NHB Modern Plays

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.

55 Days

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Howard Brenton's 55 Days is a historical drama set at the culmination of the English Civil War when the future, not only of the King, but of the nation itself is decided. The play was first performed at Hampstead Theatre, London, on 18 October 2012.

The play's action begins in December 1648. The Army has occupied London. Parliament votes not to put the imprisoned King on trial, so the Army moves against Westminster in the first and only military coup in English history. What follows over the next fifty-five days, as Oliver Cromwell seeks to compromise with a king who will do no such thing, is nothing less than the forging of a new nation.

The Hampstead Theatre premiere was directed by Howard Davies, with Mark Gatiss as King Charles, Douglas Henshall as Oliver Cromwell, Gerald Kyd as John Lilburne and Simon Kunz as Lord Fairfax. The production was generally well received by the critics, with The Guardian applauding its 'fervent dramatic power' and the Evening Standard noting that 'It could have been a dour history lesson. Instead it engages with the present, raising some pungent questions about the kind of democracy we have in Britain today.'

In an article describing the play's genesis (published at http://nickhernbooksblog.com/2012/10/25/howard-brenton-a-forgotten-revolution-the-historical-context-to-55-days/), Brenton wrote: 'Recently I met a Frenchman in London and we fell to talking about the high drama of the climax of the French Revolution: the struggle between Danton and Robespierre. "In this country you don’t remember you also had a revolution," he said, adding, rather waspishly, "and you don’t realise you still live with the consequences". He was right. The heroic, horrific story of our revolution, the Civil War that began in 1642 and resulted in the execution of King Charles I in 1649, is not part of our national consciousness.'

Abortive

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Caryl Churchill's Abortive is a short radio play first broadcast on BBC Radio 3 on 4 February 1971.

Roz and Colin are having a difficult time with sex, largely because of an invisible yet forbidding barrier between them. Roz became pregnant after being raped and had an abortion. Roz is not sure she made the right decision and Colin is not altogether convinced his wife was raped.

The BBC Radio 3 production was directed by John Tydeman, with Prunella Scales as Roz and Dinsdale Landen as Colin.

About A Goth

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

A short monologue play about a young man who volunteers in old people’s homes and suffers paroxysms of love and hate for its residents.

Nick is seventeen, a Goth and gay. In between volunteering at his local old people’s home where he conversely gets chatted up and abused by its residents and having to attend re-enactments of Medieval battles with his slightly barmy parents, he finds the time to hang out with best mate, Greg. But a sudden death at the home forces him to confront his fears of coming out as well as perhaps giving his pessimistic mindset a rethink. Wells is well known for his touching comic monologues that are ideal showcases for young actors.

About A Goth was first performed at Òran Mór in Glasgow in 2009.

The Acedian Pirates  

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Jay Taylor's play The Acedian Pirates is a drama inspired by Greek mythology, exploring military occupation and the morality of war. It was first performed at Theatre503, London, on 26 October 2016, produced by Tara Finney Productions and Theatre503.

The play is set in a lighthouse on an unidentified island in a time period that is '[p]ossibly the future, possibly the past'. 20-year-old Jacob enlisted in the hope of making a difference, but the war has been raging for years and there is no end in sight. Recently moved to the other side of the island, Jacob has found himself in an intelligence unit, where 'Helen' is kept as an enduring symbol of the war effort. As Jacob faces the frontline and begins to doubt their mission, he re-examines the foundational narratives that underpin his beliefs.

The premiere production was directed by Bobby Brook and designed by Helen Coyston. It was performed by Marc Bannerman, Cavan Clarke (as Jacob), Matthew Lloyd Davies, Sheena Patel, Rowan Polonski and Andrew P. Stephen.

The After-Dinner Joke

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Caryl Churchill’s The After-Dinner Joke is a satire on the charity business, written for television. It was first broadcast on BBC 1 on 14 February 1978 as part of the BBC's Play for Today series.

Told in 66 short, episodic scenes, the plot follows Selby, a young woman who quits her secretarial job in a big corporation to pursue her passion for ‘doing good’. As a charity worker, she studiously avoids becoming embroiled in political issues, only to discover during the course of the action that this is impossible.

The BBC production by directed by Colin Bucksey, with a cast including Paula Wilcox as Selby.

#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.

Angel  

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Henry Naylor's Angel is a dramatic monologue for a female performer, inspired by the true story of Rehana, the 'Angel of Kobane', a Kurdish fighter who became a symbol of resistance against Islamic State. The play is part of Henry Naylor's Arabian Nightmares trilogy, which also includes The Collector and Echoes.

Angel was first performed at the Gilded Balloon, Edinburgh, on 3 August 2016 as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, winning a Fringe First award.

The story is narrated by Rehana, the 'Angel', who, according to a note in the script, 'tells her autobiographical story directly to the audience, through the "fourth wall"’. The action takes place in Syria, in 2014. The town of Kobane is under siege by ISIS, who, having steam-rollered through Iraq, are expecting to take the town easily. But the citizens have found a heroine: a crackshot sniper with a hundred kills to her name. And she appears indestructible. She's the legendary Angel of Kobane.

The premiere production was directed by Michael Cabot and performed by Filipa Bragança. In the subsequent tour of Australia (beginning at Mittagong Playhouse on 7 February 2017), Rehana was played by Avital Lvova.

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.

Anne Boleyn

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Howard Brenton's Anne Boleyn is a dramatisation of the life and legacy of the notorious second wife of Henry VIII. It was first performed at Shakespeare's Globe, London, on 24 July 2010.

King James I, rummaging through the dead Queen Elizabeth’s possessions upon coming to the throne in 1603, finds alarming evidence that Elizabeth's mother, Anne Boleyn, was a religious conspirator in love with Henry VIII but also with the most dangerous ideas of her day. Anne comes alive for him as a brilliant but reckless young woman confident in her sexuality, whose marriage and death transformed England forever. The potent love between Anne and Henry is so alive and electric that it cannot be contained in the stultifying social mores of the time, but is viewed with alarm by those at Court who fear the threat it poses to their position and influence.

The premiere at Shakespeare's Globe was directed by John Dove, with Miranda Raison as Anne Boleyn, James Garnon as King James and Anthony Howell as King Henry. It was well received by the critics, with the Daily Mail (not generally favourable to Left-leaning playwrights) commenting 'It takes a big, generous spirit to fill the Globe, and in this Brenton follows Shakespeare – not just with asides and soliloquies, but with a large colourful canvas.' The play was named Best New Play at the Whatsonstage.com Awards in 2011.

Anne Boleyn was revived at the Globe in 2011 and toured regionally in 2012 in a joint production between Shakespeare’s Globe and English Touring Theatre.

Antigone (trans. McCafferty)

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Owen McCafferty's version of Sophocles’ Antigone is a muscular take on the ancient Greek tragedy that offers a reflection on the nature of power, democracy and human rights. It was first performed by Prime Cut Productions at the Waterfront Studio Hall, Belfast, in October 2008 as part of the Ulster Bank Belfast Festival.

The play takes place in a huge hall within the palace of Creon, the new ruler of Thebes. The palace is in ruins after battle and, although the war has ended, with peace comes conflict. Antigone’s brother Polyneices lies on the battlefield where he fell, his burial outlawed by Creon. Antigone is determined to overrule him and attempts to persuade her sister, Ismene, to join her in rebellion against the king, but to no avail. When Creon discovers that Antigone has disobeyed him and buried her brother, she is captured, a decision that triggers a catastrophic chain reaction resulting in the double suicide of his son Haemon and wife Eurydice.

Sophocles’ tragedy has a powerful resonance in post-conflict Northern Ireland and this version is set entirely within the walls of a palace destroyed by war. Written in his distinctive style, McCafferty highlights the human frailties of these mythic characters by drawing attention to the family saga element of the story.

The Prime Cut Productions premiere was directed by Owen McCafferty and designed by Lorna Ritchie. It was performed by Walter McMonagle, Katy Ducker (as Antigone), Rosie McClelland, Ian McElhinney, Conor MacNeill, Paul Mallon, Harry Towb, Eoin McCafferty, Tom Loane, Chris Corrigan, Julia Dearden, Cat Barter, Barry Etherson and Matt Faris.

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'.

Arabian Nights

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Dominic Cooke's Arabian Nights is an inventive retelling of the classic tales. It was first performed at the Young Vic, London, on 16 November 1998.

It is wedding night in the palace of King Shahrayar. By morning, the new Queen Shahrazad is to be put to death like all the young brides before her. But she has one gift that could save her – the gift of storytelling. With her mischievous imagination, the young Queen spins her dazzling array of tales and characters, bringing them to life before the king: Ali Baba, Es-Sindibad the Sailor, Princess Parizade, adventurers in strange and magical worlds populated by giant beasts, talking birds, devilish ghouls and crafty thieves.

The six stories from the original collections featured in this version are: The Story of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, The Story of the Little Beggar, The Story of Es-Sindibad the Sailor, How Abu Hassan Broke Wind, The Story of the Wife Who Wouldn’t Eat and The Story of the Envious Sisters. The framing story of Queen Shahrazad is retained throughout.

The Young Vic premiere was directed by Dominic Cooke. The play was revived, in a revised version, by the Royal Shakespeare Company at The Courtyard Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, on 5 December 2009, also directed by Dominic Cooke, designed by Georgia McGuinness and with music by Gary Yershon.

Arlington

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Enda Walsh's play Arlington (subtitled 'A Love Story') is a story of love and oppression set in a dystopian world of entrapment, isolation and surveillance. It was first performed at Leisureland, Salthill, Galway, on 11 July 2016, as part of the 2016 Galway International Arts Festival.

The play is set in a 'realistic waiting room – of no fixed time or place'. Isla, a young woman, is trapped here, waiting for her number to be called on a prominent LED number display screen. Her only human contact is with a Young Man who sits in an adjacent control room operating the cameras that keep her under constant surveillance and listening to the stories she invents about the outside world. Both characters are victims of a tyrannical system, as is the Young Woman who, in a long, wordless, central section, dances her way to her own death. The play, however, concludes on a note that suggests that the human spirit can withstand oppression.

The Galway premiere was directed by Walsh with choreography by Emma Martin, music by Teho Teardo and designs by Jamie Vartan. It was performed by Charlie Murphy as Isla, Hugh O’Conor as the Young Man and Oona Doherty as the Young Woman, with additional voicework by Eanna Breathnach, Olwen Fouéré, Helen Norton and Stephen Rea.

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 Roads  

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Natal'ya Vorozhbit's Bad Roads is a play about life in war-torn Ukraine, focussing in particular on the war's impact on women. It was developed by the Royal Court International Department, and first performed in this English translation by Sasha Dugdale at the Royal Court Theatre Upstairs, London, on 15 November 2017.

The play has six scenes, each one exploring a facet of the war. In the first scene, a Kiev-based writer tells the story of a research trip she made to the battle zone a year after the siege of Donetsk airport, and how she fell for her patriotic escort. The ensuing scenes show teenage girls eagerly waiting for soldiers, a female medic transporting her lover’s headless corpse, and a young journalist outwitting her captor.

The premiere production was directed by Vicky Featherstone and designed by Camilla Clarke. It was performed by Ronke Adekoluejo, Samuel Anderson, Vincent Ebrahim, Anne Lacey, Tadhg Murphy, Mike Noble and Ria Zmitrowicz.

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.

Ballyturk

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Enda Walsh’s Ballyturk is a play of lyrical intensity and physical comedy, in which the lives of two men unravel over the course of ninety minutes. It was first performed at the Black Box Theatre, Galway, as part of the Galway International Arts Festival on 14 July 2014 in a production by Landmark Productions and Galway International Arts Festival. The production subsequently toured to the Olympia Theatre, Dublin, Cork Opera House, and the National Theatre, London.

The play's action takes place in a 'very large room' containing furniture pushed up against the walls. Two men, simply identified as 1 and 2, pass the time in speeded-up, silent-comedy rituals and speculating about daily life in an imagined Irish town called Ballyturk. But when a third character, 3, turns up, he not only breaks up the partnership but invites one of the duo into the outer world, and inevitable extinction.

The premiere production was directed by Enda Walsh and designed by Jamie Vartan. It was performed by Cillian Murphy, Mikel Murfi, Stephen Rea, Orla Ní Ghríofa and Aisling Walsh, with the voices of Eanna Breathnach, Niall Buggy, Denise Gough and Pauline McLynn.

Banana Boys

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Evan Placey's Banana Boys is a play about the challenges of being on the school football team – and secretly gay. It was commissioned by Hampstead Theatre’s youth theatre company, heat&light, and first performed at Hampstead Theatre, London, on 9 December 2011.

The play revolves around the friendship between two sixteen-year-old boys, Calum and Cameron, who become obsessed with American girl-group, The Banana Girls.

In an introduction to the published script in Girls Like That and other plays for teenagers (Nick Hern Books, 2016), Placey writes: 'Growing up queer there weren’t many young gay role models to look up to. So instead I looked up to music divas. I’m not sure what it was, but there was something about their power, their confidence, and their absolutely being at ease in their own skin that left me in awe. And so the opportunity to create my very own group of divas, The Banana Girls, was irresistible. My favourite films as a teen were the romcoms, except the queer characters didn’t exist in them, never mind being forefront. So it was my chance to rectify the past.'

The Hampstead Theatre premiere was directed by Debra Glazer and designed by Robbie Sinnott. It was performed by members of heat&light youth theatre.

The Basement Flat

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Rona Munro's The Basement Flat is a short play for two performers, an unsettling depiction of daily life in a disturbing world not too far in the future. It was commissioned by and first performed at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, on 13 August 2009 as part of The World is Too Much breakfast play series at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

The play is set in the basement flat of a house once owned by Fiona and Stephen, but which they have been forced to sell. They are now tenants, fearfully renting the flat from their new landlord, who used to be their tenant, and who now paces the floor above their heads. Where once he lovingly cared for the window boxes, he now plans to install a security fence and, furthermore, to bill Fiona and Stephen for it. On top of that the couple’s daughter seems to be living in the overgrown jungle of the garden and outside, although they're too frightened even to search for her.

The Traverse Theatre production was directed by Roxana Silbert, with Cora Bissett as Fiona and Matthew Pidgeon as Stephen.

Battlefield  

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Battlefield is a play adapted by Peter Brook and his regular collaborator Marie-Hélène Estienne from the Sanskrit epic the Mahabharata and from Jean-Claude Carrière’s play, The Mahabharata, which was originally staged by Brook at the Avignon Festival in 1985.

Battlefield was first produced at Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord, Paris, on 15 September 2015. The production received its British premiere at the Young Vic Theatre, London, on 3 February 2016.

The play's action is drawn from the central section of the ancient text, in which the devastation of war is tearing the Bharata family apart. The new king must unravel a mystery: how can he live with himself in the face of the devastation and massacres that he has caused.

According to a note in the published script, 'The story unfolds in a very simple space, with a minimum of accessories. The little group of actors is like one story teller. One after the other, like with a single voice, they evoke both place and time.'

The premiere production was directed by Peter Brook and Marie-Hélène Estienne. It was performed by Carole Karemera, Jared McNeill, Ery Nzaramba, Sean O’Callaghan and Toshi Tsuchitori.

Beauty and the Beast (adapt. Kirkwood)

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Lucy Kirkwood's delightful version of the classic fairytale, first seen in a production devised and directed by Katie Mitchell at the National Theatre for Christmas 2010.

The theft of a single rose has monstrous consequences for Beauty and her father. Because this is no ordinary rose... and this is no ordinary fairytale. Narrated by a pair of mischievous fairies, a very helpful Rabbit, and a Thoughtsnatcher machine, this timeless story is sure to surprise, delight and enchant.

A wild and twisted tale, full of exciting and intriguing challenges for drama groups wishing to stage their own production.

Bedbound

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Enda Walsh's play bedbound is a two-hander about a father/daughter relationship gone horribly wrong. It was first performed at The New Theatre, Dublin, as part of the Dublin Theatre Festival 2000. It received its UK premiere at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, during the 2001 Edinburgh Festival Fringe, and was revived at the Royal Court Theatre Upstairs, London, on 10 January 2002.

The play's action takes place on a small child's bed inside a plasterboard box that occupies the centre of the stage. At the beginning of the play, one wall of the box – the one that faces the audience – crashes to the ground, revealing Daughter and Dad, both of them on the bed. He talks frantically about his extraordinary past in furniture sales; she talks no less compulsively about anything at all, to fill the terrifying silence in her head. Trapped in their own claustrophobic story, these two tortured creatures attempt to reach some kind of redemption.

The premiere production at The New Theatre in Dublin was directed by Enda Walsh and designed by Fiona Cunningham. It was performed by Peter Gowan and Norma Sheahan. The production was revived at the Traverse Theatre and then at the Royal Court Theatre Upstairs with Liam Carney playing Dad.

In his foreword to the collection Enda Walsh Plays: One (Nick Hern Books, 2011), Walsh writes: 'bedbound was my first effort away from Pat [Kiernan, director, Corcadorca Theatre Company] and towards myself. It’s essentially about the relationship between me and my dad. It’s wild but also very honest. A love letter to my sick dad at the time.'

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.

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.

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.

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.

Bliss

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Bliss is Caryl Churchill's translation of French-Canadian writer Olivier Choinière's play Felicité, exploring modern society’s obsessions with celebrity and its impact on private lives. It was first performed in this translation at the Royal Court Jerwood Theatre Upstairs, London, on 28 March 2008.

A Wal-Mart cashier and her fellow workers flick through celebrity gossip magazines and talk about Céline, a local girl who is now a famous singer (the character is strongly identified with real-life singer Céline Dion). But when they come across some ominous headlines about the star, they begin prying into the potential reasons behind her recent shrinking from the spotlight. At the same time they tell the story of Isabelle, Céline’s biggest fan,who, after being abused and tortured by her own family, has come to work at Wal-Mart.

The Royal Court premiere was directed by Joe Hill-Gibbins and designed by Jeremy Herbert, and performed by Brid Brennan, Hayley Carmichael, Neil Dudgeon and Justin Salinger.

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 Heart

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Caryl Churchill's Blue Heart consists of two related short plays, Heart's Desire and Blue Kettle, both examining strained family – and especially filial – relationships. It was first performed at Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds, on 14 August 1997 in a touring co-production by Out of Joint and the Royal Court Theatre.

In Heart’s Desire, Brian and his wife Alice, together with Brian's sister Maisie, are waiting for the arrival of their daughter Susy, who is returning home after some years spent in Australia. A simple domestic scenario is replayed over and over with widely differing developments – some heartbreaking, some wildly comical or surreal.

In Blue Kettle, a middle-aged man, Derek, and his girlfriend, Enid, are involved in a con trick, making a series of elderly women believe that Derek is the son they once gave up for adoption. But as the situation develops, the play's dialogue undergoes a radical distortion with characters using the words 'blue' and 'kettle', apparently at random, and to an extent that grows increasingly disruptive.

The Out of Joint/Royal Court touring production was directed by Max Stafford-Clark and designed by Julian McGowan, with a cast including Gabrielle Blunt, Jacqueline Defferary, Karina Fernandez, Barnard Gallagher, Valerie Lilley, Mary Macleod, Eve Pearce, Jason Watkins and Anna Wing. Following the performances at Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds, it opened at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, on 19 August 1997, and at the Royal Court Theatre Downstairs (at the Duke of York's) on 17 September.

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.

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.

Bracken Moor

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Alexi Kaye Campbell's Bracken Moor is a boldly theatrical tale of two families haunted by grief, set against the economic troubles of the 1930s. It was first performed at the Tricycle Theatre, London, on 6 June 2013 in a co-production between the Tricycle and Shared Experience.

The play's action takes place in the Yorkshire house of Harold Pritchard, a ruthlessly pragmatic mine owner, in the winter of 1937. Harold and his wife Elizabeth are playing host to their old London friends, Geoffrey and Vanessa Avery, whom they haven't seen for ten years. The reason for the long gap is that Elizabeth withdrew from life after the death of her 12-year-old son, Edgar, who fell down a disused mine shaft. All the old memories come to the surface when the Averys' 22-year-old son, Terence, appears to be possessed by the spirit of the dead boy, with whom he enjoyed an intense relationship.

The Tricycle Theatre premiere was directed by Polly Teale, artistic director of Shared Experience, with a cast including Daniel Flynn as Harold Pritchard, Helen Schlesinger as Elizabeth Pritchard, Joseph Timms as Terence, Simon Shepherd as Geoffrey Avery and Sarah Woodward as Vanessa Avery.

Brainstorm

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Brainstorm is an ensemble community play exploring how teenagers’ brains work, and why they’re designed by evolution to be the way they are. It was created by Ned Glasier and Emily Lim with Company Three (formerly Islington Community Theatre), in collaboration with neuroscientists Professor Sarah-Jayne Blakemore and Dr Kate Mills. The play was designed to be adapted and performed by a company of teenagers, drawing directly on their personal experiences.

A scratch version of Brainstorm was performed at Platform Islington in March 2013. The version of the show published by Nick Hern Books was first performed at Park Theatre, London, in January 2015, then at the National Theatre, London, in July 2015 and April 2016.

Originally formed as Islington Community Theatre in 2008, Company Three is a theatre company working with young people aged 11–19, all referred or nominated by teachers and youth workers.

The 2015 premiere of Brainstorm was directed by Ned Glasier and Emily Lim, and designed by Charlie Damigos. It was performed by Michael Adewale, Doyin Ajiboye, Sama Aunallah, Yaamin Chowdhury, Jack Hughes, Noah Landoni, Dylan Lubo, Gracia Kayindo, Romeo Mika, Kassius Nelson, Tyrel Phan, Serafina Willow and Segen Yosife.

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.

Nick Hern Books is one of the UK’s leading specialist performing arts publishers, with a vast collection of plays, screenplays and theatre books in their catalogue. They also license most of their plays for amateur performance.