Play Anthologies

Plays

Actor's Lament

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

'A one-act play is like a confession'. So writes Steven Berkoff in the preface to the collection of his One-Act Plays. In his introduction to the collection, Geoffrey Colman, Head of Acting at Central School of Speech and Drama writes:'It is the one-act play, however, that most profoundly and immediately amplifies Berkoff’s extraordinary literary and theatrical voice. . . In discussion, [Berkoff's] eyes quite literally light up at the mere mention of the one-act construct. With relish, he outlines the bare-knuckled immediacy of its form and fatal but inevitable blow. Perhaps the very real pleasure in reading these nineteen one-act plays by Berkoff should not be about comparing them to his other plays at all, but imagining them newly and in performance. Berkoff’s theatre continues to refuse smallness of theme and narrative, and defies those who wish to collapse the place of theatre into reality-inspired ‘true’. A reading of these pieces will require the need for a performance alertness, ‘real’ at its very threshold.'

In Actor's Lament we meet John, an actor who although 'clever, cynical and witty' is nonetheless bitter as he moulders unappreciated in his career, and his age ticks along from forty to fifty.

Adam and Eve

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

'A one-act play is like a confession'. So writes Steven Berkoff in the preface to the collection of his One-Act Plays. In his introduction to the collection, Geoffrey Colman, Head of Acting at Central School of Speech and Drama writes: 'It is the one-act play, however, that most profoundly and immediately amplifies Berkoff’s extraordinary literary and theatrical voice. . . In discussion, [Berkoff's] eyes quite literally light up at the mere mention of the one-act construct. With relish, he outlines the bare-knuckled immediacy of its form and fatal but inevitable blow. Perhaps the very real pleasure in reading these nineteen one-act plays by Berkoff should not be about comparing them to his other plays at all, but imagining them newly and in performance. Berkoff’s theatre continues to refuse smallness of theme and narrative, and defies those who wish to collapse the place of theatre into reality-inspired ‘true’. A reading of these pieces will require the need for a performance alertness, ‘real’ at its very threshold.'

Of his cycle of Biblical plays, Berkoff writes: 'There is something so vital and dynamic about our wonderful biblical stories, myths or parables that they lend themselves so easily to a modern interpretation. Of course their passion speaks directly to all of us and few of us are immune from the same problems and obsessions.'

Adam and Eve tells of Eden's first parents in a comically exaggerated London slang.

… And Jesus Moonwalks the Mississippi

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

In Marcus Gardley’s And Jesus Moonwalks the Mississippi (2007), the world of the Civil War provides the setting in which Greek myth, talking trees, singing rivers, and a moonwalking Jesus combine to interrogate the politics of sex and the body.

By disregarding and distorting sacrosanct narratives and images of Christianity and American history, Gardley pushes us to rethink the lessons and limitations of these institutions vis-à-vis our contemporary moment. His inventive and brazen formal approach not only prompts such re-evaluations, but also frames an affecting story whose essence is one of longing, redemption, and forgiveness.

Antebellum

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Robert O’Hara’s Antebellum bridges continents to highlight the intractability of love and the power of desire. Set in 1939, amid the cabarets and concentration camps of prewar Berlin and the plantations of post-Civil War Atlanta, the play uses seemingly unrelated historical events to explore the dynamic interplay of race, sexuality, and religion in the production of identity.

Antebellum employs a complex yet stirring hodgepodge of dramaturgical techniques, ranging from naturalistic to Brechtian, that evidence the formal complexities and heterodoxy of post-black dramaturgy.

Even more than he did in his earlier play Insurrection: Holding History (1996), O’Hara seamlessly melds the personal and the political to create a world that, by his own admission, is intimately connected to his own ‘relationship to life and to love’ but remains expansive and generous enough that his audiences might recognize and learn something about their own.

An Anti-Suffragist or The Other Side

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

A monologue about an inexperienced young woman, An Anti-Suffragist or The Other Side is a clever monologue describing the growing incomprehension of a critic of the Suffragette movement as she struggles to undersand why she was against votes for women in the first place.

Described in her introduction by Naomi Paxton as ‘charming, clever . . . a fantastic monologue for an actress, full of character, well written and enjoyable to play’, An Anti-Suffragist or The Other Side was first published by the Actresses’ Franchise League (AFL) in 1910.

The Bedbug

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Ivan Varlet is making a class change. As he prepares to marry his bourgeois bride, the former mechanic casts off his socialist acquaintances and re-invents himself as ‘Ivor Violet’. Before he can embark on his new life, however, a fire at the wedding kills all the guests, and sees Ivan trapped in the ice cellar, frozen into a state of cryogenesis. Fifty years later, after the creation of a global socialist state following a world war, Ivan is unfrozen into an unrecognizable Russia. He swears, drinks, smokes and feels in a state that eschews pleasure and emotion. He causes women to lose their senses at the plucking of his guitar, and hospitalises men with his introduction of beer. Before this ‘early mammal’ can cause more social unrest, he is brought to the civic zoo and displayed as a specimen of society’s primitive past, where school children can feed him with cigarettes and alcohol.

A satire on the distrust of authority and the threat of the independent voice to the socialist system, Vladimir Mayakovsky’s 1929 original was written at a time of growing disillusion with the Soviet Union. The Bedbug, adapted by Snoo Wilson, was commissioned by the National Theatre as one of six new plays, adaptations or translations for the 1995 BT National Connections, a collection of contemporary plays for young people.

Bethany

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Life has gotten tough for Crystal: her job is in jeopardy; her house has been repossessed; and her daughter has been taken by social services. It's time for Crystal to get going. But in her effort to get her daughter back and put her life on the right track, Crystal is forced to question just how far she's willing to go to survive.

Bethany by Laura Marks is the story of a charismatic saleswoman forced to make moral compromises and impossible choices in a tough economic climate. It was first presented in the UK at the High Tide Festival in Halesworth, Suffolk, on 12 May 2012.

Black Diamond: The Years the Locusts Have Eaten

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

In Black Diamond (2007), J. Nicole Brooks interrogates contemporary connections and discontinuities between the Africans in Liberia and African Americans in the United States. Set in 1999, the play opens in the middle of the second Liberian civil war, which eventually resulted in the overthrow of brutal despot Charles Taylor and his arrest as a war criminal. At issue in this drama is the question of what should be the responsibility of the United States to this war-torn African state racked by genocidal atrocities and human rights violations.

After all, Liberia has a unique bond to the United States, beginning in 1827 when former black slaves from the United States attempted to settle Liberia. At the centre of her drama, Brooks places an African American journalist sent by the BBC to cover the war story. As Americans and the world turn a seemingly deaf ear toward the suffering in Liberia, this journalist faces his own life-altering questions as to his duty to his profession and his obligation as a black man to this intra-racial conflict.

Fast-paced and episodic in structure, Black Diamond’s eclectic form also rubs up against convention, assaulting the audience’s senses as moments of flashback clash against burlesque enactments, docudrama narrativization, and rap music interludes. The play’s structure informs its content. The contrasts and incongruities in style underscore the contradictory cultural politics at play within this catastrophic African struggle. By depicting rebel soldiers that associate their own brutality and swagger with the urban cool of African American hip hop, Brooks’ play showcases the complications and ambiguities of black cultural traffic, the flow and, importantly, the friction of black imagery.

With its structural hybridity and diverse representations of blackness, Black Diamond enacts the post-black.

Bulrusher

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Eisa Davis’s Pulitzer Prize- nominated play Bulrusher (2006), set in 1955, is a coming-of-age narrative in which the title character, abandoned as a baby and taken in by strangers, navigates a world where she finds herself increasingly outside the mainstream of Boonville, California, the small country town where she was raised.

When a black visitor from Alabama arrives in the town, Bulrusher begins to confront the norms and attitudes that she and those in her town take for granted. Through her encounter with this young black woman from the south, Bulrusher comes into a new sexual and racial consciousness. Eventually, she even learns the identity of her mother and father. Bulrusher undergoes her own kind of psychological, intellectual, and emotional homecoming throughout the play – although she never leaves Boonville.

Through Bulrusher, Davis asks us to consider how we might locate home, its significance in the making of identity, and who constitutes ‘family’ in the first place: those with whom we are reared or those who accept us without condition or pretense.

Bulrusher received its world premiere at Urban Stages/Playwrights’ Preview Productions in New York in March 2006.

Category B

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Category B is a sharp and hard-hitting play about the brutal power structures of prison life. It is set in a Category B prison, where all offenders are placed after they are first convicted: it is tough, and dangerous, and compelling.

Inside C Wing, Thames Gate Prison, it’s the screws that have the keys, but all too often it’s the prisoners that have the power. Saul is the con in charge: prisoners follow his rules, the officers turn the occasional blind eye, and everything runs smoothly. But his number two position is vacant, new inmates are flooding in, and things are getting tense. Meanwhile Angela is training her replacement, a crash course in keeping the aggression of an overcrowded ward at bay. And new inmate Rio is ready prove he’s as tough as the rest of them, but the volatile Errol is keeping an eye on him, for reasons of his own. Category B offers a chilling insight into the treachery and manipulation that prop up the prison walls from the inside.

Williams's play was first performed as part of the ‘Not Black and White’ season at the Tricycle Theatre, London, in 2009.

Methuen Drama's range of play anthologies is a diverse series that draws both on established plays from our backlist and new works produced at theatres around the world. They offer a cost-effective introduction to plays from particular regions, periods and theatres, and the best new drama for young people.