Plays

Act Without Words I

Faber and Faber
Type: Text

A mime for one player, Act Without Words I was written in French in 1956, as Acte sans paroles I, with music by John Beckett, the author’s cousin.

Act Without Words II

Faber and Faber
Type: Text

A mime for two players, Act Without Words II was written in French, as Acte sans paroles II, at about the same time as Act Without Words I (1956). It was probably first performed probably at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, on 25 January 1960.

audio Antigone (Anouilh)

LA Theatre Works
Type: Audio

"The body of Polynices, Antigone's brother, has been ordered to remain unburied by Creon, the new king of Thebes. Antigone's faithfulness to her dead brother and his proper burial, and her defiance of the dictator Creon, seals her fate. Originally produced in Paris during the Nazi occupation, Anouilh's Antigone was seen by the French as theatre of the resistance and by the Germans as an affirmation of authority.

Includes an interview with translator Christopher Nixon and director Brendon Fox. Also includes an interview with Ned Chaillet, a playwright, radio producer and director for the BBC. Chaillet is the former Deputy Drama Critic for the Times of London and the London theatre critic for the Wall Street Journal-Europe. He spoke with us about Antigone in the context of World War Two, the differences bewtween the original myth of Sophocles and the Anouilh version, and Anouilh’s influence on later playwrights. An L.A. Theatre Works full-cast performance featuring: Jordan Bridges as Haemon and Guard Dominic Fumusa as Guard Francis Guinan as Creon John Hansen as Guard and Messenger Alan Mandell as Chorus Elizabeth Marvel as Antigone Alley Mills as Nanny Mandy Siegfried as Ismene Directed by Brendon Fox. Recorded before a live audience at the Skirball Cultural Center, Los Angeles."

Featuring: Jordan Bridges, Dominic Fumusa, Francis Guinan, Alan Mandell, Elizabeth Marvel, Alley Mills, Mandy Siegfried, John Hansen

The Arsonists

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Fires are becoming something of a problem, but Biedermann has it all under control. A respected member of the community with a loving wife and a flourishing business, he believes nothing can get to him. Being the great philanthrope, he is happy to fulfil his civic duty and give shelter to two new houseguests, and when they start filling the attic with petrol drums he’ll help them wire the fuse.

Max Frisch’s parable about our accommodating the very thing that will destroy us premiered at the Royal Court in 1961. The Arsonists was first presented in this translation by Alistair Beaton at the Royal Court Theatre Downstairs, London, on 1 November 2007, in a production directed by Ramin Gray.

audio Art

LA Theatre Works
Type: Audio

How much would you pay for a painting with nothing on it? Would it be “art”? Marc’s best friend Serge has just bought a very expensive – and very white – painting. To Marc, it is a joke, and as battle lines are drawn, old friends use the painting to settle scores. With friendships hanging in the balance, the question becomes: how much is a work of “art” worth? A Tony Award winner for Best Play and Oliver Award winner for Best Comedy.

Includes interviews with actors Bob Balaban and Brian Cox, as well as an interview with translator Christopher Hampton.

An L.A. Theatre Works full-cast performance featuring:

Bob Balaban as Serge

Brian Cox as Marc

Jeff Perry as Yvan

Directed by Peter Levin. Translated by Christopher Hampton. Recorded before a live audience at the Skirball Cultural Center, Los Angeles.

Featuring: Bob Balaban, Brian Cox, Jeff Perry

'Art'

Faber and Faber
Type: Text

Serge has bought a modern work of art for a large sum of money. Marc hates the painting and cannot believe that a friend of his could possibly want such a work. Yvan attempts, unsuccessfully, to placate both sides with hilarious consequences. The question is: Are you who you think you are or are you who your friends think you are?

'Art' in this translation was first performed at Wyndham's Theatre, London, in October 1996.

In 1998, the play received the Evening Standard and Laurence Olivier awards for Best Comedy and the Tony and New York Drama Critics' Circle awards for Best Play.

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.

audio Becket, or The Honor of God

LA Theatre Works
Type: Audio

Waiting to be punished for his part in Becket's murder, King Henry II re-lives his deeply felt relationship with the saint, once his dearest friend and partner in unbridled decadence. His catastrophic mistake? To appoint Becket Archbishop - for Becket finds his allegiance shifting from king and country to God and Church.

An L.A. Theatre Works full-cast performance featuring Asher Book, Kevin Daniels, Ken Danziger, Jean Gilpin, Alan Mandell, Charlie Matthes, Tim Monsion, Denis O' Hare, Jennifer Rau-Ramirez, Simon Templeman, John Vickery, Douglas Westen and Greg Woodell.

Featuring: Asher Book, Kevin Daniels, Ken Danziger, Jean Gilpin, Alan Mandell, Charlie Matthes, Tim Monsion, Denis O' Hare, Jennifer Rau-Ramirez, Simon Templeman, John Vickery, Douglas Westen, Greg Woodell

audio The Bungler

LA Theatre Works
Type: Audio

In 17th Century Sicily, a clever valet named Mascarille tries to help his boss Lélie win the girl of his dreams -- only to find that Lélie is a monumental dunce who ruins every one of his intricate schemes. Undaunted, Mascarille invents progressively wilder plots, only to see his best-laid plans go very awry in Molière's The Bungler. Translated by Richard Wilbur.

An L.A. Theatre Works full-cast performance featuring: Richard Easton as Mascarille Adam Godley as Lelie Alan Mandell as Trufaldin Dakin Matthews as Ergaste Christopher Neame as Pandolphe Paula Jane Newman as Celie Darren Richardson as Andres John Sloan as Léandre Norman Snow as Anselme Kate Steele as Hippolyte. This recording contains an interview with Mechele Leon, Associate Professor of Classical and Contemporary French Theatre at the University of Kansas. Directed by Dakin Matthews. Recorded at The Invisible Studios, West Hollywood.

Featuring: Richard Easton, Adam Godley, Alan Mandell, Dakin Matthews, Christopher Neame, Paula Jane Newman, Darren Richardson, John Sloan, Norman Snow, Kate Steele

Catastrophe

Faber and Faber
Type: Text

Dedicated to Vaclav Havel, Catastrophe was written in French in 1982 and translated under the same title later that year. It was first performed at the Avignon Festival in 1982.

When François I established French as the official language of his kingdom around 1540, theatre rapidly became one of the foundations on which it sought to base its cultural ambitions. By translating, adapting and imitating the tragedies of Seneca, comedies of Terence and Plautus and pastoral plays of Renaissance Italy, scholarly French humanists aspired to raise French literature to the illustrious level of those models. Treating Classical or Biblical stories with a strong political and moral sense, Etienne Jodelle, Jean de la Taille, Robert Garnier, Antoine de Monchrestien and Pierre de Larivey established the ground rules for the genres of tragedy and comedy on classical models. Outside universities and colleges, however, theatre did not attain social or intellectual respectability until the 1630s when Louis XIII and his minister Cardinal Richelieu supported a group of young literary dramatists and used the newly-founded Académie française to codify a set of rules for theatrical form based on Aristotle’s precepts. Thus the vigorous and spectacular dramas of the Baroque period, dominated in Paris by the prolific Alexandre Hardy, gave way to the Classical aesthetic, prioritizing purity of expression, harmony and unity of form, explored by Pierre Corneille then firmly established by Jean Racine in tragedy and Molière in comedy. Between them, those three theatrical geniuses produced 77 plays between 1629 and 1677, at least twenty of which (including Le Cid, L’Illusion comique, L’Ecole des Femmes, Tartuffe, Le Misanthrope, Andromaque and Phèdre) must be considered world-class masterpieces of the classical genres. The patterns they established became codified in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, and much of French theatrical life became derivative and stultified, although Marivaux drew inspiration from Italian actors to achieve success with delicate comedies of love and manners. Only Beaumarchais in the 1770s restored French drama to a world-class position, with his vivacious and witty satires, notably Le Barbier de Séville and Le Mariage de Figaro. In the early nineteenth century, French theatre was reinvigorated by the influence of Shakespeare – hitherto barely known and generally despised – and of German theatre; Romantic poets Victor Hugo, Alfred de Vigny and Alfred de Musset composed large-scale complex dramas, combining the comic and the tragic with an exalted conception of the heroic and a self-conscious quest for poetic effectiveness. Their vogue was displaced by a sequence which reflected the broader artistic and literary movements through the century: Realism (Eugène Scribe, Émile Augier and Henry Becque), followed by Naturalism (adaptations for the stage of novels by Zola and the Goncourts, plays by Paul Alexis, Octave Mirbeau and Émile Fabre) then Symbolism, dominated by the Belgian dramatist Maurice Maeterlinck. The middle years of the century also saw the flowering of the genre still generally referred to as ‘French farce’, with works by Eugène Labiche, Georges Feydeau and others providing the foundation for a tradition which was taken on by Jean Anouilh in the twentieth century. Modern French theatre has been dominated by a series of shocking experiments, apparently motivated by a desire to jolt audiences out of complacency with regard not only to social realities, but also to the role of art and literature, and particularly to the place and status of theatre within the country’s literary heritage. Alfred Jarry’s Ubu plays, dramatic experiments within the Surrealist and Dada movements, the innovative uses of space, music and text in the works of Jean Cocteau and above all the French contributions to the Theatre of the Absurd (notably from Eugène Ionesco and Samuel Beckett), all celebrated playfulness, childishness and zaniness to an extent which tired the patience of the average theatre-goer, but ensured that the French theatre’s reputation for vigorous inventiveness and exuberant life was maintained through the century. Alongside such innovative experiments, the work of several major literary figures, such as André Gide, Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre, includes drama. The Comédie-française and other national companies ensure the ongoing reputation of the canonical heritage whilst a thriving provincial and fringe/café theatre culture provides a vigorous anti-establishment counterpoint. Amongst other currently active dramatists, Michel Vinaver and Yasmina Reza seem destined to ensure the continuing rich health of live performance art in French artistic life.

by Edward Forman, Senior Lecturer in French, School of Modern Languages, University of Bristol