David Storey

Share

Plays by David Storey

Caring

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Caring is a sparsely staged, lean duologue between Zena and Clarke, two characters who appear to be each other’s spouse, but also each the lovers of others. Through their exchanges of accusation, counter-accusation, clarification and obfuscation, an oblique image emerges of a life lived in tandem. Missed chances, loves spurned and ambitions thwarted are hashed out and compared like a tired game of trumps in this minimalistic meditation on the roles of memory and truth in love.

In his introduction to Storey Plays: 1, where Caring first appeared in 1992, David Storey writes ‘Caring . . . was very much written as a play within a play. Not long ago, for instance, playing with a grandson (aged six), I was struck by how important it was to him that the scenario we had 'negotiated' for our game was strictly adhered to: the passion with which our roles were assigned – i.e., not only who was what but who did what, and when, to whom – was more intense than that expended on the game itself – and infinitely more intense when these 'assignations' were deviated from, forgotten or ignored.

‘Yet – I reflected, later – we do this all our lives: if I love you will you love me? – negotiating roles we would like to have ourselves as well as those by which we would like to be surrounded.

‘Integral to this “collusion” is mutual regard: “caring” to negotiate our roles - and caring, further to amend them. It was with this “playing” process in mind that Caring came to be written.'

The Changing Room

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

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

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

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

The Contractor

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

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

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

Cromwell

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

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

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

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

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

Home (Storey)

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

As five apparently unrelated characters meet in a seemingly insignificant garden, the autumnal sun shines overhead and everybody waits for rain.

What they discuss is superficially anything that can pass the time. What is portrayed is the very essence of England, Englishness, class, unfulfilled ambition, loves lost and homes that no longer exist.

Home is a beautiful, compassionate, tragic and darkly funny study of the human mind and a once-great nation coming to terms with its new place in the world. It was described by the Guardian as ‘A sad Wordsworthian elegy about the solitude and dislocation of madness and possibly about the decline of Britain itself . . . part of the play’s appeal is that Storey leaves us to draw our own conclusions . . . a play that contains within itself the still, sad music of humanity.’

Home was first performed at the Royal Court Theatre, London, on 17 June 1970.

In Celebration

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

As the Shaw sons gather to celebrate their parents’ fortieth wedding anniversary, the tensions of their family history come to the surface. Their father, who’s spent his life on his back down the mines, has always been proud of the grammar school and university education he provided for his sons. Now, however, he sees that education betraying the very work ethic he hoped to instil in them, as his working-class sons become middle-class professionals.

‘Iconoclastic’ Andrew, the eldest, has packed in his job as a successful lawyer in order to concentrate on his painting; Colin invests in the motor industry; silent Steven, the child prodigy, has given up on his novel and entered the teaching profession.

As the Shaw sons question their mother’s insistence on moral rectitude and strict hygiene, they shed light on the saintly memory of their deceased fourth brother, and the consequences of his life and death on their upbringing.

A provocative response to the impact of warfare and poverty on working-class family life over the course of the mid-twentieth century, In Celebration was first produced at the Royal Court Theatre, London, in 1969.

Life Class

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Life Class depicts a crucial day in the life of an art school teacher named Allott, as he aims to lead his class through the processes of discovery that will turn their sketches into artworks, but which instead lead only to troubling scenes and crossed boundaries.

Writing in the introduction to Storey Plays: 3, David Storey says: ‘Allott (a lot: munificence) is an art teacher in a northern provincial art school (I had attended one such, at Wakefield, in my late teens). Conceived as something not unakin to an existential Prospero, he creates, as if with the audience’s participation, a class, or “event” – in his designation, an “invisible event” since the participants are not consciously aware of their involvement. The materials of this event (or performance: his self-declared “work of art”) are, as for most artists, those of his daily existence: in this instance, a group of (largely) unsympathetic (and conceivably ungifted) youths who, for one reason or another – fortuity – have found their way into what might be described as his allegorised arena (i.e., onto his “canvas”) – a phenomenological act, and perception, which, Allott concludes, is, like all “art”, expressive – an embodiment – of his time.’

Life Class was first performed at the Royal Court Theatre, London, on 9 April 1974.

The March On Russia

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Twenty years on from his 1969 depiction of class division and family troubles in In Celebration, David Storey wrote The March on Russia, a further domestic drama centring around the tensions that arise when an aging family gathers together and rakes over their past in a northern mining community.

The Pasmores are celebrating their sixtieth wedding anniversary, when their children Colin, Wendy and Eileen, all decide separately to surprise them with a visit and a posh lunch. Over the course of their stay, the siblings come to see the reality of their parents’ marriage: an endless cycle of bickering and contempt between two people who feel shackled to one another for the rest of their days, who resent their children for their social mobility. As Mrs Pasmore ruminates on the hypothetical benefits of divorce, Mr Pasmore slumps into a depression; the only way for their marriage to continue is to employ the lies and fantasies Mr Pasmore has been creating their whole married life.

Linking twentieth century British politics to the heart of domestic life in working class northern England, The March on Russia was first produced at the National Theatre, London, in 1989.

The Restoration of Arnold Middleton

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

The Restoration of Arnold Middleton is a domestic tragicomedy of a thirty-something married couple and their unusual living arrangements. Arnie, a history teacher, is a delusional attention seeker with a penchant for cluttering his home with historical artefacts, much to the dismay of his wife, Joan, but much to the pleasure of his giddy mother-in law. As they await the long-anticipated visit of Arnie’s parents in a flurry of cleaning and tidying, the trio are visited by Arnie’s school colleagues, one of whom is conducting a suspect liaison with a pupil. The play follows Arnie’s lies and fantasies, indulged by his fellow teaching staff, to his ultimate breakdown, and to the breakdown of the curious domestic set-up that Arnie, Joan and her mother have put up with for years.

The Restoration of Arnold Middleton premiered at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, in 1966, before moving to the Royal Court Theatre, London, in 1967, with Eileen Atkins taking the part of Joan.

Stages

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

In Stages, the life story of Richard Fenchurch, an ageing artist and writer, is unwound as his sanity unravels. He tells his story, remembering details and revealing secrets as visitors, both apparently real and obviously imagined – his ex-wife, daughter, former lover, neighbour, psychiatrist – enter the stage uninvited to play their part, either reliving past events or trying bravely to secure his future in the face of his disintegrating mental health.

Described by the Independent as ‘A delicate chamber piece, the play is also an echo-chamber of themes from Storey's earlier work, especially the difficulty of reconciling working class roots with a career as an intellectual and artist’, Stages premiered on the Cottesloe stage of the National Theatre, London, on 12 November 1992, in a production starring Alan Bates and directed by Lindsay Anderson.

David Storey was born in Wakefield and is a Fellow of University College, London. His plays include The Restoration of Arnold Middleton (1967), which won the Evening Standard Award for Most Promising Playwright; The Contractor (1969), Home (1970) and The Changing Room (1972), all of which won the New York Critics Best Play of the Year Award; In Celebration (1975), which was adapted as a film in 1974 starring Alan Bates; Life Class (1975); and The Farm (1973). All of these plays were first performed at the Royal Court Theatre, while Early Days (1980), The March on Russia (1989) and Stages (1992) all premiered at the National Theatre.