NHB Modern Plays

Plays

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.

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.