Plays

Anna Karenina (adapt. Edmundson)

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Helen Edmundson's adaptation of Leo Tolstoy's novel, Anna Karenina, is a meditation on the nature of love. It was first performed by Shared Experience at the Theatre Royal, Winchester, on 30 January 1992 at the start of a nationwide tour.

Married to a provincial governor, the punctilious Alexei Karenin, Anna revolts against her life of compromise when she meets the charming officer Count Vronsky. She embarks on a scandalous affair, which completely destroys her family life and brings her to the brink of destruction. Interspersed with Anna’s tragic downfall is the story of Levin, an idealistic landowner striving to find meaning in his life – a character often seen as a self-portrait of Tolstoy himself. Edmundson's adaptation illuminates the story's grand pattern: how the adulterous Anna travels towards disintegration and death, while the young landowner, Levin, travels toward maturity and a sense of wholeness.

Edmundson frames the action of Tolstoy’s novel within an imagined dialogue between Levin and Anna. She brings Anna and Levin together in the opening scene: 'This is my story,' says Anna. 'It seems it is mine too,' replies Levin, and for the remainder of the play scenes are set and emotions summarised through the imaginary exchange of their confidences. The device allows Edmundson to distil the novel down to a carefully curated selection of episodes; she is able to translate almost a thousand pages, and a cast of nearly as many, into an intimate chamber drama.

In an author's note in the published text, Edmundson explains her decision not to cut the Levin strand of the novel, as many adaptations do: 'Without Levin, Anna Karenina is a love story, extraordinary and dark, but essentially a love story. With Levin it becomes something great.'

The Shared Experience production was directed by Nancy Meckler and designed by Lucy Weller. The cast was Annabelle Apsion, Katherine Barker, Tilly Blackwood, Gregory Floy, Max Gold, Richard Hope, Nigel Lindsay and Pooky Quesnel. The production then toured to Cardiff, Oxford, Leeds, Leicester, Taunton, Salisbury, and finally to the Tricycle Theatre, London, where it opened on 10 March 1992.

The play was revived at the Arcola Theatre, London, in 2011 by The Piano Removal Company, directed by Max Webster.

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.

buckets

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Adam Barnard's buckets is a play about time, its impact on our lives, and how to address the fact that it always seems to be running out. It was first performed at the Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond, on 28 May 2015.

The play comprises thirty-three interconnected scenes – some just a few lines, others mini-plays in their own right – reflecting on wide-ranging themes including sadness and happiness, illness and health, youth and experience, kissing and crying, singing and dying.

The playscript is intentionally open-ended, with unattributed lines of dialogue. According to a note on the text, the play 'can be performed by any number and composition of actors. Gender, where referenced in dialogue, can generally be switched... A new paragraph usually indicates a change of speaker. Everything’s an option'.

The premiere production was directed by Rania Jumaily and designed by James Turner. It was performed by Jon Foster, Tom Gill, Charlotte Josephine, Sarah Malin, Rona Morison and Sophie Steer, with the addition of a community ensemble.

The Cane

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

It will be the biggest send off any teacher has ever had. No teacher is as loved.

After 45 years as a dedicated teacher, Edward is looking forward to the imminent celebration to mark his retirement.
But his home is under siege. A mob of angry students have gathered. A brick has been thrown through the window, he and his wife haven't left the house for six days, and now his estranged daughter has arrived with her own questions.

Why would they attack the most popular teacher in the school?

The Cane explores power, control, identity and gender as well as considering the major failure of the echo-chamber of liberalism.

Christmas

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

With a sharp ear for the verbal rhythms of conversation, Stephens glimpses the everyday weariness beneath the chat of men down on their luck, in a pub that has fallen out of time.

It is a week before Christmas in Michael Macgraw’s tired and empty pub in London. Michael adds a shot of whisky to his tea, and waits for some customers. Slowly, the regulars trickle in: twitchy, miserable twenty-nine year old Billy Lee Russell, who has just found out who his father was, and Giuseppe Rossi, a proud and elderly Italian barber, who has charged the same price for the last five years. They are joined by a series of strangers who only stay for one drink, and by Charlie Anderson who is on a lonely pub crawl with a cello, and they talk through the long night about what went wrong.

Christmas was first performed in 2003 at the Pavilion Theatre, Brighton.

Common

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Common is a dark and disturbing journey into the carnivalesque world of early-Industrial Britain, exploring the personal and public traumas in the period of the enclosure. Written with verve and wit by Olivier Award-nominated and Writers' Guild Award-winning playwright DC Moore, it tells the story of Mary, a woman who has returned to the village of her birth after years of grifting a living on the edge of respectable London society. She is there to confront old enemies and rekindle a former love.

But there’s trouble in the air as the local Lord struggles to extend the reach of his power by reclaiming the common-land as his personal fiefdom. Will Mary be able to win over those she lost before? Or will the violence of the time seep over into even the purest of missions?
Common is an epic, funny and uncanny history play which examines the period of the enclosure, asking what does community mean and if there can ever be resolution in the intractable battle between individual desires and the common good.

Dublin by Lamplight

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Amidst the filth and fury of Dublin 1904, the theatrical event of the century is about to explode...Will the Irish National Theatre of Ireland seize its chance for glory? Fading stars, rebels, whores, and romantics irreverently expose the strange and lurid world of Dublin by Lamplight.

Education, Education, Education  

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Education, Education, Education is a play about British schools in the 1990s, exploring what we are taught and why, and where responsibility lies. It was devised by Bristol-based group, The Wardrobe Ensemble, and first performed at the Pleasance Dome at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in August 2017 (a work-in-progress performance of the show was staged as part of Bristol Ferment at Bristol Old Vic in February 2017). It was co-produced by The Wardrobe Ensemble, Royal & Derngate, Northampton, and Shoreditch Town Hall. It won an Edinburgh Fringe First Award, and went on to tour the UK.

The play is set in a run-down British secondary school, Wordsworth Comprehensive, in 1997, just after the election that saw Tony Blair become Prime Minister. Tobias, a new German placement assisting with foreign languages, addresses the audience directly, and watches on as assorted members of the teaching staff struggle to deal with the demands of their job, their unruly students, and their various personal issues. With the nation riding the wave of New Labour's exhilarating success, Wordsworth Comprehensive continues its remorseless slide into chaos.

The play was devised and written by Tom Brennan, Tom England, Emily Greenslade, Jesse Jones, Kerry Lovell, Jesse Meadows, Helena Middleton, James Newton, Ben Vardy and Edythe Woolley.

The premiere production was directed by Jesse Jones and Helena Middleton, and designed by Lucy Sierra. It was performed by Tom Brennan, Tom England, Emily Greenslade, Kerry Lovell, Jesse Meadows, James Newton and Ben Vardy.

Either  

Faber and Faber
Type: Text

Love is just sex. And sex is just chance. And chance is just timing. And free will. Come on. It beats swiping right.

When B spills coffee down A's shirt, an old spark is rekindled. But in a world of infinite possibilities, monogamy is tough. Straight, gay, casual, polyamorous, they find themselves irresistibly drawn both to the new and to each other. In a relationship of ever-changing boundaries, the couple question anything and everything as they attempt to navigate modern love.

Funny, smart and sexy, Ruby Thomas' debut play probes contemporary ideas about sexuality, gender and the need to connect, before we die. 

Fast

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Fin Kennedy’s play Fast is an ensemble play for teenage performers commissioned by Y Touring, an established theatre company that produces and tours plays for young people about complex, science-based issues. It explores issues around fasting, diet, food production and food security. The play was workshopped at Regent High School in Camden, London, before being performed as part of a young people’s summer school run by Y Touring on 22 August 2014.

The play is set among a group of Year 11 classmates (fifteen to sixteen years old) of mixed social backgrounds, in an unnamed state secondary school, in a medium-sized British town, near to some countryside. Cara, a sixteen-year-old student, is from a farming family, and we learn that one year previously her father had killed himself. When Cara’s school holds a twenty-four-hour fast in aid of Oxfam, Cara decides she will not eat again until Tesco’s and the other suppliers, whom she holds responsible for driving her father to suicide, are held to account.

The Y Touring premiere was directed by Dominique Poulter and Nathan Bryon and designed by The Company.

A term that came to the fore in the twentieth century as an ideal for many of its pioneers, though its use varies; it is applied both loosely, to denote a group with shared aims formed around an outstanding figure, and more specifically, to describe a democratically organized company that creates and administers itself collectively and collaboratively. The common thread is that, instead of coming together at random for a single production, people work together over a period of time, developing an identifiable approach that is shaped by generally agreed objectives. The Meiningen Company at the end of the nineteenth century spread the idea, which was most famously taken up by the Moscow Art Theatre and later by the Berliner Ensemble. The inspiration is often a mix of the political and the aesthetic, and covers a very wide range of theatrical practice from the likes of the Group Theatre, Theatre Workshop and 7:84 to Theater du Soleil or Teatro Campesino. Ensembles have proved hard to sustain and seem to require constant regeneration and the right ideological, economic and artistic circumstances.

from Charles London, The Continuum Companion to Twentieth-Century Theatre, ed. Colin Chambers (London, 2002).