Simon Gray

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Plays by Simon Gray

Butley

Faber and Faber
Type: Text

Butley

'What is so wondrous about a play so basically defeatist and hurtful is its ability to be funny. The stark, unsentimental approach to the homosexual relationship, the cynical send-up of academic life, the skeptical view of the teacher-pupil associations are all stunningly illuminated by continuous explosions of sardonic, needling, feline, vituperative and civilised lines.' Evening Standard

Cell Mates

Faber and Faber
Type: Text

Cell Mates takes as its central characters the spy George Blake and the Irish petty criminal Sean Bourke, who sprang Blake from Wormwood Scrubs prison. It tracks their relationship from their first meeting in prison to their hide-out in London, and on to the flat they shared in Moscow.

Cell Mates was first presented at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford, on 17 January 1995 and transferred to the Albery Theatre, London, on 16 February 1995

Close of Play

Faber and Faber
Type: Text

'Close of Play is, I suppose, the darkest of Simon's plays. It was never appreciated by the critical fraternity, which failed to understand it for what it was – a radical exploration of poetic drama. Its range of operation, its sleight of hand, its command of varying modes of language, its use of monologue and chorus – all this moved far away from its ostensible naturalism. The character of Daisy was a wonderful one.' Harold Pinter

Close of Play was first performed in the Lyttelton auditorium of the National Theatre, London, on 24 May 1979.

The Common Pursuit

Faber and Faber
Type: Text

'I finished this play at six this morning, having worked through half of the night. I'’d also worked through three packages of cigarettes and half a bottle of malt whisky. But the main thing is that it'’s finished. Olé. I numbered the pages, packed and shaped them into a completed looking pile, toasted myself with a further gulp of whisky and a few more cigarettes, gloated. This, for me, is the only moment of pure happiness I ever experience in the playwriting business.' Simon Gray

'A play that delivers an unexpected depth charge of emotion. Gray'’s writing is sharp, funny and clever, and, more than twenty years after the piece'’s premiere, the dramatist'’s assumption of intelligence and cultural knowledge on the part of his audience seems breathtakingly daring… What a pleasure to re-encounter a splay that combines unabashed intelligence and zinging wit with rare generosity of spirit.' Daily Telegraph

The Common Pursuit was first performed in July 1984 at the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith, London.

Dog Days

Faber and Faber
Type: Text

'We’ve got a sociologist called Nuzek coming in this afternoon with his latest book. On Protestantism and Pornography.'

Faced with such a prospect, Peter, the protagonist of this play, finds the idea of sitting at his desk in a publishing house considerably less attractive than attempting to seduce a free-lance cover designer while his wife is out teaching English to foreigners and shopping at Sainsbury's. Dog Days is about the sad and hilarious consequences of Peter'’s disenchantment with his job, his wife, his public school master brother and himself.

The play is a companion piece to Otherwise Engaged and has the same remarkable blend of wit and pathos, humour and despair.

Dog Days was first performed on 26 October 1976 at the Oxford Playhouse.

Dutch Uncle

Faber and Faber
Type: Text

The newly acquired wardrobe filling most of the living room of the Godboys' decaying house in Shepherd's Bush really does seem unnecessarily large for most purposes. Eric and Doris upstairs could manage without one, surely. Whatever scheme Mr Godboy has in mind, however, he does seem to be going about it the hard way; and it certainly sorts oddly with his apparent worship of the police force and all it stands for. It's not entirely clear, either, why he married May Godboy in the first place. There's little satisfaction for her in the relationship…

Dutch Uncle was first performed at the Aldwych Theatre, London, on 17 March 1969. 

Hidden Laughter

Faber and Faber
Type: Text

Harry is a literary agent. Louise is a writer. They are young and happily married. As the play opens, we find them choosing a country house, an idyllic place where she can write, where small children will be happy, and where they can both relax. Into their country garden walks the local vicar, Ronnie, who with some surprising revelations about faith, brings doubt into Harry and Louise’s smug existence. And, as the play moves on, and everyone grows up or grows older, country life seems to bring less and less joy and peace and proves to be quite the opposite of the idyll they envisage.

Hidden Laughter was first presented in June 1990 at the Vaudeville Theatre, London

The Holy Terror

Faber and Faber
Type: Text

The Holy Terror: Melon Revised is a reworking of Simon Gray's earlier play Melon, originally performed in 1987. It was first performed on 15th February 1991 at the Temple of Arts Theatre, Tucson, Arizona.

The Idiot

Faber and Faber
Type: Text

The Idiot is a dramatisation of Fyodor Dostoievsky’s original novel. In creating this stage play, Simon Gray chose some of the most vivid and contrasting episodes recounting the strange involvement between Prince Myshkin, the good natured ‘Idiot’, the beautiful Nastasya Filippovna and her desperate lover and husband, Rogozhin. The ambiguity of these episodes and the paradoxical atmosphere of Dostoievsky’s novel – hovering between sombre tragedy and grotesque farce – is heightened by the use of a strange, sinister commentator, the character of Ferdyschenko.

The Idiot was first presented by the National Theatre Company at the Old Vic, London, in July 1970.

Japes

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Simon Gray’s Japes is a black comedy with an unusual slant on the classic love triangle. It was first performed at the Mercury Theatre, Colchester, on 23 November 2000 before transferring to the Theatre Royal, Haymarket, opening on 7 February 2001.

The play spans nearly thirty years, from the 1970s to the 1990s. Brothers Michael and Jason ‘Japes’ Cartts share the house in which they grew up, and then share the woman they both love. The object of their affection, Anita, becomes Michael’s wife whilst remaining Japes’ lover. This ménage-a-trois results in a fraternal relationship based on guilt and dependence ¬as toxic as it is supportive. Michael becomes the successful author whilst Japes’ academic career stalls and he hits the bottle. Anita is stuck between this intense rivalry but is herself afflicted by her indecision and the nagging feeling that she married the wrong brother. The full ramifications of this situation only become clear in the final scene when Gray introduces a fourth character, Michael and Anita's daughter Wendy, and shifts our perspective outside of the central threesome for the first time.

The premiere production was directed by Peter Hall and designed by John Gunter, with Toby Stephens as Jason, Jasper Britton as Michael and Clare Swinburne as Anita/Wendy.

Picture of Simon Gray

Simon Gray was born in 1936. He began his writing career with Colmain (1963), the first of five novels, all published by Faber. He is the author of many plays for TV and radio, also films, including the 1987 adaptation of J L Carr's A Month in the Country, and TV films including Running Late, After Pilkington (winner of the Prix Italia) and Emmy Award-winning Unnatural Pursuits. He wrote more than thirty stage plays amongst them Butley and Otherwise Engaged (which both received Evening Standard Awards for Best Play), Close of Play, The Rear Column, Quartermaine's Terms, The Common Pursuit, Hidden Laughter, The Late Middle Classes (winner of the Barclay's Best Play Award), Japes, The Old Masters (his ninth play to be directed by Harold Pinter) and Little Nell, which premiered at the Theatre Royal Bath in 2007, directed by Peter Hall. Little Nell was first broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in 2006, and Missing Dates in 2008. In 1991 he was made BAFTA Writer of the Year. His acclaimed works of non-fiction are: An Unnatural Pursuit, How's That for Telling 'Em, Fat Lady?, Fat Chance, Enter a Fox, The Smoking Diaries, The Year of the Jouncer, The Last Cigarette and Coda. He was appointed CBE in the 2005 New Year's Honours for his services to Drama and Literature. Simon Gray died in August 2008.