2007, directed by Melly Still.

Cotton Wool

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Ali Taylor's play Cotton Wool is a coming-of-age drama set in Kirkcaldy, Scotland. It received its European premiere at Staatsschauspiel Dresden on 18 January 2008, and was staged at Theatre503, London, in April 2008. It won the 2009 Meyer-Whitworth Award.

The play follows two brothers, Callum (age 18) and Gussie (age 16), living on the Fife coast and recently orphaned. Callum believes they should make a new start in London, but, on the night of their mother's funeral, having drunk copious amounts of beer, the two boys think they spot their mother calling to them from out at sea. Things get more complicated when they meet runaway Harriet (age 17), who is trying to find her father, and both brothers fall for her.

The production was directed by Lisa Spirling and designed by Polly Sullivan. It was performed by Joseph Arkley as Callum, Owen Whitelaw as Gussie, Victoria Bavister as Harriet and Catherine Cayman.

Creditors (trans. Greig)

Faber and Faber
Type: Text

Anxiously awaiting the return of his new wife, Adolph finds solace in the words of a stranger. But comfort soon turns to destruction as old wounds are opened, insecurities are laid bare and former debts are settled.

Regarded as Strindberg's most mature work, Creditors is a darkly comic tale of obsession, honour and revenge. David Greig's version premiered at the Donmar Warehouse, London, in September 2008.

Cromwell

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Set in England during the 1600s, Cromwell depicts a world of conflict and survival as the warring of rival ideological factions decimates the opportunities for ordinary people to live ordinary lives.

The play centres on a man named Procter who finds himself drafted into war, and even accepts the principles for which he is fighting, until he falls in love with a woman, Joan, whose life has been decimated by the conflict around her. Procter lays down his weapon and becomes a pacifist, preferring a quiet life of domesticity. However, he and Joan are powerless to prevent the war from coming to their doorstep once more – and again find their lives torn to pieces at the point of a sword.

In his introduction, David Storey writes that ‘Cromwell was written when the war in Vietnam, and the troubles in Northern Ireland, were at their height . . . To some extent an enigma, the play’s form emerged at a time when I was much enthralled by naturalistic – or poeticised naturalistic writing, a sudden transposition to something approaching free verse reflecting, to a degree, the dilemma explicit in the play itself: how to reconcile humanity’s insatiable appetite for destruction with a longing for transcendence and peace.’

Cromwell was first performed at the Royal Court Theatre, London, on 15 August 1973, in a production directed by Anthony Page.

The Dance of Death (McPherson)

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Conor McPherson's adaptation of August Strindberg’s 1900 play The Dance of Death, about a titanic battle of wills between a husband and wife, was first performed at the Trafalgar Studios, London, on 13 December 2012.

On an isolated island, military captain Edgar and his wife Alice live a bitter life, their marriage soured by hatred. When the possibility of redemption and escape arrives for Alice in the shape of their former comrade Kurt, it seems that Edgar is prepared to use his very last breath to make their lives a living hell.

The premiere at Trafalgar Studios was part of the Donmar Trafalgar season designed to showcase the work of graduates from the theatre’s Resident Assistant Director scheme. The production was directed by Titus Halder and designed by Richard Kent, with Indira Varma as Alice, Kevin R. McNally as the Captain (Edgar) and Daniel Lapaine as Kurt.

The play was first performed in the US at Writers Theatre, Glencoe, Chicago, on 1 April 2014 in a production directed by Henry Wishcamper.

Dara

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Tanya Ronder's adaptation of Shahid Nadeem's play Dara is a domestic drama of global consequence, set in 17th-century Mughal India. It was first performed in the Lyttelton auditorium of the National Theatre, London, on 27 January 2015 (previews from 20 January).

Nadeem’s original play was first performed by Ajoka Theatre at Alhamra Arts Council, Lahore, Pakistan, in January 2010, and later in Karachi and Islamabad in Pakistan, and Amritsar, Delhi, Lucknow, Jaipur and Hyderabad in India.

The play's action begins in 1659, in Mughal India. The imperial court is a place of opulence and excess, with music, drugs, eunuchs and harems. Two brothers, Dara and Aurangzeb, whose mother’s death inspired the Taj Mahal, are heirs to this Muslim empire. Now they fight ferociously for succession. Dara, the crown prince, has the love of the people, and of his emperor father; but the younger Aurangzeb holds a different vision for India’s future. Islam inspires poetry in Dara, puritanical rigour in Aurangzeb. Can Jahanara, their beloved sister, assuage Aurangzeb’s resolve to seize the Peacock Throne and purge the empire?

In an author's note in the published script, Ronder writes: 'My brief was to take Shahid Nadeem’s play and adapt it for a National Theatre audience. We set out, myself and director Nadia Fall, to unpack the events cited in the original play, to educate ourselves, and to recreate the story in a way that didn’t put our audience at arm’s length, able to write the drama off as a story that was not theirs. The tale of Dara and Aurangzeb is one which a Pakistani or an Indian audience would have preexisting knowledge and some ownership of. A story, albeit differently told across borders, which children all over the Indian subcontinent will have heard at school or at home, (perhaps akin to our connection in Britain to Henry VIII or Elizabeth I), but that very few of us in the West know about. ... The result is a more recognisable shape of play; it has expanded to five acts, it starts before the original begins and ends several decades later. I have added in a trial scene to give Dara the voice I think we need to hear, and added various characters and storylines, all taken from or inspired by historical facts – Itbar and Afia, Murad, Mian Mir, Hira Bai and Aurangzeb’s relationship with her – and also incorporated a childhood for the brothers and sisters of this Mughal court. All in an attempt to round the story out, to make it a fairer fight between the brothers and to hopefully give our audience the psychological and emotional complexity they are used to.'

The National Theatre premiere was directed by Nadia Fall and designed by Katrina Lindsay. It was performed by Zubin Varla (as Dara), Gurjeet Singh, Scott Karim, Ronak Patani, Emilio Doorgasingh, Anjana Vasan, Sargon Yelda (as Aurangzeb), Rudi Dharmalingam, Esh Alladi, Nicholas Khan, Mariam Haque, Gary Wood, Vincent Ebrahim, Nathalie Armin, Anneika Rose, Anjli Mohindra, Liya Tassisa, Indira Joshi, Chook Sibtain, Simon Nagra, Emilio Doorgasingh, Prasanna Puwanarajah and Ranjit Krishnamma.

Daughters of the Revolution

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

David Edgar's Daughters of the Revolution is one part of a two-play cycle under the collective title Continental Divide, set against the background of a bitterly fought American governor’s election in an unspecified Pacific-coast state. Daughters of the Revolution centres on characters in the Democrat camp, while the other part, Mothers Against, examines the election from the Republican perspective.

Across the two plays, Edgar explores what has happened to the revolutionary fervour that took hold of both the Right and the Left in the 1960s, and how it has been carried over into the politics of the twenty-first century.

Both plays were jointly commissioned and produced by Berkeley Repertory Theatre and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Daughters of the Revolution was first performed in the Angus Bowmer Theatre, Ashland, Oregon, as part of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival on 1 March 2003 before transferring to Berkeley Repertory Theatre, with performances from 6 November 2003.

Daughters of the Revolution is an expansive epic theatre play about the diaspora of 1960s student radicals. Michael Bern is a Community College professor about to land a big promotion due to his connections with the Democratic candidate for governor, Rebecca McKeene. As a birthday present his partner, Abby, has tracked down his old FBI file relating to his days as a political activist in the 1970s. This leads him on a mission to find the informer who betrayed his revolutionary cell in 1972. Along the way he meets an ex-Black Panther, an old Marxist turned fervent right-winger, and discovers that his old friend Rebecca may have a dirty little political secret of her own.

The premiere at Oregon Shakespeare Festival was directed by Tony Taccone and designed by William Bloodgood, with a cast including Terry Layman as Michael Bern.

The play received its UK premiere at Birmingham Repertory Theatre on 6 March 2004, with the original American cast directed by Tony Taccone. It subsequently played at the Barbican, London, as part of their BITE Festival, with performances from 20 March 2004.

The Day I Stood Still

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Kevin Elyot's The Day I Stood Still is a comedy drama about the heartbreak of unrequited love and the power of memories. It was first performed in the Cottesloe auditorium of the National Theatre, London, on 22 January 1998.

The play is set in a North London mansion block. Horace, Jerry and Judy were teenagers in the 60s, into drink, drugs, Hendrix and each other. Thirty years later, Judy unexpectedly drops in to see Horace with her new French boyfriend and we learn that Jerry has died, leaving behind his and Judy's four-year-old son, Jimi. It seems Horace is unable to escape the deep love he has always harboured for Jerry, even after his death, until one night he receives a visit from a now grown-up Jimi looking for comfort in the midst of his own romantic turmoil.

The National Theatre premiere was directed by Ian Rickson and designed by Mark Thompson. The cast was Adrian Scarborough, Callum Dixon, Catherine Russell, Daisy Beaumont, Geoffrey Church, Jake Wood, Joseph Swash and Oliver Milburn.

Days of Wine and Roses

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Owen McCafferty's Days of Wine and Roses is a free adaptation of JP Miller's screenplay of the same name for a 1962 film directed by Blake Edwards. (Miller adapted the screenplay from his earlier teleplay for a 1958 episode of US television drama anthology series Playhouse 90, also called Days of Wine and Roses.)

McCafferty's version is a two-hander about a young couple from Belfast trying to make a new start in 1960s London, but succumbing to alcoholism. It was first performed at the Donmar Warehouse, London, on 17 February 2005.

The play's action takes place between 1962 and 1970. In the opening scene, Donal meets Mona in the departure lounge at Belfast Airport. Both are leaving to start a new life in London, but when teetotal Mona takes a sip from Donal's hipflask, their fates are sealed. As they marry and have a son, their London lives prosper. But, gradually, drink turns from a source of celebration into a ruinous nightly drug. And, while Donal shows the will to survive, Mona is on a doomed, downward spiral.

The title was taken by JP Miller from an 1896 poem 'Vitae Summa Brevis Spem Nos Vetat Incohare Longam' by Ernest Dowson, which contains the line 'They are not long, the days of wine and roses'.

The Donmar premiere was directed by Peter Gill and designed by Alison Chitty, with Anne-Marie Duff as Mona and Peter McDonald as Donal.

Death and the Maiden

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Ariel Dorfman's Death and the Maiden is a psychological thriller about a woman who, in a country newly released from dictatorship, seeks revenge on the man she believes to have been her torturer. Translated by Dorfman from his original version in Spanish, La Muerte y la Doncella, the play was first performed as a reading at the Institute for Contemporary Art in London on 30 November 1990, before receiving its world premiere at the Royal Court Theatre Upstairs on 4 July 1991. It was later turned into a feature film directed by Roman Polanski and starring Sigourney Weaver and Ben Kingsley.

The play is set in a beach house in a country that, according to a note in the script, is 'probably Chile but could be any country that has given itself a democratic government just after a long period of dictatorship'. Years have passed since political prisoner, Paulina Salas, suffered at the hands of her captor: a man whose face she never saw, but whom she can still recall with terrifying clarity. Tonight, by chance, a stranger, Roberto Miranda, arrives at the secluded beach house she shares with her husband Gerardo Escobar, a human rights lawyer and member of the Commission set up to investigate the terrible crimes perpetrated under the dictatorship. Paulina is convinced the stranger was her tormentor and believes he must now be held to account.

The play's first performances took place soon after Chile's return to democracy following the end of General Augusto Pinochet's dictatorship. In an Afterword to the published edition of the play, Dorfman explains that, although he'd had the idea for the play some 'eight or nine years' before, 'It was not until Chile returned to democracy in 1990 and I myself therefore returned to resettle there with my family after seventeen years of exile, that I finally understood how the story had to be told'.

The first reading at the ICA in London was directed by Peter James, with Penelope Wilton as Paulina, Michael Maloney as Gerardo and Jonathan Hyde as Roberto.

A workshop production was staged in Santiago, Chile, on 10 March 1991directed by Ana Reeves, with Maria Elena Duvauchelle as Paulina, Hugo Medina as Gerardo and Tito Bustamente as Roberto.

The world premiere at the Royal Court Upstairs on 4 July 1991 was directed by Lindsay Posner with Juliet Stevenson as Paulina, Bill Paterson as Gerardo and Michael Byrne as Roberto. The production moved to the Main Stage at the Royal Court on 31 October 1991, with the same cast and director.

The play then transferred on 11 February 1992 with the same cast to the Duke of York's Theatre in the West End.

The American Broadway premiere opened at the Brooks Atkinson Theater on 17 March 1992 directed by Mike Nichols, with Glenn Close as Paulina, Richard Dreyfuss as Gerardo and Gene Hackman as Roberto.

A feature film version followed in 1994, directed by Roman Polanski with a screenplay by Rafael Yglesias and Ariel Dorfman, starring Sigourney Weaver as Paulina, Ben Kingsley as Roberto and Stuart Wilson as Gerardo.

audio Death and the Maiden

LA Theatre Works
Type: Audio

"Generally, it's the tortured who turn into torturers."

Carl Gustav Jung

Suspense mounts when Paulina and her husband offer hospitality to a stranger. Paulina thinks she recognizes, in their guest, the man who tortured her in prison, and she subsequently takes him hostage to find out the truth. A stunningly blunt and compelling play, Death and the Maiden explores brilliantly the issues of torture, power, vulnerability, ethics, and trust. An award-winning play by Chilean writer Ariel Dorfman, forced into exile in 1973.

An L.A. Theatre Works full-cast performance featuring John Kapelos, John Mahoney, Carolyn Seymour and Kristoffer Tabori.

Featuring: John Kapelos, John Mahoney, Carolyn Seymour, Kristoffer Tabori

Deborah’s Daughter

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Pam Gems' play Deborah’s Daughter explores the fragile relationship between the West and the developing world seen through the prism of a mother/daughter relationship. It was first performed at the Library Theatre, Manchester on 3 March 1994.

Deborah Pedersen has been recently widowed. Her husband was an enormously powerful oil tycoon to whom Deborah was devoted. She even sacrificed her burgeoning career as a scientist to enable his ambitions. Now she is left to pick up the pieces after his death in an unnamed North African country with strong business ties to Pedersen Oil. The trouble is, she is largely unacquainted with the country and its people. Along with her precocious and privileged daughter, Stephanie, and her short-tempered mother, Rhoda, the women find themselves caught up in a violent coup. When Deborah becomes romantically involved with Hassan, an army Colonel with a poetic streak, her life begins to unravel.

The Library Theatre production was directed by Sue Dunderdale and designed by Shimon Castiel. The cast was Anna Carteret, Jane Freeman, Mia Fothergill, Raad Rawi, Peter Yapp, Philip Darling, Nasser Memarzia and Royce Hounsell.

Deposit

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Matt Hartley's Deposit is a play that explores the problems facing young people in London who want to buy their own property, focussing on two couples in their late 20s who together take a radical step in order to save for a deposit. It was first performed at Hampstead Theatre Downstairs, London, on 12 March 2015.

The play's action takes place in a 'very, very small' one-bedroom attic flat in a terraced house in Herne Hill, London, over a period of nearly twelve months between September 2014 and August 2015. Rachel and Ben are looking to buy their first property, and so are their friends Melanie and Sam, but with rising rent prices, taxes to pay, student loans still outstanding and pensions to think about, the prospect of putting down a deposit seems ever-distant. So they decide to live together for a year in a rental property, sharing both costs and space in a cramped one-bedroom attic flat. But soon cracks in the paper-thin walls begin to appear, and as their increasingly limited living space gradually encroaches on household relations, the couples are faced with a choice between preserving their friendship, their relationships, or their dream of buying their own property.

The Hampstead Theatre premiere was directed by Lisa Spirling and directed by Polly Sullivan, with Ben Addis as Ben, Akiya Henry as Rachel, Jack Monaghan as Sam and Laura Morgan as Melanie.

The Distance

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Deborah Bruce's The Distance is a play about the emotional fallout when a woman walks out on her husband and children. It was first performed at the Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond, on 8 October 2014.

At the beginning of the play, 40-year-old Bea is staying with a group of old friends in Sussex, having abandoned her family in Australia. Her friends' attempts to comfort her only add to her sense of confusion. Kate insists that she and Bea fly straight back to Melbourne to claim custody of the children, while Alex is chiefly concerned that her own teenage son might be caught up in the London riots of 2011. What nobody seems to notice is that Bea is guiltily relieved to be rid of her family and doesn’t even want to talk to them via Skype. As the truth leaks out, things threaten to slide into chaos.

The Orange Tree Theatre premiere was directed by Charlotte Gwinner and designed by Signe Beckmann. It was performed by Helen Baxendale (as Lou), Emma Beattie, Daniel Hawksford, Timothy Knightley, Clare Lawrence Moody, Bill Milner and Oliver Ryan.

The play was a finalist for the 2012-13 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize and premiered at the Orange Tree Theatre, London, in October 2014. It was revived at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield, in 2015.

Doctor Scroggy’s War

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Howard Brenton's play Doctor Scroggy's War is the story of a fictional soldier, Jack Twigg, who, after receiving an injury on the front line during the First World War, encounters the polymath and celebrated surgeon Harold Gillies, acknowledged as the father of modern plastic surgery. The play was first performed at Shakespeare’s Globe, London, on 12 September 2014, marking the centenary of the war.

The play's action centres around the invented character Jack Twigg, a ship’s chandler’s son who enlists in the London Regiment, falls in love with the upper-class Penelope Wedgewood and works as a junior intelligence officer for Sir John French during the battle of Loos in 1915. But Jack leaves the staff, determined to serve in the front line, and there receives a terrible facial injury. This, in the play’s second half, brings him into contact with Harold Gillies, a real-life pioneering plastic surgeon who developed new methods of skin-grafting to restore the faces of badly mutilated men at the Queen’s hospital, Sidcup. The play’s title derives from the roistering alter ego Gillies created to prevent his patients from succumbing to despair. Gillies tries to convince Twigg not to go back to the front, but is unable to do so and the play ends with the young soldier back on the Western Front.

In an article published in The Independent (10 September 2014), Brenton says of the play: 'What helped me in dramatising Harold Gillies were accounts of his extraordinary way of speaking. He was renowned for being difficult to understand, flinging out sentences studded with bizarre metaphors, speeding ahead of his listeners and, at times, himself. Gillies had a hyperactive sense of humour: there were practical jokes and entertainments; there was cross-dressing and illicit champagne and oysters served at night in the wards. Queens was a military hospital and rumours of "goings on" troubled authority. But Gillies, who treated more than five thousand terribly wounded men, some needing as many as 50 operations, understood that souls as well as faces had to be healed. Some of his patients never reintegrated into society but an extraordinary number did, with an insouciance that Gillies's "goings on" encouraged. I have him say about the hospital "We don't do glum here" – that was his spirit. But he was also conflicted in his work by a great fear: that the men he healed would go back to fight at the front.'

The Shakespeare's Globe premiere was directed by John Dove and designed by Michael Taylor. It was performed by Catherine Bailey (as Penelope Wedgewood), Sam Cox, Patrick Driver, Will Featherstone (as Jack Twigg), James Garnon (as Harold Gillies), Daisy Hughes, Joe Jameson, Tom Kanji, Christopher Logan, William Mannering, Holly Morgan, Rhiannon Oliver, Keith Ramsay, Paul Rider, Katy Stephens and Dickon Tyrrell.

The Doctor’s Story (Play Three from The Middlemarch Trilogy)

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

The Doctor's Story is part of The Middlemarch Trilogy, a three-part stage adaptation by Geoffrey Beevers of George Eliot's novel Middlemarch (published 1871-2).

The Middlemarch Trilogy comprises three interconnected plays (Dorothea's Story, The Doctor's Story and Fred and Mary's Story) telling the story of Eliot's fictitious town of Middlemarch from the perspective of three different sets of characters: from county, town and countryside. They were first performed at the Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond, in 2013. The Doctor’s Story opened on 13 November.

In The Doctor’s Story, set in the town of Middlemarch itself, where everyone wants to know each other’s business, idealistic Dr Lydgate arrives in Middlemarch determined to achieve great things. He catches the eye of the Mayor’s beautiful, self-centred daughter Rosamond but is torn between ambition and loyalty as he is drawn into an alliance with a corrupt banker.

The Orange Tree production was directed by Geoffrey Beevers and designed by Sam Dowson. The cast was Georgina Strawson, Daisy Ashford, Christopher Ettridge, Christopher Naylor, Jamie Newall, Liz Crowther, Ben Lambert, Michael Lumsden, NiamhWalsh, David Ricardo-Pearce and Lucy Tregear.

In his introduction to the published script (Nick Hern Books, 2014), Geoffrey Beevers writes, 'I’ve always loved the challenge of huge themes in intimate spaces, where the principle must be, not: ‘What can we do with this?’ but: ‘What can we do without? How can we tell this story, as simply as possible, so the story will shine through?’ I wanted to use only her words, a few actors and a minimum of setting, and leave as much as possible to the audience’s imagination.'

Doldrum Bay

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Doldrum Bay is a bittersweet comedy about the incongruous lives of people stranded by life.

As Magda comes to terms with her demanding father’s terminal illness, her husband Francis seduces a girl dressed as a mermaid with extracts from his Great Irish Novel. It is going to be a world-changing, filmic masterpiece on sex and faith, though he’s been so busy promoting it that he hasn’t written it yet. Their friend Chick has been commissioned to come up with an advertising campaign for the Christian Brothers: advertise God in seven words. Louise is pregnant, trying to keep her head above water. The play is a soul-searching satire on their loves and losses, and their marooned, forty-something lives.

Doldrum Bay premiered in 2003 at the Peacock Stage of the Abbey Theatre, Dublin.

A Doll's House (trans. McGuinness)

Faber and Faber
Type: Text

Nora Helmer, wife to Torvald and mother of three children, appears to enjoy living the live of a pampered, indulged child. But as her economic dependence becomes brutally clear, Nora’s acceptance of the status quo undergoes a profound change. To the bewildered Torvald, himself caught in the tight web of a conservative society which demands that he exert strict control, Nora comes to see that the only possible true course of action is to leave the family home.

A Doll’s House (trans. Meyer; Student Edition)

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

This Student Edition of A Doll's House provides a wealth of scholarly information, annotation and background to aid the study of Ibsen's seminal play.

The slamming of the front door at the end of Ibsen’s electrifying play shatters the romantic masquerade of Nora and Torvald’s marriage. In their stultifying and infantilised relationship, they have deceived themselves and each other into thinking they are happy. But Nora’s concealment of a loan she had to take out for her husband’s sake forces their frivolous conversation to an irrevocable crisis, until Nora claims her right to individual freedom.

Ibsen’s 1879 play shocked its first audiences with its radical insights into the social roles of husband and wife. His portrayal of his flawed heroine, Nora, remains one of the most striking dramatic depictions of late-nineteenth century woman.

This version is translated by Michael Meyer, and was first performed in 1964 at the Playhouse, Oxford.

A Doll's House (trans. Stephens)

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

The slamming of the front door at the end of Ibsen’s delicate and electrifying play shatters the romantic masquerade of the Nora and Torvald’s marriage. In their stultifying and infantilised relationship, they have deceived themselves and each other into thinking they are happy. But Nora’s concealment of a loan she had to take out for her husband’s sake forces their frivolous conversation to an irrevocable crisis, until Nora claims her right to individual freedom.

Ibsen’s 1879 play shocked its first audiences with its radical insights into the social roles of husband and wife. His portrayal of his flawed heroine, Nora, remains one of the most striking dramatic depictions of late-nineteenth century woman.

This version is translated by Olivier Award-winning playwright Simon Stephens, and was first performed at the Young Vic, London on 29 June 2012

Drawing the Line

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Howard Brenton's Drawing the Line is a historical drama about the partition of India in August 1947, an act that was to have huge ramifications for the modern world. It highlights the extraordinarily contingent and chaotic political circumstances that lay behind such a momentous historical act. It was first performed at Hampstead Theatre, London, on 3 December 2013.

The play opens in London in 1947. Summoned by the Prime Minister from the court where he is presiding judge, Cyril Radcliffe is given an unlikely mission. He is to travel to India, a country he has never visited, and, with limited survey information, no expert support and no knowledge of cartography, he is to draw the border which will divide the Indian sub-continent into two new Sovereign Dominions. To make matters even more challenging, he has only six weeks to complete the task. Wholly unsuited to his role, Radcliffe is unprepared for the dangerous whirlpool of political intrigue and passion into which he is plunged – untold consequences may even result from the illicit liaison between the Leader of the Congress Party and the Viceroy’s wife. As he begins to break under the pressure he comes to realise that he holds in his hands the fate of millions of people.

The play's premiere at Hampstead Theatre was directed by Howard Davies with Tom Beard as Cyril Radcliffe, Silas Carson as Nehru, Andrew Havill as Mountbatten and Abigail Cruttenden as Antonia Radcliffe.

The performance on Saturday 11 January 2014 was live-streamed to a worldwide audience for free by the theatre in association with The Guardian.

Dublin Carol

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Conor McPherson's Dublin Carol is a play about an ageing alcoholic who is forced to confront the failures of his past. It was first performed at the Royal Court Theatre Downstairs, London, on 7 January 2000.

It’s Christmas Eve and Dublin undertaker John Plunkett is sharing memories of funerals over the years and dispensing advice to his young assistant, Mark. But the arrival of his estranged grown-up daughter, Mary, shows him the time has come to face up to his own disastrous past in order to overcome his fear of the future.

The Royal Court premiere was the first production in the newly rebuilt theatre on Sloane Square. It was directed by Ian Rickson and designed by Rae Smith, with Brian Cox as John, Andrew Scott as Mark and Bronagh Gallagher as Mary.

The play was produced in Chicago by Steppenwolf Theatre Company in November 2008 in a production directed by Amy Morton.

It was revived by the Donmar Warehouse in their West End season at the Trafalgar Studios in December 2011, in a production directed by Abbey Wright.

Duck

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Stella Feehily's first play Duck is a drama about female friendship set in contemporary Dublin. It was first performed at the Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds, on 24 July 2003, in a production by Out of Joint. This production went on national tour, including a run at the Royal Court Theatre, London, from 20 November 2003 to 10 January 2004.

Set in present-day Dublin, the play follows Cat, a girl in her late teens, temping as a nightclub hostess in a seedy bar belonging to her thuggish boyfriend Mark. Cat (or 'Duck', as Mark unkindly calls her, because of the size of her feet) tries to kick-start her life by blowing up Mark's car and, later, starting a relationship with Jack, an ageing author with a drink problem. But for all her attempts to transcend the limitations of her life, she comes to realise that companionship with her best mate Sophie offers the best option after all.

The premiere production was directed by Max Stafford-Clark and designed by Jonathan Fensom. It was performed by Gina Moxley, Ruth Negga (as Cat), Aidan O’Hare, Tony Rohr, Karl Shiels (as Mark) and Elaine Symons (as Sophie).

East is East

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Ayub Khan Din’s debut play East is East is a comedy about an Anglo-Pakistani family living in multiracial Salford in the 1970s. It was first performed at Birmingham Repertory Studio Theatre on 8 October 1996 in a co-production by Tamasha Theatre Company, the Royal Court Theatre Company and Birmingham Repertory Company, before transferring to the Royal Court, London. It was later adapted into a feature film, with a screenplay by the author, that became one of the most successful British films ever made.

Pakistani chip-shop owner George Khan – 'Genghis' to his kids – is determined to give his six children (Abdul, Tariq, Maneer, Saleem, Meenah and Sajit) a strict Muslim upbringing against the unforgiving backdrop of 1970s Salford. Household tensions reach breaking point as their long-suffering English mother, Ella, gets caught in the crossfire – her loyalty divided between her marriage and the free will of her children.

The premiere production was directed by Kristine Landon-Smith and designed by Sue Mayes, with Nasser Memarzia as George Khan and Linda Bassett as Ella. The production transferred to the Royal Court, London, where it opened in the Theatre Upstairs on 19 November 1996, then in the Theatre Downstairs from 26 March 1997.

East is East won the John Whiting Award in 1996 and was nominated for the Olivier Award for Best New Comedy in 1998.

The feature film adaptation, released in 1999, was directed by Damien O'Donnell and starred Om Puri as George Khan and Linda Bassett as Ella.

The play was revived in a new version at the Trafalgar Studios, London, in October 2014 in a production directed by Sam Yates and designed by Tom Scutt, with Ayub Khan Din as George Khan and Jane Horrocks as Ella.

Ecstasy

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Mike Leigh’s play is a paean to loneliness and longing that paints a portrait of a group of old friends catching up on a Friday night.

1979. The winter of discontent is over and Margaret Thatcher’s regime is about to transform the country. Stuck in her cramped Kilburn bedsit, Jean is trying to live some sort of life, trapped in a cycle of hopeless dalliances with violent men and continually drowning her sorrows. After an unexpected home invasion by the furious wife of her latest lover, she is persuaded by friend Dawn to throw a little get-together that evening for old times’ sake. Joining them is Dawn’s Irish husband, Mick and their old pal, Len for a drunken celebration of their mutual affection, filled with memories and songs from their youth. It is only after the fun has died down that Jean reveals the full extent of her aching melancholy.

Ecstasy was first performed at the Hampstead Theatre in London in 1979 with a cast that included Julie Walters, Stephen Rea and Jim Broadbent – all of them virtual unknowns at the time. In an unprecedented move, Mike Leigh returned to the play twenty-two years later when it was revived at the same venue in 2011. The revival transferred to the West End later that year and garnered excellent reviews.

Edgar & Annabel

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Sam Holcroft's short play Edgar & Annabel is an Orwellian dystopian fable about a group of freedom fighters attempting to stand up to a repressive regime, while being continuously subjected to surveillance. It was first performed in a double bill with The Swan by D.C. Moore as part of the Double Feature season of paired short plays at the Paintframe, a specially converted space at the National Theatre, London, on 18 July 2011.

The play begins in Edgar and Annabel's kitchen, where dinner is being prepared. But the young couple who live here are only playing the roles of Edgar and Annabel: they are in fact Nick and Marianne, two members of the resistance movement plotting revolution. Since the house is bugged by a computer capable of analysing sounds and speech-patterns, they must play Edgar and Annabel, sticking to the script to ensure continuity and imperceptibility. The play explores the complex relationship that undercover agents, and actors, have with their allotted roles. In a key scene that uses motifs of high farce, the two dissidents prepare a bomb, while the sound they make is drowned out by four other dissidents singing karaoke.

The National Theatre premiere was directed by Lyndsey Turner and designed by Soutra Gilmour. It was performed by Trystan Gravelle, Kirsty Bushell, Damian O’Hare, Karina Fernandez, Tom Basden, Richard Goulding and Phoebe Fox.

Educating Agnes

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Liz Lochhead's Educating Agnes is a Scots-inflected adaptation of Molière’s classic comedy The School for Wives (L’Ecole des Femmes). It was first performed by Theatre Babel at Citizens’ Theatre, Glasgow, on 25 April 2008. Educating Agnes follows Lochhead's earlier adaptations of Molière’s Tartuffe (Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh,1986) and The Misanthrope (as Miseryguts, Royal Lyceum, 2002).

In her introduction to the published edition, Lochhead writes 'The play [is] about an old man of forty-two [Arnolphe] who is so obsessed with the infidelity and treachery of womankind he decides the solution is to marry a young, young girl [Agnes] – his ward, a child innocent to the point of ignorance – and, all the worse for him, falls in love with her. ...

'Molière’s comedy is profound, universal and eternal. What he reveals here about the power-relationships between old men and young girls – about unhealthy obsession, about youth, sweetness and innocence versus middle-aged male self-deception, terror of sex and misogyny – are, of course, all equally pertinent today. Beyond all that though, it is – as are both of those other masterpieces of his I have come to know and love so well – finally about the comical, appalling suffering which love, especially inappropriate love, causes us human beings.'

The Theatre Babel premiere at Citizens' Theatre was directed by Graham McLaren and designed by Graham McLaren and Robin Peoples. It was performed by Kevin McMonagle, Anneika Rose, John Kielty, Sean Scanlan, Lewis Howden and Maureen Car. The production then embarked on a national tour.

The play was revived in 2011 at the Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh.

Elephants

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Rose Heiney’s debut play Elephants is a domestic black comedy that explores the paths we take in life and their repercussions on the people we love most. It was first performed at Hampstead Theatre Downstairs, London, on 11 December 2014.

The play is set in a house belonging to Sally and Richard, a couple in their mid-fifties. The play begins on Christmas Eve, with Richard and Sally waiting for their friends Dick and Valerie, their nineteen-year-old daughter Daisy, and their absent son Christopher's ex-girfriend Lizzy to arrive for the Christmas festivities. But behind the shiny façade, nothing is quite right – and as cracks start appearing, attempts to paper over them make for an explosive evening of revelations and dark secrets exposed.

The Hampstead Theatre premiere was directed by Tamara Harvey and designed by Polly Sullivan, with Helen Atkinson-Wood as Valerie, Adam Buchanan as Christopher, Jonathan Guy Lewis as Dick, Richard Lintern as Richard, Bel Powley as Daisy, Imogen Stubbs as Sally and Antonia Thomas as Lizzy.

Enemies

Faber and Faber
Type: Text

1905. Russia is at a turning point. Zakhar Bardin is from the landowning class, but is now the uneasy owner of a factory. His managing director is determined to face down militant workers on a point of principle. But the shutting of the business has tragic consequences for everyone concerned.

Gorky's extraordinary play, which was written in exile and banned in his home country, presents a panoramic view of a restless society, with a bourgeoisie no longer sure of its own values, and a working class steadily facing up to the terrifying sacrifices ahead. Described by Ronald Bryden in the Observer in 1971 as 'a real discovery... the missing link between Chekhov and the Russian revolution', Enemies has a dramatic breadth, humour and ambition unique to Gorky.

Maxim Gorky's Enemies is adapted by David Hare and premiered at the Almeida Theatre, London, in May 2006.

An Enemy of the People (trans. Hampton)

Faber and Faber
Type: Text

The strongest man in the world is he who stands most alone.

Dr Stockmann attempts to expose a water pollution scandal in his home town which is about to establish itself as a spa. When his brother conspires with local politicians and the newspaper to suppress the story, Stockmann appeals to a public meeting - only to be shouted down and reviled as 'an enemy of the people'. Ibsen's explosive play reveals his distrust of politicians and the blindly held beliefs of the masses.

Christopher Hampton's version of Ibsen's classic was first staged at the National Theatre, London, in 1997.

An Enemy of the People (trans. Lenkiewicz)

Faber and Faber
Type: Text

Power. Money. Morality. In a tight knit community a shocking discovery comes to light and threatens the lifeblood of the town. Truth and honour are pitched against wild ambition and corruption in Ibsen's emotional maelstrom.

Rebecca Lenkiewicz's version of Ibsen's An Enemy of the People premiered at the Arcola Theatre, London in April 2008.

Eternal Love

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Eternal Love tells the story of the passionate 12th-century love affair between Abelard and Héloïse. It explores the war of ideas that resulted from the ensuing scandal, and examines the complex relationship between logic and religion, humanism and fundamentalism, faith and power. The play was first performed under the title In Extremis at Shakespeare’s Globe, London, on 27 August 2006.

A new spirit of philosophical and religious enquiry is growing in the 12th century. In its vanguard is the brilliant Peter Abelard, a man of great learning, independence of mind and sensuality. He starts a war of ideas with the powerful Abbot and Pope-maker Bernard of Clairvaux, the arch-priest of mysticism and austerity. But when Abelard embarks on a passionate affair with his equally brilliant but disastrously connected student Héloïse, his enemies suddenly have the ideal pretext to destroy him.

The play's 2006 premiere at Shakespeare's Globe was directed by John Dove, with Oliver Boot as Abelard, Sally Bretton as Héloïse, and Jack Laskey as Bernard of Clairvaux. It was well received by the critics and was revived by the Globe in 2007 (first performance on 15 May).

It was later revived by English Touring Theatre in 2014 under the revised title, Eternal Love, and first performed on 6 February at Cambridge Arts Theatre before touring the UK. It was again directed by John Dove, with David Sturzaker as Abelard, Jo Herbert as Héloïse, and Sam Crane as Bernard of Clairvaux.

Every One

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Jo Clifford's Every One is a modern-day reimagining of the 15th-century morality play Everyman, exploring the meaning of death and bereavement at a deeply personal level. It was first performed at the Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh, on 19 March 2010. It was revived in a new production (with some minor textual changes) by Chris Goode & Company at the Battersea Arts Centre, London, on 2 March 2016.

The play unfolds as its principal characters – Mary, her husband Joe, her children Mazz and Kevin, and her Mother – speak in direct address to the audience, recounting (and at times re-enacting) their experience of Mary's sudden, unexpected stroke and subsequent death, together with the emotional devastation that ensued, and their gradual coming to terms with their loss.

In a note accompanying the published script, 'Before You Start to Read', Clifford states that the play 'came from the death of my wife, Susie, in February 2005', and from undergoing a subsequent heart-bypass operation. 'I became aware of how incompetent our culture is when it comes to the universal fact of death.'

The Royal Lyceum premiere was directed by Mark Thomson and designed by Francis O’Connor, with Kathryn Howden as Mary, Jonathan Hackett as Joe, Jenny Hulse as Mazz, Kyle McPhail as Kevin, Tina Gray as Mother and Liam Brennan as Man.

The 2016 Battersea Arts Centre production was directed by Chris Goode and designed by Naomi Dawson, with Angela Clerkin as Mary, Michael Fenton Stevens as Joe, Nicola Weston as Mazz, Nick Finegan as Kevin, Eileen Nicholas as Mother and Nigel Barrett as Man.

The Faith Machine

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

The Faith Machine, Alexi Kaye Campbell's third play after The Pride and Apologia, is about the conflict between faith and the free market in the modern world. It was first performed at the Royal Court Theatre, London, in the Jerwood Theatre Downstairs on 25 August 2011.

The play begins in New York in September 2001. Sophie, an idealistic Englishwoman, presents her American lover, Tom, with a moral choice: she will dump him unless he abandons a massive advertising account he has secured with a pharmaceutical company that has used Ugandan children as a laboratory experiment. The play then jumps back to 1998: Tom and Sophie are visiting her father, Edward, on the Greek island of Patmos where another moral drama is being played out. Edward, an Anglican bishop, is under pressure from a Kenyan cleric not to quit the church over its inflexible attitude to homosexuality. The plot continues to jump forward and back in time as we witness Edward’s declining health and the path of Sophie and Tom’s turbulent relationship.

The Royal Court premiere was directed by Jamie Lloyd and designed by Mark Thompson, with Hayley Atwell as Sophie, Ian McDiarmid as Edward and Kyle Soller as Tom.

Critical reception to the play was mixed. Michael Billington in The Guardian admired its 'expansive ambition and largeness of spirit', although he found it 'occasionally meanders'. Charles Spencer in The Daily Telegraph remarked that the play is 'blessed with a palpable generosity of spirit and many moments of sly humour', though concluded that 'Campbell is a better dramatist when he keeps his canvas smaller'.

The Fall

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

James Fritz’s The Fall is a play about ageing and intergenerational differences, written to be performed by young people. It was first performed by the National Youth Theatre of Great Britain at the Finborough Theatre, London, on 9 August 2016.

The play comprises three loosely connected scenes. In 'First', two young people, Boy and Girl, encounter a dead body for the first time. In 'Second', set 'years later', a married couple, One and Two, experience difficulty and frustration while caring for an ageing parent and supporting their child. In 'Third', again set 'years later', four older people, A, B, C and D, try to accommodate themselves to straitened circumstances in an institutional room intended for two, repeatedly tempted by the offer of cash settlements for their families if they agree to be euthanised.

The National Youth Theatre premiere was directed by Matt Harrison and designed by Chris Hone. The cast was Simeon Blake-Hall, Ben Butler, Oliver Clayton, Matilda Doran-Cobham, Hannah Farnhill, James Morley, Katya Morrison and LaTanya Peterkin.

Fast

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Fin Kennedy’s play Fast is an ensemble play for teenage performers commissioned by Y Touring, an established theatre company that produces and tours plays for young people about complex, science-based issues. It explores issues around fasting, diet, food production and food security. The play was workshopped at Regent High School in Camden, London, before being performed as part of a young people’s summer school run by Y Touring on 22 August 2014.

The play is set among a group of Year 11 classmates (fifteen to sixteen years old) of mixed social backgrounds, in an unnamed state secondary school, in a medium-sized British town, near to some countryside. Cara, a sixteen-year-old student, is from a farming family, and we learn that one year previously her father had killed himself. When Cara’s school holds a twenty-four-hour fast in aid of Oxfam, Cara decides she will not eat again until Tesco’s and the other suppliers, whom she holds responsible for driving her father to suicide, are held to account.

The Y Touring premiere was directed by Dominique Poulter and Nathan Bryon and designed by The Company.

Fast Labour

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Steve Waters’ Fast Labour focuses on the growing culture of human exploitation in the UK focusing specifically on the experience of migrant workers.

In the Ukraine, Victor had a business, a family and a home, but things have changed and he’s fled to the UK in search of a better life. Now he’s doing everything from gutting fish to picking carrots. But he’s a strong-minded man who is determined not to stay at the bottom of the economic food chain forever. He decides to build a business of his own with the aid of two fellow East Europeans and his Scottish mistress. By offering cheap labour to a big shot gang master, Victor builds up a highly successful empire. But this rapid expansion exposes the hypocrisy at the heart of his business – by lining his own pockets he is necessarily cheating those illegal migrants whom he employs. Waters subverts an audience’s expectations by turning the victim into the perpetrator and also points to our own complicity in these exploitative working methods with our increasing consumer demands.

Fast Labour was first performed at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds in 2008 before transferring to the Hampstead Theatre in London.

Fault Lines

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Ali Taylor's play Fault Lines is a comedy drama set in a disasters relief charity in the aftermath of a major earthquake. It was first performed at Hampstead Theatre Downstairs, London, on 5 December 2013.

The play is set in the offices of Disasters Relief, a small charity in London. Colleagues Nick and Abi wake up on the morning of Christmas Eve, amidst the carnage of the previous night's office party, to breaking news: a massive earthquake has struck Pakistan. Gathering their clothes – and dignity – the race with rivals Oxfam begins. Who can be the first to dispatch branded aid in full view of the world media? And how far are they willing to go? With the appalling spectre of the previous night’s antics hanging over everything, the day rapidly spirals into a dizzying web of secrets and lies.

The production was directed by Lisa Spirling and designed by Polly Sullivan. It was performed by Natalie Dew, Samuel James, Alex Lawther and Nichola McAuliffe.

The Ferryman

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Jez Butterworth's play The Ferryman is about a family whose life on a farm in rural Northern Ireland is disrupted when the past comes back to haunt them. It was first performed at the Jerwood Theatre Downstairs at the Royal Court Theatre, London, on 24 April 2017, and subsequently transferred to the Gielgud Theatre in the West End on 20 June 2017.

The play is set in rural County Armagh, Northern Ireland, in late August 1981.

A short Prologue, set the previous day in Derry, establishes the context: the body of Seamus Carney, who disappeared on New Year's Day 1972, when he was twenty years old, has been discovered in a peat bog in County Louth, just across the border; he had been shot in the head, apparently in retribution for his defection from the IRA. Now Seamus's widow, Caitlin, and their son, Oisin, live under the same roof as Seamus's brother, Quinn, a man who has had his own associations with the IRA, but who has long devoted himself to maintaining the family farm, as well as looking after his ailing wife Mary and their six children. Amongst the household too are Quinn’s uncle Pat, and his aunts, Patricia and Maggie, the one a staunch and bitter Irish republican, the other a gentle soul whose long silences are broken by voluble outbursts. Also present is an English factotum, Tom Kettle, a man of slow wits, but whose seemingly bottomless pockets provide amusement for the Carney children. Through it all, Quinn harbours an unspoken love for Caitlin as the family go about observing their ritual harvest celebrations, only to find their lives upended by the arrival of IRA power figure, Muldoon, out to prevent any further damage to the Republican cause resulting from the discovery of Seamus's body.

The premiere production of The Ferryman was directed by Sam Mendes and designed by Rob Howell. It was performed by Turlough Convery, Eugene O’Hare, Gerard Horan, Stuart Graham, Paddy Considine (as Quinn Carney), Laura Donnelly (as Caitlin Carney), Elise Alexandre, Meibh Campbell, Darcey Conway, Angel O’Callaghan, Clara Murphy, Bríd Brennan, Carla Langley, Des McAleer, Niall Wright, Sophia Ally, Grace Doherty, Rob Malone, Dearbhla Molloy, John Hodgkinson, Fra Fee, Genevieve O’Reilly, Tom Glynn-Carney, Conor MacNeill, Michael McCarth and Xavier Moras Spencer.

Folk

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Tom Wells' play Folk is a comedy about three unconventional people finding themselves through music. It was first performed at The STUDIO at Birmingham Repertory Theatre on 14 April 2016 at the start of a tour by Birmingham Repertory Theatre, Hull Truck Theatre and Watford Palace Theatre.

The play is set in the front room of 'an old Victorian terraced house on Bannister Street, Withernsea', belonging to Sister Winnie, an Irish nun in her fifties. Winnie is no ordinary nun: she swears, she smokes, she drinks Guinness, and she loves a sing-song with Stephen (also in his fifties), who plays a battered guitar and some home-made tin whistles. But everything is about to change as Kayleigh, a reticent fifteen-year-old, extremely unsure of herself, throws a brick through Winnie's window without knowing what she was thinking, and is invited in by Winnie.

The premiere touring production was directed by Tessa Walker and designed by Bob Bailey, with Patrick Bridgman as Stephen, Chloe Harris as Kayleigh and Connie Walker as Winnie.

Forever House

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Glenn Waldron's debut play Forever House is a comedy-drama of three linked scenes, all set in the same house in different time-periods, in which three ill-matched pairs search for a new beginning. It was first performed at the Drum Theatre, Plymouth, on 21 March 2013.

The play is set in a Victorian terraced house in Plymouth. The first scene is set in September 1999: self-conscious teen Richard is keen to escape to art college in London, in the hope of finding somewhere more accepting of his artistic nature. Graham is older, still unpacking after moving to the city for his job. Both are finding their feet, and they seek common ground in art, music and photography. But Graham seems to have other, darker things on his mind. In the second scene, set in September 2005, local estate agent Becci is showing former school friend and returnee Laura around the same house; both pregnant, Becci looks forward to sharing new motherhood and nights of retro clubbing with her ‘oldest friend’, while Laura is adamant that she’s ‘not moving back’, simply choosing to relocate with her husband’s job, and is firm about her wishes not to reconnect. The third and final scene is set in May 2012: recently separated Mark is coming to terms with new and unfamiliar mating rituals with spiky Lucy, who may or may not have an ulterior motive for agreeing to come back to his for a drink after the pub.

The Drum Theatre premiere was directed by Joe Murphy and designed by Hannah Clark, with Dylan Kennedy as Richard, Tom Peters as Graham, Leah Whitaker as Laura, Becci Gemmell as Becci, Joana Nastari as Lucy and Tom Andrews as Mark.

Fred and Mary’s Story (Play One from The Middlemarch Trilogy)

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Fred and Mary's Story is part of The Middlemarch Trilogy, a three-part stage adaptation by Geoffrey Beevers of George Eliot's novel Middlemarch (published 1871-2).

The Middlemarch Trilogy comprises three interconnected plays (Dorothea's Story, The Doctor's Story and Fred and Mary's Story) telling the story of Eliot's fictitious town of Middlemarch from the perspective of three different sets of characters: from county, town and countryside. They were first performed at the Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond, in 2013. Fred and Mary’s Story opened on 4 December.

In Fred and Mary’s Story, set amongst hard-working countryfolk, Fred is trying to please his parents and become a country gentleman, but his childhood sweetheart Mary will have none of it.

The Orange Tree production was directed by Geoffrey Beevers and designed by Sam Dowson. The cast was Georgina Strawson, Daisy Ashford, Christopher Ettridge, Christopher Naylor, Jamie Newall, Liz Crowther, Ben Lambert, Michael Lumsden, NiamhWalsh, David Ricardo-Pearce and Lucy Tregear.

In his introduction to the published script (Nick Hern Books, 2014), Geoffrey Beevers writes, 'I’ve always loved the challenge of huge themes in intimate spaces, where the principle must be, not: ‘What can we do with this?’ but: ‘What can we do without? How can we tell this story, as simply as possible, so the story will shine through?’ I wanted to use only her words, a few actors and a minimum of setting, and leave as much as possible to the audience’s imagination.'

From Both Hips

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Mark O'Rowe's play From Both Hips is a black comedy revenge drama set in the suburbs of Dublin. O'Rowe's first professionally produced play, it was first performed by Fishamble Theatre Company at the Little Theatre, Tallaght, on 25 June 1997, transferring to the Project Arts Centre, Dublin, and the Tron Theatre, Glasgow.

Paul has been accidentally shot in the hip by a policeman. Back from hospital he is overcome with feelings of bitterness and self-pity. Determined to exact revenge upon his shooter, he sets out on a quest to find him. However, when the policeman in question appears with an apology, a gun and an extraordinary proposition, Paul is faced with a difficult choice.

The Fishamble production was directed by Jim Culleton and designed by Blaíthín Sheerin. It was performed by Marion O’Dwyer, Clodagh O’Donoghue, Ger Carey, Fionnuala Murphy, Seán Rocks and Catherine Walsh.

Fuck the Polar Bears

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Tanya Ronder's Fuck the Polar Bears is a satirical domestic comedy about aspirational consumerism and environmentalist double standards. It was first performed at the Bush Theatre, London, on 11 September 2015.

The play's action takes place in the 'central hallway/open living area of an ostentatious house in North London' belonging to Gordon and Serena, two 'down-to-earth people come to money late'. Gordon, Communications Director at a big energy company, frets about the loss of his daughter Rachel’s toy polar bear while working on schemes that will wreck the planet’s animal life. But, despite his claims that he is unaffected by stress, Gordon is troubled on several fronts. At work, he’s been offered the post of Chief Executive with a licence from the government to pursue fracking operations. At home, Serena bluntly tells him she doesn’t like their life. Meanwhile, Gordon's housepainter brother Clarence acts as a rebuke to his conscience, and domestic objects mysteriously go haywire. On top of that, the Icelandic au pair, Blundhilde, turns out to be a militant conservationist. Gordon and Serena ultimately start to wonder whether there is an alternative to their life of conspicuous consumption and discuss the future that awaits their daughter.

The Bush Theatre premiere was directed by Caroline Byrne and designed by Chiara Stephenson, with Andrew Whipp as Gordon, Susan Stanley as Serena, Salóme R. Gunnarsdóttir as Blundhilde, Jon Foster as Clarence and Bella Padden/Eléa Vicas as Rachel.

The Gatekeeper  

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Chloë Moss's The Gatekeeper is a darkly comic play about the disintegration of a family get-together. It was first performed at the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester, on 8 February 2012.

The play is set in a holiday cottage in the English Lake District. 35-year-old business woman Stacey celebrates her birthday by hiring the cottage where she and her family used to holiday when she was a child. She thinks it's just going to be her and her mum and dad, Julia and Mike, but there are surprise guests: her brother Rob (age 38), a drifter apparently recently returned from Thailand, and his new girlfriend Angela, who was Stacey's teenage friend. The family's attempts to keep up appearances soon fall by the wayside as secrets are revealed.

The premiere production was directed by Tessa Walker and designed by Chloe Lamford. It was performed by Helen Carter (as Angela), Kate Coogan (as Stacey), Tricia Kelly (as Julia), Nick Moss (as Rob) and Ian Redford (as Mike).

German Skerries

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Robert Holman's play German Skerries is a portrait of life in industrial Teesside in the North of England in the 1970s. It won the 1977 George Devine Award, and was first performed at the Bush Theatre, London, on 25 January 1977.

The play's action is set during the summer of 1977, and takes place, according to a note in the script, 'on an area of rough land known as South Gare at the entrance of the River Tees'. It is a popular birdwatching spot, and this is what brings together the 23-year-old Jack Williams, who works for British chemical manufacturing company ICI, and the 59-year-old Martin Jones, who is a primary school teacher. Jack, spurred on by his wife Carol, has applied for a technical course that will lead to promotion as a plant manager. In the course of a fortnight, the play plots the changing lives of its characters as they try to work out how to live, and of a community in which a thriving steel industry poses a threat to the natural environment.

The Bush Theatre premiere was directed by Chris Parr and designed by Miki van Zwanenberg, with Paul Copley as Jack, John Normington as Martin, Mark Penfold as Michael and Caroline Hutchison as Carol.

A new production was staged at the Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond, on 3 March 2016, in an Orange Tree Theatre/Up in Arms co-production in association with Reading Rep. It was directed by Alice Hamilton and designed by James Perkins, with George Evans as Jack, Howard Ward as Martin, Henry Everett as Michael and Katie Moore as Carol. The production subsequently toured the UK.

A movement in late 19th-century drama that aimed to replace the artificial romantic style with accurate depictions of ordinary people in plausible situations. In attempting to create a perfect illusion of reality, playwrights and directors rejected dramatic conventions that had existed since the beginnings of drama. Euripides had taken a tentative step towards realism in the 5th century BC but in later European theatre ordinary people speaking colloquially had only appeared in comedy or farce; even in such plays no attempt was made to create realistic sets or scenery. The 19th-century realist movement revolutionized contemporary theatre in every aspect, from scenery, to styles of acting, from dialogue to make-up. The first moves towards modern realism were made in 16th-century Italy with the introduction of perspective scenery. By the mid 19th century realistic gas lamps had exposed the unnatural appearance of canvas backdrops; the realistic box set with three walls and furnishings was subsequently popularized by the US director and playwright David Belasco. The Victorians also pioneered mechanical devices that were capable of producing convincing scenic illusions and sensational effects, such as fires and train crashes. In the 18th century David Garrick initiated the use of historically accurate costumes and sets, a trend that was followed by directors including Sir Henry Irving and Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree. Despite these developments, it was not until the end of the 19th century that the drama began to emulate the serious treatment of contemporary themes achieved in the novel. The move away from melodrama and stilted dialogue to “the plain truthful language of reality” was led by Henrik Ibsen, who is often called the father of modern realism. Ibsen also broke with convention by taking the everyday lives of his middle-class audience as subject matter for serious drama. In this he was followed by the Russians Chekhov and Gorki: while the former explored the ennui of outwardly uneventful middle-class lives, the latter depicted the drudgery and suffering of the poorest classes. The first serious steps to codify realism in acting were made by Konstantin Stanislavsky for productions at the Moscow Art Theatre. Before his production of Gorki’s The Lower Depths (1902), Stanislavsky sent his actors into the Moscow slums to prepare for their roles as beggars. This technique was later developed and systematized by Lee Strasberg as the method. Other playwrights to contribute to the realist movement included T. W. Robertson, Henry Arthur Jones, Harley Granville-Barker, and George Bernard Shaw in Britain, Eugene O’Neill in America, Victorien Sardou and Augustin Eugène Scribe in France, and Gerhart Hauptmann in Germany.

from Jonathan Law, ed., The Methuen Drama Dictionary of the Theatre (London, 2011).