Political theatre

Plays

13

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

At the beginning of Bartlett’s political and profound epic play, twelve completely different people across London wake up from an identical, terrifying dream – monsters and explosions, thousands of voices. At the same moment, a young man named John returns home after years away to find economic gloom, ineffective protest, and a Prime Minister about to declare war. But John has a vision for the future and a way to make it happen.

Coincidences, omens and visions collide with political reality in this ambitious and dextrous play, which depicts a London both familiar and strange, a London staring into the void.

13 explores the meaning of personal responsibility, the hold that the past has over the future and the nature of belief itself.

The play was first performed in 2011 at the National Theatre, London.

2nd May 1997

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Jack Thorne's play 2nd May 1997 is a drama set over the course of the 1997 UK General Election in which the Labour Party under the leadership of Tony Blair won a landslide victory over the Conservatives. The play presents three separate personal stories from different points on the political spectrum as the scale of Labour's victory becomes clear. It was first performed at the Bush Theatre, London, on 8 September 2009 in a co-production with nabokov theatre company, in association with Watford Palace Theatre and Mercury Theatre Colchester.

The action takes place in three bedrooms over the course of the night following the election, and the morning after. In Part One, set just before midnight, Tory MP Robert prepares to attend the electoral count. With defeat looming large, he fears becoming a forgotten man, while his wife Marie counts the cost of her sacrifice to politics. In Part Two, set in the early hours of the morning, Lib Dem footsoldier Ian has brought home party-crasher Sarah from an election get-together, but they’re about to connect in a way neither of them expected. Lastly, in Part Three, teenage best friends Jake and Will wake up to a new political reality, with a new set of Cabinet ministers to memorise before their A-level Politics class. Jake dreams of Number 10 and a life in politics, while Will dreams of Jake.

In his introduction to Jack Thorne Plays: One (Nick Hern Books, 2014), Thorne writes: '2nd May 1997 was and is my attempt to write a political play without the politics. ... I wanted to tell the story of that election from all sides. I was also frustrated by my inability to write a play about anyone else but me, so doing a triptych – inspired by David Eldridge’s Under the Blue Sky – felt like an opportunity to force myself outside of my comfort zone. Three political parties, three love stories, one night.'

The Bush Theatre premiere was directed by George Perrin and designed by Hannah Clark. It was performed by James Barrett, Geoffrey Beevers, Linda Broughton, Jamie Samuel, Hugh Skinner and Phoebe Waller-Bridge. The production then embarked on a regional UK tour.

3 Winters

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Tena Štivičić’s play 3 Winters follows a single Croatian family living in Zagreb throughout the vicissitudes of the nation's history between 1945 and 2011. It was first performed in the Lyttelton auditorium of the National Theatre, London, on 3 December 2014 (previews from 26 November) and went on to win the 2015 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize.

The play's action is set in and around the Kos family house in Zagreb, Croatia, in three alternating time periods: November 1945, January 1990, and November 2011 (with the exception of the first scene, which takes place in an office in Zagreb in 1945). In 1945 we see Rose, with her mother, husband and their baby daughter, Maša, moving into a partitioned house at the time of the victory of Tito’s communist partisans. By 1990, Maša and her history-teacher husband, Vlado, are occupying the same house, with their young daughters, at the very moment when Croatia and Slovenia are about to break up the dominant Yugoslavian communist regime. Finally we meet the Kos family in 2011 when Maša’s youngest daughter, Lucija, is about to marry an avaricious entrepreneur and Croatia is on the brink of joining the capitalist club of the European Union.

In an article published on the National Theatre's blog (http://national-theatre.tumblr.com/post/103126868756/tena-%C5%A1tivi%C4%8Di%C4%87-on-3-winters), Štivičić writes: 'The very first moments of inspiration for this play came from stories in my family. My mother’s, my aunt’s, my grandmother’s and even my great grandmother’s when I was very little. These women spoke in very different voices, each with a different set of tools, or in fact, lack of tools to express their circumstances and articulate the plight of their life.'

The National Theatre premiere was directed by Howard Davies and designed by Tim Hatley. It was performed by Charlotte Beaumont, Lucy Black, Susan Engel, Siobhan Finneran, Daniel Flynn, Hermione Gulliford, Jo Herbert, Alex Jordan, Gerald Kyd, James Laurenson, Jonny Magnanti, Jodie McNee, Alex Price, Adrian Rawlins, Sophie Rundle, Bebe Sanders and Josie Walker.

The Absence of War

Faber and Faber
Type: Text

The Absence of War offers a meditation on the classic problems of leadership, and is the third part of a critically acclaimed trilogy of plays (Racing Demon, Murmuring Judges) about British institutions.

Its unsparing portrait of a Labour Party torn between past principles and future prosperity, and of a deeply sympathetic leader doomed to failure, made the play hugely controversial and prophetic when it was first presented at the National Theatre, London, in 1993.

Adam  

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Frances Poet's play Adam is the true story of a young trans man, Adam Kashmiry, making the journey from his native Egypt to Scotland, across borders and genders, in his search for a place to call home. It was conceived by Cora Bissett and first performed, with Adam Kashmiry playing the part of himself, at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, as part of the Made in Scotland Showcase, on 6 August 2017 (previews from 30 July), presented by the National Theatre of Scotland, winning a Fringe First award.

In the play, the central figure of Adam Kashmiry is represented as two distinct but complementary characters, Egyptian Adam and Glasgow Adam, 'two sides of a single coin'. Together they narrate the story of Adam's realisation of his true identity while growing up in Egypt, his decision to leave his native country, his journey from there to a cramped room in Glasgow, and his ongoing struggle to assume his new identity as a man.

The premiere production was directed by Cora Bissett with music by Jocelyn Pook and set and costume design by Emily James. It was performed by Neshla Caplan and Adam Kashmiry, featuring a recording of Myriam Acharki as Adam’s mother, and additional recorded performances from Rylan Gleave, Harry Knights, Juliana Yazbeck, Umar Ahmed, Adam Buksh and Nafee S. Mohammed.

After Independence

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Guy and Kathleen grow their crops, raise their daughter, and pay their taxes. But Africa is changing, country by country. White farmers in Zimbabwe must now answer for history’s crimes. When Charles arrives with a smile and a purchase order, there’s more than just land at stake. With violence threatening to erupt, he will do whatever it takes to restore their farm to the ‘native’ population.

As truths are revealed and moralities questioned, are things ever more than simply black and white?

Inspired by real events in Zimbabwe, May Sumbwanyambe’s debut play is an unflinching examination of land ownership, dispossession and justice in a post-colonial world.

Winner of the 2016 Alfred Fagon Audience Award, After Independence received its world premiere at the Arcola Theatre, London, on 4 May 2016, in a production by Papatango Theatre Company.

Against  

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

 Go where there's violence.

Silicon Valley. The future. A rocket launches.

Luke is an aerospace billionaire who can talk to anyone. But God is talking to him. He sets out to change the world. Only violence stands in his way.

Christopher Shinn's gripping play received its world premiere at the Almeida Theatre on 12 August 2017 in a production directed by Ian Rickson and featuring Ben Whishaw as Luke.

Angel  

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Henry Naylor's Angel is a dramatic monologue for a female performer, inspired by the true story of Rehana, the 'Angel of Kobane', a Kurdish fighter who became a symbol of resistance against Islamic State. The play is part of Henry Naylor's Arabian Nightmares trilogy, which also includes The Collector and Echoes.

Angel was first performed at the Gilded Balloon, Edinburgh, on 3 August 2016 as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, winning a Fringe First award.

The story is narrated by Rehana, the 'Angel', who, according to a note in the script, 'tells her autobiographical story directly to the audience, through the "fourth wall"’. The action takes place in Syria, in 2014. The town of Kobane is under siege by ISIS, who, having steam-rollered through Iraq, are expecting to take the town easily. But the citizens have found a heroine: a crackshot sniper with a hundred kills to her name. And she appears indestructible. She's the legendary Angel of Kobane.

The premiere production was directed by Michael Cabot and performed by Filipa Bragança. In the subsequent tour of Australia (beginning at Mittagong Playhouse on 7 February 2017), Rehana was played by Avital Lvova.

The Bankrupt

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

David Mercer’s play is a bleakly comic study of the introspective amnesia of Ellis Cripper, who has emerged from his recent dishonourable bankruptcy into a personal crisis, with no idea of how to construct his life.

He dreams of summoning a series of historical figures, who propose a series of abstract and general answers to his existential crisis, but neither their adages nor the analyses of doctors and psychiatrists are satisfactory. The play flickers between these conjurations, and Ellis’s visit to his father, his sister and her husband, who try to offer their own structures of Ellis’s existence. But Ellis would rather talk to worms, invoke Hamlet, and write down his dreams.

The Bankrupt is a darkly effective play about a man’s struggle for significance. It was first presented by BBC Television on BBC1, in 1972.

Belgrade Trilogy

Aurora Metro Books
Type: Text

Set in Sydney, Los Angeles and Prague on New Year's Eve, the play shows snapshots from everyday life of young people who fled abroad to escape the Balkan war and the choices they face as they attempt to build a new life for themselves as exiles. Winner of the Slobodan Selenic Prize

The Belle of the Belfast City

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

The Belle of Belfast City is a story of loyalty, both political and familial. At its centre is Dolly, once a music-hall star, whose ballads and memories weave through the play recalling the past. Vi, the elder of her daughters, stayed with her in Belfast, while the younger Rose has travelled all over the world as a journalist. She returns, bringing with her for the first time her mixed-race and illegitimate daughter Belle, who is named for her grandmother’s stage name. The extended family also includes the Protestant Loyalist fundamentalist Jack, and his sister Janet.

Against the background of protests about the Anglo-Irish Agreement, the play confronts different models of Loyalism and allegiance, a rich and honest lament.

The Belle of Belfast City was first produced in 1989 by the Lyric Players Theatre in Belfast.

Black Jesus

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Zimbabwe. 2015. The Mugabe Government has fallen and investigations into its abuses have begun. Eunice Ncube, working for the new Truth and Justice Commission, begins the interviewing of Gabriel Chibamu, one of the most infamous perpetrators of the horrors of the Mugabe regime. As Gabriel's trial and inevitable prosecution approach, Eunice begins to sift through the past – only to find that right and wrong, and guilt and innocence, are far less clear than she first thought . . .

This stunning play by Finborough Theatre Playwright-in-Residence, and one of the UK's leading political playwrights, Anders Lustgarten, is more urgent than ever. Black Jesus unpicks the political complexities of Zimbabwe through the devastating personal journeys of two very different people, both scarred by one of Africa's most notorious dictatorships.

Black Jesus was first read at the Finborough Theatre as a staged reading as part of Vibrant 2012 – A Festival of Finborough Playwrights: Saturday, 23 July 2011, before its first full performance at the Finborough Theatre on Tuesday, 1 October 2013.

Bully Boy

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Sandi Toksvig's Bully Boy is a play that tackles the challenging moral issues of contemporary military occupation and its effect on the mental health of serving soldiers. It was first performed at the Nuffield Theatre, Southampton, on 13 May 2011 (previews from 10 May). It was revived in a new production first performed at the Royal & Derngate, Northampton, on 24 August 2012, before transferring to the St James Theatre, London, on 18 September 2012, where it was the new West End theatre's inaugural production.

The play is written for two performers. Falklands War veteran Major Oscar Hadley, now confined to a wheelchair, is sent to a combat zone to probe allegations of severe misconduct by Eddie Clark, a young squaddie from Burnley and part of a self-styled ‘Bully Boy’ unit of the British Army. Eddie is accused of throwing an eight-year-old boy down a well during a military raid in the Middle East. As the interrogation develops, Oscar begins to discover that ‘truth’ in a modern insurgency can be a point of view rather than a fact.

In an Introduction to the published script, Toksvig writes: 'For someone who thinks of themselves as a pacifist I have written a lot about war lately. Perhaps it is not so surprising. We are all subjected to images of conflict every day as one faction or another shoots it out in Syria or Iraq or Afghanistan or Sudan or any number of other distant places which come home to us through the television. ... I began to read about the effect of war on the individual. In particular, Dave Grossman’s book On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society, which had a huge effect on me. ... When Patrick Sandford, artistic director of the Nuffield Theatre in Southampton, said he wanted to commission a play from me it was as if Bully Boy poured out of my head.'

The Nuffield Theatre premiere was directed by Patrick Sandford, with Anthony Andrews as Oscar and Joshua Miles as Eddie.

The revival at the Royal & Derngate and in the West End was directed by Patrick Sandford and David Gilmore, and designed by Simon Higlett. The cast was the same.

The Business of Good Government

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

The Business of Good Government was written for and first performed in 1960 in the village of Brent Knoll, Somerset. Telling the traditional story of the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, it focuses less on the divine and miraculous, and more on the geopolitical forces at play in Herod's kingdom.

Under threat of Roman invasion from the west and Persian invasion from the East, Herod is disconcerted to receive a party of Persian delegates, wise men, whom he fears are spies for his neighbour. Realising the threat that might come from a child born which might match and ancient prophecy, he issues an edict to slaughter all males aged under two-years-old.

In spite of this heinous crime, The Business of Good Government presents a not altogether unsympathetic portrait of that infamous king, in whom we can perhaps see echoes of calculated government policy in modern times.

Still, it is the goodness of Joseph and Mary, who parent a newborn, then bear it to safety out of a hostile kingdom, which shines through. The Business of Good Government is a traditional, if human, version of the story of Jesus' birth, and was first performed in Brent Knoll's Church of St. Michael, in 1960.

Cardiff East

Faber and Faber
Type: Text

Set in Cardiff's east side, Peter Gill's new play offers a vivid portrait of a community the Tories thought they'd got rid of, and New Labour would prefer to forget. Cardiff East raises essential questions: What is family value? What does it feel like to be an immigrant in your own country? And most importantly, why don't the Welsh reach for the Armalite? Uncompromising and desperately real, with an undercurrent of ironic humour, Cardiff East builds towards an inexorable climax, which combines hope and tragedy in equal parts.

Cardiff East premiered at the National Theatre, London, in February 1997.

© Peter Gill, 1998

Certain Young Men

Faber and Faber
Type: Text

What are two grown men doing living together faking all the stupidities of a fake straight relationship?

A sharp and poignant comedy of contemporary manners, Certain Young Men explores the lives of Stewart and Michael, David and Christopher, Andrew and Tony, and Robert and Terry.

Certain Young Men premiered at the Almeida Theatre, London, in January 1999.

A Change of Tenant

Aurora Metro Books
Type: Text

The play examines the reasons why Squire Brooks has decided to evict his long-standing tenant of 30 years, a widow, Mrs Basset, despite the fact that she is an industrious, reliable tenant who pays her rent on time and looks after his property well. The Squire reluctantly agrees to her visit to plead her case. He reveals that the insuperable problem is her sex. Not having a vote, she will not be able to support his son in winning a highly marginal election. In the meeting that follows with his prospective new tenant, John Smith, the Squire is forced to question the wisdom of the ‘Mrs Bassets’ being disenfranchised when the ‘John Smiths’ of the world have a say in government. John Smith is a drinker and a fool, in debt and ignorant, and when he has bothered to vote at all, he has spoiled his voting papers. The piece is weakened by the stereotypical portrayal of both John Smith and Mrs Basset. In choosing to make Basset unremarkable, merely the embodiment of reasonable ordinary civic virtue, the author bases her argument on justice: she is visibly no less worthy of a vote than a similar man in her circumstances, no less worthy than was her husband. She is a version of a virtuous, suffering (albeit middle-aged) heroine, victimised by the heartless squire. Her ordinary virtues: concern for her neighbours, maintaining and improving the property, are contrasted to Smith’s fecklessness and selfishness. However, she also reveals more dynamic virtues in her response to the situation – a determination to be given the reasons for her removal and an intelligence and adaptability. She understands the processes of political persuasion ‘talking to people, giving away papers’, in contrast to Smith, and is willing to earn more, take in washing rather than keep chickens, if required, but finally these cannot make up for her inability to vote. She is sent away for ‘a vote is a vote, and nothing else however good and necessary can make up for the lack of a vote’. It is only when faced with Smith’s record of rent arrears that the Squire relents in his decision.

Children of the Sun (Trans. Mulrine)

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Maxim Gorky's play Children of the Sun is a Chekhovian family drama, written while its author was briefly imprisoned in Saint Petersburg's Peter and Paul Fortress during the abortive Russian Revolution of 1905. It was initially banned, but the imperial authorities allowed it to premiere on 24 October 1905 at the Moscow Art Theatre.

This translation by Stephen Mulrine was published by Nick Hern Books in its Drama Classics series in 2000.

The play's title refers to Russia's privileged intelligentsia, epitomised by Protasov, who is high-minded and idealistic but out of touch with the reality of life, especially for the working classes. The play is set during one of the cholera epidemics of the previous century, but was universally understood to relate to contemporary events, and has come to be seen as a prophetic echo of the coming revolution.

Chimerica

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

A powerful play about international relations and the shifting balance of power between East and West, Lucy Kirkwood's Chimerica is both a political examination and an engaging personal drama.

Tiananmen Square, 1989. As tanks roll through Beijing and soldiers hammer on his hotel door, Joe – a young American photojournalist – captures a piece of history with his camera: the moment when a lone man steps in front of the tanks.

New York, 2012. Joe is covering the presidential election, marred by debate over cheap labour and the outsourcing of American jobs to Chinese factories. When a cryptic message left in a Beijing newspaper suggests that the so-called 'tank man' is still alive and living in America, Joe is driven to discover the truth about the unknown hero he photographed.

The play asks urgent questions about the emergence of China as a global superpower, the impact and legacy of authoritarian government, and the decline of Western supremacy. It also explores the personal price paid by those who pursue the truth, whatever the cost.

Chimerica premiered at the Almeida Theatre in London in 2013 in a co-production with theatre company Headlong. It was an immediate critical success, receiving a clutch of five-star reviews. It subsequently transferred to the Harold Pinter Theatre in the West End in June 2013 and was awarded the Evening Standard, Critics' Circle and Olivier Awards for Best New Play as well as the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize.

The Collector  

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Henry Naylor's The Collector is a play about life in occupied Iraq after the 2003 invasion by the US-led coalition, as a team of prison guards become brutalised by war. The play is part of Henry Naylor's Arabian Nightmares trilogy, which also includes Echoes and Angel.

The Collector was first performed at the Gilded Balloon, Edinburgh, on 30 July 2014, as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, winning a Fringe First award.

The story is told by three storytellers who, according to a note in the published script, 'speak directly to the audience, through the "fourth wall"’. There is Zoya, an Iraqi woman; Colonel ‘Kasper’ Kasprowicz, an American reservist in his forties, in charge of Mazrat Prison; and Foster, an American interrogator, female, twenty-four. Under Saddam, Mazrat was a notorious torture house where more than 10,000 people died; now it is under Allied command, and Nassir works there, translating for the American interrogators. He's local, pro-Western, determined to bring liberal values to his country and is about to get married to Zoya, his sweetheart. But when he is recognised by Faisal, a new prisoner and psychotic supporter of the old regime, Nassir's life becomes a living hell.

The premiere production was directed by Henry Naylor and performed by Ritu Arya (as Zoya), William Reay (as Kasper) and Lesley Harcourt (as Foster).

The show transferred to the Arcola Theatre, London, in November 2014, restaged by director Michael Cabot, and with lighting design by Ross Bibby.

Kathryn Barker Productions under the auspices of Kathryn Cabot launched their own tour of the show in autumn 2016, with the following cast: Shireen Farkhoy (as Zoya), William Reay (as Kasper) and Olivia Beardsley (as Foster).

Comment Is Free  

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

James Fritz's play Comment is Free is about a journalist caught up in a devastating media storm. The published version of the play was first broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on 5 October 2016. An earlier version was performed in a staged reading as part of Old Vic New Voices in June 2015, directed by Kate Hewitt and produced by Martha Rose Wilson.

The play is presented as a text featuring hundreds of voices. According to an author's note, 'It should feel noisy – things should overlap, and not everything needs to be heard.' The action centres around a columnist and political commentator, Alistair Cooper, who is constantly in the news because of his inflammatory opinions. Alistair's voice is heard only through his answerphone message, but the play allows us to infer details of his public persona from the array of hostile voices ranged against him, including one voice that threatens to 'murder you and your wife slowly and then drown your daughter'. Alistair's wife, Hilary, insists that her husband's public persona is a 'panto version', very different from the 'real guy at home' who, she says, is 'a wonderful husband'. When Hilary's brother, Ben, warns her that Alistair's public image is getting out of hand, and that people are getting 'very upset', she dismisses his concerns. But then Alistair is found dead, the police come calling, and public opinion rapidly shifts in unpredictable ways.

The BBC Radio 4 production was directed and produced by Becky Ripley and performed by Rachael Stirling, Tobias Menzies, Alice Kirk, Alison Belbin and Jolyon Jenkins. The news was read by Neil Nunes, Susan Rae, Zeb Soanes and Ritula Shah, with Jonathan Dimbleby hosting Any Questions. ‘The Noise’ was voiced by Natasha Cowley, Luke MacGregor, Clare Perkins and Gavi Singh Chera, alongside hundreds of crowdsourced contributors from across the country.

The production went on to win both the Tinniswood and Imison Awards for Audio Drama.

The Contingency Plan

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

A double bill of plays from the frontline of climate change - an epic portrait of an England of the near future, in the grip of unprecedented and catastrophic floods.

On the Beach is set in an England in the grip of unprecedented flooding, glaciologist Will Paxton returns from months in Antarctica to tell his parents that he will take up a role within Government. Thirty years ago, his father silenced his own radical thinking on climate change. Yet behind the reunion with his father lies years of secrecy and bitterness. As the truth surfaces, the family is torn apart, and Will’s parents must face the rising tide alone. The dialectic between Will and his father is explored with an urgent intensity which reflects the state of national emergency in which England finds itself. Waters blends the personal with the political turning this large-scale play into a compelling human drama.

In Resilience, England faces an uncertain future as catastrophic flooding on an unprecedented scale is predicted to hit its battered shores. The Tory Government that has just come to power wants radical answers to the imminent floods. Their newly appointed expert Will Paxton (who features prominently in the first part of the double bill, On the Beach) posits an extreme scenario. He declares England, potentially from coastline to capital, to be in total peril. Tory Minister for Climate Change, Chris is blind to the realities being placed before him, much to the chagrin of Will and his colleague, Colin, the Government’s Scientific Advisor. Resilience shows that Will’s fight to implement a proper policy, built from scientific research, derives in part from the old familial wounds aired in On the Beach.

Resilience and On the Beach premiered as a double bill at the Bush Theatre in London in 2009.

Impressive in scale and chilling as a prediction of our immediate future, the two plays are complementary but can also stand alone.

Cordon

Aurora Metro Books
Type: Text

A group of Special Police in Belgrade incite a riot at a peaceful protest, maliciously beating a student. A harsh indictment of the brutality and corruption of the Milosevic regime. Banned throughout Yugoslavia.

The Cut

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

The Cut is the story of Paul, the dystopia he lives in, and a streamlined system of oppression with a monstrous, throbbing pain at its core.

In a government office, surrounded by administrative forms and directives, Paul administers the Cut. He isn’t used to doing it to someone so keen, but John is impatient, he’s fantasised about it, about emptiness, about being… free. Disarmed by John’s enthusiasm for the incredible pain of the Cut, Paul’s bureaucratic armour cracks to reveal a man tortured by his profession and by society’s disgust. Paul’s conversations with his wife - who doesn’t know what he does but only that he can’t stop crying - and finally with his son are sparse and serrated, as he struggles with his conscience and with his horror.

Ravenhill’s dark unspeakable symbol gives this story of oppression an indefinable and irresistible force.

The Cut premiered in 2006 at the Donmar Warehouse, London.

Daughters of the Revolution

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

David Edgar's Daughters of the Revolution is one part of a two-play cycle under the collective title Continental Divide, set against the background of a bitterly fought American governor’s election in an unspecified Pacific-coast state. Daughters of the Revolution centres on characters in the Democrat camp, while the other part, Mothers Against, examines the election from the Republican perspective.

Across the two plays, Edgar explores what has happened to the revolutionary fervour that took hold of both the Right and the Left in the 1960s, and how it has been carried over into the politics of the twenty-first century.

Both plays were jointly commissioned and produced by Berkeley Repertory Theatre and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Daughters of the Revolution was first performed in the Angus Bowmer Theatre, Ashland, Oregon, as part of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival on 1 March 2003 before transferring to Berkeley Repertory Theatre, with performances from 6 November 2003.

Daughters of the Revolution is an expansive epic theatre play about the diaspora of 1960s student radicals. Michael Bern is a Community College professor about to land a big promotion due to his connections with the Democratic candidate for governor, Rebecca McKeene. As a birthday present his partner, Abby, has tracked down his old FBI file relating to his days as a political activist in the 1970s. This leads him on a mission to find the informer who betrayed his revolutionary cell in 1972. Along the way he meets an ex-Black Panther, an old Marxist turned fervent right-winger, and discovers that his old friend Rebecca may have a dirty little political secret of her own.

The premiere at Oregon Shakespeare Festival was directed by Tony Taccone and designed by William Bloodgood, with a cast including Terry Layman as Michael Bern.

The play received its UK premiere at Birmingham Repertory Theatre on 6 March 2004, with the original American cast directed by Tony Taccone. It subsequently played at the Barbican, London, as part of their BITE Festival, with performances from 20 March 2004.

A Day At The Racists

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

A Day at the Racists is a brave piece of political theatre. It both attempts to understand why people might be drawn to the BNP and diagnoses a deeper cause of that attraction: the political abandonment and betrayal of the working class by New Labour.

Pete Case used to be a leading Labour Party organiser in the local car factories. Now he struggles to get by as a decorator as immigrant workers undercut his best mate's firm; his son Mark can't get a job or onto the housing list; and nobody, from his Labour MP to his granddaughter's teacher, seems to care. Then Pete finds unexpected hope: Gina is young, mixed race and standing for Parliament on a platform of helping the local community. She is standing for the British National Party. As Pete's rage and despair gradually overcome his longstanding loathing of the BNP, he is drawn into the world of Gina's campaign and finds himself entangled in a nightmare of political machinations that pit his closest relationships – son, best mate, lover – against his longest-held beliefs and newfound aims. The play’s timely premiere was at the Finborough Theatre in 2010.

Days of Significance

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Days of Significance was written in response to Much Ado About Nothing, and follows the love lives and mortal fears of young soldiers departing their English market-towns for the deserts of Iraq.

The first act sees two young soldiers join their friends to stumble, drink and brawl before they leave for active service; the play buzzes with the coarse jokes, insults and confrontations of a night out, though there’s a nervous spark of true romance buried in the teasing confrontation. The second act sees the soldiers transferred to Iraq, where they are morally out of their depth, and fighting in a war they don’t understand.

Williams's play, which premiered at the Swan Theatre in 2007, looks at how the naive and malformed moral codes of these young men have catastrophic reverberations for the West’s moral authority.

Death and the Maiden

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Ariel Dorfman's Death and the Maiden is a psychological thriller about a woman who, in a country newly released from dictatorship, seeks revenge on the man she believes to have been her torturer. Translated by Dorfman from his original version in Spanish, La Muerte y la Doncella, the play was first performed as a reading at the Institute for Contemporary Art in London on 30 November 1990, before receiving its world premiere at the Royal Court Theatre Upstairs on 4 July 1991. It was later turned into a feature film directed by Roman Polanski and starring Sigourney Weaver and Ben Kingsley.

The play is set in a beach house in a country that, according to a note in the script, is 'probably Chile but could be any country that has given itself a democratic government just after a long period of dictatorship'. Years have passed since political prisoner, Paulina Salas, suffered at the hands of her captor: a man whose face she never saw, but whom she can still recall with terrifying clarity. Tonight, by chance, a stranger, Roberto Miranda, arrives at the secluded beach house she shares with her husband Gerardo Escobar, a human rights lawyer and member of the Commission set up to investigate the terrible crimes perpetrated under the dictatorship. Paulina is convinced the stranger was her tormentor and believes he must now be held to account.

The play's first performances took place soon after Chile's return to democracy following the end of General Augusto Pinochet's dictatorship. In an Afterword to the published edition of the play, Dorfman explains that, although he'd had the idea for the play some 'eight or nine years' before, 'It was not until Chile returned to democracy in 1990 and I myself therefore returned to resettle there with my family after seventeen years of exile, that I finally understood how the story had to be told'.

The first reading at the ICA in London was directed by Peter James, with Penelope Wilton as Paulina, Michael Maloney as Gerardo and Jonathan Hyde as Roberto.

A workshop production was staged in Santiago, Chile, on 10 March 1991directed by Ana Reeves, with Maria Elena Duvauchelle as Paulina, Hugo Medina as Gerardo and Tito Bustamente as Roberto.

The world premiere at the Royal Court Upstairs on 4 July 1991 was directed by Lindsay Posner with Juliet Stevenson as Paulina, Bill Paterson as Gerardo and Michael Byrne as Roberto. The production moved to the Main Stage at the Royal Court on 31 October 1991, with the same cast and director.

The play then transferred on 11 February 1992 with the same cast to the Duke of York's Theatre in the West End.

The American Broadway premiere opened at the Brooks Atkinson Theater on 17 March 1992 directed by Mike Nichols, with Glenn Close as Paulina, Richard Dreyfuss as Gerardo and Gene Hackman as Roberto.

A feature film version followed in 1994, directed by Roman Polanski with a screenplay by Rafael Yglesias and Ariel Dorfman, starring Sigourney Weaver as Paulina, Ben Kingsley as Roberto and Stuart Wilson as Gerardo.

Destiny

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

First produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company at The Other Place in Stratford in September 1976, Destiny transferred to the Aldwych Theatre, London in May 1977 where it received exceptionally high praise from a wide range of critics. The production established David Edgar as a major playwright, one of the most important of the young generation of dramatists to emerge out of the 'portable' theatre movement of the late sixties.

1947. The twilight of Empire in India. Sergeant Turner and his Colonel share a bottle of whisky in reluctant celebration of Independence. 'Do you think Mr Churchill will do anything about it, sir? When the conservatives get back in?'

1976. A bye-election in the West Midlands against the background of an industrial dispute involving Asian labour. A three-cornered fight between Labour, Conservative (candidate: the Colonel's nephew) and the up and coming National Forward party (candidate: Sergeant, now Mr. Turner) – a contest in which the issue of race cuts like a razor through the conventional cosy assumption of British politics, with alarming and prophetic results.

It is impossible to read David Edgar's play without feeling provoked into re-examining one's own political sentiments. Impossible also not to admire the skill with which he has woven so many strands into an authentic, gripping and theatrically effective play of impressive scope and power.

Diary of a Madman

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Pop Sheeran, proudly shouldering the family trade of restoring the Forth Bridge, is about to lose it all. A global corporation has bought this Scottish icon, bringing with them innovative new paint. How will Pop fight back when he realises he’s painting himself out of a job?

Diary of a Madman is a sharply political, witty new adaptation of Gogol’s classic story, reimagined in a contemporary Scotland on the brink of voting for independence. The play received its world premiere at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, on 5 August 2016 before opening at the Gate Theatre, London, in September 2016.

Echoes  

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Henry Naylor's play Echoes is a two-hander exploring aspects of colonialism, drawing parallels between the lives of a modern-day Jihadi bride and a Victorian pioneer. The play is part of Henry Naylor's Arabian Nightmares trilogy, which also includes The Collector and Angel.

Echoes was first performed at the Gilded Balloon, Edinburgh, on 5 August 2015, as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, transferring to the Arcola Theatre, London, later that year.

The story is told by two storytellers who, according to a note in the published script, 'speak directly to the audience, through the "fourth wall"’. Tillie is a 17-year-old Victorian pioneer, while Samira, also 17, is a Muslim schoolgirl. Both are from Ipswich, but they dream of a glorious future abroad. Samira wants to help build a caliphate; Tillie, an Empire. Both are idealists; intelligent adventurers, with strong religious beliefs. Both are frustrated by societies which offer them few opportunities. And both would travel to the East, to impose their ideals upon unwilling peoples.

The premiere production was directed by Henry Naylor and Emma Butler, and was performed by Felicity Houlbrooke (as Tillie) and Filipa Bragança (as Samira).

The cast stayed the same for the subsequent world tour, until 13 September 2016, when Rachel Smyth replaced Felicity in the role of Tillie, for the shows at the Brisbane Festival and the Melbourne Fringe. In April 2017, at the 59E59 Theater in New York, Serena Manteghi joined Rachel Smyth, and took the role of Samira.

Eden's Empire

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Eden’s Empire is a powerful historical play about Anthony Eden’s infamous term as Prime Minister, a gripping account of power and political mistakes.

Fifty years ago, Britain propelled itself into a disastrous war in the Middle East. Condemned by the UN and accused of falsifying intelligence, the Prime Minister was left fighting for his political life against a Party disillusioned, a public betrayed and a wily Chancellor with ambitions to take his place.

Under the pressure of opposition to his war, Prime Minister Anthony Eden rapidly lost his grip on both the Empire and his health. Unable to control either the growing power of both the United States and the Arab world, or his own failing body, history would mark him as the worst British Prime Minister of the twentieth century.

Graham’s uncompromising political thriller explores with electrifying theatricality the events of the Suez Crisis, and the tragic story of its flawed hero – Churchill’s golden boy and heir apparent, Anthony Eden.

Eden’s Empire was first performed at the Finborough Theatre in 2006.

The Empire

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Acute, witty and painful, The Empire explores some of the lengths humanity is stretched to under the circumstances of war.

The scene is an empty room in an abandoned compound in Helmand Province, in the blazing heat. Gary, a British soldier, guards an injured young prisoner suspected of being a Taliban fighter. Hafizullah, Gary’s Afghan colleague whom he has graciously christened Paddy, smokes hash and tries to follow Gary’s sarcastic, seething English. Gary wants answers, Hafizullah just wants to make it through the day and the newly awakened prisoner thinks there has been a big mistake. Surrounded by intense heat and violence, the characters' moral codes are tested to the limit as The Empire dissects the politics of occupation, home and abroad.

The play was first performed in 2010 at the Royal Court Jerwood Theatre Upstairs.

Enemies

Faber and Faber
Type: Text

1905. Russia is at a turning point. Zakhar Bardin is from the landowning class, but is now the uneasy owner of a factory. His managing director is determined to face down militant workers on a point of principle. But the shutting of the business has tragic consequences for everyone concerned.

Gorky's extraordinary play, which was written in exile and banned in his home country, presents a panoramic view of a restless society, with a bourgeoisie no longer sure of its own values, and a working class steadily facing up to the terrifying sacrifices ahead. Described by Ronald Bryden in the Observer in 1971 as 'a real discovery... the missing link between Chekhov and the Russian revolution', Enemies has a dramatic breadth, humour and ambition unique to Gorky.

Maxim Gorky's Enemies is adapted by David Hare and premiered at the Almeida Theatre, London, in May 2006.

An Evening at the Opera

Aurora Metro Books
Type: Text

Floy Quintos considers the misrule that has held many Asian countries back. An Evening At the Opera is a behind-the-scenes portrayal of elite and sinister power, echoing a Philippines that is hopefully gone.

The Exception and the Rule

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

The Exception and the Rule is a parable about exploitation, telling the story of a rich merchant travelling across the desert and being increasingly cruel to his porter so they can travel as fast as possible. When their water supplies run low, the porter offers him a drink from his water bottle, but the merchant thinks he is being attacked by the porter, and shoots him. In the following courtroom scene, the brutal logic of the judge finds the merchant innocent because of his cruelty.

The didactic Lehrstücke (or ‘learning-plays’) lie at the heart of Brechtian theatre. Written during 1929 and 1930, years of far-reaching political and economic upheaval in Germany and the period of Brecht’s most sharply Communist works, these short plays show an abrupt rejection of most of the trappings of conventional theatre. The Lehrstücke are spare and highly formalized pieces intended for performance by amateurs, on the principle that the moral and political lessons contained in them can be best taught by participation in the actual production. There is nothing in the drama of this century to match the precision of their language and the economy of their theatrical technique.

Fast Labour

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Steve Waters’ Fast Labour focuses on the growing culture of human exploitation in the UK focusing specifically on the experience of migrant workers.

In the Ukraine, Victor had a business, a family and a home, but things have changed and he’s fled to the UK in search of a better life. Now he’s doing everything from gutting fish to picking carrots. But he’s a strong-minded man who is determined not to stay at the bottom of the economic food chain forever. He decides to build a business of his own with the aid of two fellow East Europeans and his Scottish mistress. By offering cheap labour to a big shot gang master, Victor builds up a highly successful empire. But this rapid expansion exposes the hypocrisy at the heart of his business – by lining his own pockets he is necessarily cheating those illegal migrants whom he employs. Waters subverts an audience’s expectations by turning the victim into the perpetrator and also points to our own complicity in these exploitative working methods with our increasing consumer demands.

Fast Labour was first performed at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds in 2008 before transferring to the Hampstead Theatre in London.

Fen

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Against the flat, bleak landscape of the Fenlands, men and women are cramped into bitterness by grinding labour and economic oppression.

Fen is composed of brief, fiercely resonant scenes, carving with powerful humanity the desolate lives of the village’s men and women. Three girls sing of being hairdressers or housewives when they grow up. Angela makes her stepdaughter drink water from the kettle. The representative of a City corporation purrs and placates her way to buying a farm that has been in the same family for generations. Ninety-year-old Ivy dreams aloud of union struggles. But the hard spine of the play is Val, a thirty-year-old who finds herself caught between her children and her lover – happy in brief moments, yet tormented past hope.

First performed in 1983 at the University of Essex Theatre, Fen is a flinty, eerie play, haunted by the ghosts of starving field workers and claustrophobic in its condemnation of agrarian and social exploitation.

Frangipani

Aurora Metro Books
Type: Text

The powerless are given voice in this play by Chhon Sina (Cambodia), reminding us that poverty can easily lead to abuse and exploitation.

Fuck the Polar Bears

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Tanya Ronder's Fuck the Polar Bears is a satirical domestic comedy about aspirational consumerism and environmentalist double standards. It was first performed at the Bush Theatre, London, on 11 September 2015.

The play's action takes place in the 'central hallway/open living area of an ostentatious house in North London' belonging to Gordon and Serena, two 'down-to-earth people come to money late'. Gordon, Communications Director at a big energy company, frets about the loss of his daughter Rachel’s toy polar bear while working on schemes that will wreck the planet’s animal life. But, despite his claims that he is unaffected by stress, Gordon is troubled on several fronts. At work, he’s been offered the post of Chief Executive with a licence from the government to pursue fracking operations. At home, Serena bluntly tells him she doesn’t like their life. Meanwhile, Gordon's housepainter brother Clarence acts as a rebuke to his conscience, and domestic objects mysteriously go haywire. On top of that, the Icelandic au pair, Blundhilde, turns out to be a militant conservationist. Gordon and Serena ultimately start to wonder whether there is an alternative to their life of conspicuous consumption and discuss the future that awaits their daughter.

The Bush Theatre premiere was directed by Caroline Byrne and designed by Chiara Stephenson, with Andrew Whipp as Gordon, Susan Stanley as Serena, Salóme R. Gunnarsdóttir as Blundhilde, Jon Foster as Clarence and Bella Padden/Eléa Vicas as Rachel.

Fuente Ovejuna

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Lope de Vega's play Fuente Ovejuna is a recognised masterpiece by a major writer of the Spanish Golden Age, depicting one of the most memorable acts of resistance in world drama. First published in Madrid in 1619, the play is believed to have been written between 1612 and 1614. It is based upon an actual historical incident that took place in the village of Fuente Ovejuna (now called Fuente Obejuna) in Castile in 1476.

This translation by Laurence Boswell was published by Nick Hern Books in its Drama Classics series in 2009.

The play's action follows the historical incident closely. A military Commander, Fernán Gómez de Guzmán, under the command of the Order of Calatrava, mistreats the villagers of Fuente Ovejuna, who revolt against their tyrannical overlord and murder him. When a magistrate sent by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella arrives at the village to investigate, the villagers, even under the pain of torture, respond only by saying 'Fuente Ovejuna did it'. In the face of this claim to collective responsibility, the village is pardoned and placed under the direct jurisdiction of the Crown.

Gagarin Way

Faber and Faber
Type: Text

Gagarin Way, by Dunfermline playwright Gregory Burke, is a cruel, funny first play about a human heist gone horribly wrong.

Winner of the Meyer/Whitworth Award 2002, Winner of the Critics' Circle Award 2002 and winner of the Scotsman Fringe First of the Firsts Award 2001, Gregory Burke's 'sensational debut play' (Daily Telegraph) was premiered at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, and the Royal National Theatre, London, in 2001, transferred to the Arts Theatre, London, in 2002 and was revived for a tour of Scotland later that year.

The Genius

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

A nuclear physicist runs away from the horrifying consequences of his research in this flinty, electric modern parallel to Brecht’s Life of Galileo.

Brenton’s genius is Leo Lehrer, a brilliant and magnetic American, in academic exile at a rainy English Midlands university because he refused to work for the Pentagon. His inability to confront the moral and ethical implications of his discoveries leave him unable to work, or do anything except get high and sleep with his friend’s wife in the snow.

Then he meets Gilly, a first year mathematics student, who can do the equations he has been trying to hide from: she has worked them out for herself. Together they struggle to deny science’s imperative for progress, and stare in horror at the momentous power which they have articulated.

The Genius was first performed in 1983 at the Royal Court Theatre, London.

The Great Wave  

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

On a Japanese beach, teenage sisters Hanako and Reiko are caught up in a storm. Reiko survives while Hanako is lost to the sea. Their mother, however, can't shake the feeling her missing daughter is still alive, and soon family tragedy takes on a global political dimension. 

Green Man Flashing

Aurora Metro Books
Type: Text

Digging under the skin of contemporary South Africa, Green Man Flashing explores themes of sexual harassment, political loyalty and finally, accountability to truth, which has made it one of the most talked about plays in recent years to be staged in South Africa.

Harriet Martineau Dreams of Dancing

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Harriet Martineau (1802–1876) was a social theorist who is often credited as being the first female sociologist. In Harriet Martineau Dreams of Dancing, Shelagh Stephenson depicts the great writer in a period of convalescence, living as an invalid by the sea in Tynemouth.

Shut off from her usual society, Harriet is visited by women of the locale; Impie, a recent widow who is using her new-found marital freedom to paint murals on the ceilings of her family home; Beulah, the daughter of a woman who’d been sold into slavery and escaped; and Jane, the housemaid, whose unfeted and unexpected gifts lift her out of domestic servitude and could help Harriet out of illness.
Harriet Martineau is a play about female self-reliance in a time of patriarchal dominance. Written by Shelagh Stephenson, it premiered at Live Theatre, Newcastle, in winter 2016.

Hope

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Jack Thorne's play Hope is about the pressures on a local council to carry out funding cuts imposed by the government. It was first performed at the Royal Court Theatre, London, on 26 November 2014.

The play's action is set in the present day (winter 2014), predominantly in and around a council office in a working-class town where the Labour council is faced with having to cut £22 million from its budget. Hilary, the pragmatic council leader, proposes cuts across the board, with the intention of sharing the misery. Mark, her deputy, is a thwarted idealist who fights for the library, the museum and street lighting. But a more urgent problem arises over the closure of a day centre for adults with learning difficulties. Gina, Mark’s ex-partner who runs the centre, organises a petition that becomes national news and embarrasses both the local authority and the Labour party. In a dramatically rebellious gesture designed to get themselves out of this policy hole, the council finally takes the rare step of refusing to sign off the budget at all.

The Royal Court premiere was directed by John Tiffany and designed by Tom Scutt. It was performed by Rudi Dharmlalingam, Sharon Duncan-Brewster, Jo Eastwood, Christine Entwisle, Tom Georgeson, Stella Gonet, Paul Higgins, Tommy Knight and Nisha Nayar.

How the Vote Was Won (ed. Paxton)

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

In her introduction, Naomi Paxton writes: ‘How The Vote Was Won was and remains one of the most popular and well known suffrage plays. A brilliant ensemble piece, it is set in the living room of Horace and Ethel Cole in Brixton, London, on the day of a general women’s strike called by Suffragettes because the Government has said that women do not need votes as they are all looked after by men. All the women who have previously supported themselves agree to leave their jobs and homes and instead insist on support from their nearest male relative. As Horace’s female relatives arrive at his house one after the other, he comes to realize something must be done and rushes to Parliament, along with all the other men in London, to demand “Votes for Women” as soon as possible.'

How the Vote Was Won was first performed at the Royalty Theatre, London, on 13 April 1909, and was first published by The Woman’s Press that same year.

If Only

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

David Edgar’s If Only is a political drama set around the 2010 UK General Election and its possible consequences for policymaking. It was first performed at the Minerva Theatre, Chichester, on 20 June 2013 (previews from 14 June).

The play's first act is set in the spring of 2010, before the General Election that took place on 6 May. The day after the UK’s first ever televised prime ministerial debate, a Labour special adviser (Sam Hunt), a Liberal Democrat staffer (Jo Lambert) and a Tory candidate (Peter Greatorex) are stranded in Malaga airport by a volcanic ash cloud. As they wait for their transport home, they consider their options in the event of a hung parliament.

The second act takes place in a church near Mons in Belgium during the summer of 2014 (hence in the future at the time the play was written and premiered). The three politicians meet again during commemorations for the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War. In Britain, the right-wing UKIP (UK Independence Party) is rising and Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron is seeking to shore up his threatened position by co-opting his rivals' policies on immigration and welfare. But one of the three politicians knows something that could change the outcome of the 2015 election, and a series of complex political manoeuvres ensues as each of them seeks to outwit the others.

The Chichester premiere was directed by Angus Jackson and designed by Ruth Sutcliffe. The cast was Jamie Glover, Martin Hutson, Charlotte Lucas and Eve Ponsonby.

Ignorance / Jahiliyyah

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Ignorance/Jahiliyyah is another political play from Steve Waters that delves into the life and legacy of Egyptian poet Sayyid Qutb whose writings have come to shape relations between the West and radical Islamists.

It’s 1949 in small-town Colorado. A group of American students struggle to accept foreign student and Muslim Sayyid Qutb into their lives. Their unthinking behaviour will have terrible consequences that are to change world history. Qutb, disgusted by the hollowness of American society and what he deemed as its over sexualisation, would go on to become a major force in the Muslim Brotherhood in the 60s and 70s. He described the malaise at the heart of Western society as resembling ‘jahiliyyah’, which roughly translates as an ignorance of Godly values. In London, sixty years later, a university professor’s work analysing those consequences takes on a frightening personal dimension when student Layla Ahmad walks into his office.

Ignorance/Jahiliyyah premiered at the Hampstead Theatre Downstairs in London in 2012.

Immediate Rough Theatre for Citizens’ Involvement

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

'We were looking up texts for this book, and we came across a file full of fragmentary scripts (and notes for scripts) which had been a series of quickly-improvised topical plays and playlets got together in the west of Ireland and put on in houses, pubs, streets, meetings and so forth to answer immediate needs of the day.'

So the authors describe this collection of scripts etc. called Immediate Rough Theatre for Citizens' Involvement. Plays and playlets here include:

The Devil and the Parish Pump: a plot summary of an improvised piece describing a newly planned piped water scheme in a town named Corrandulla;

Sean O'Scrudu: an expansive short-play written in response to the sacking of a shop-steward from a multinational company based in Galway;

The Hunting of the Mongrel Fox: written after the sentencing to death by hanging in Ireland of two Irish anarchists named Noel and Marie Murray – who were charged with the shooting of an off-duty policeman – and the subsequent suppression of reporting on the case;

No Room at the Inn: a Christmas play highlighting the difficulty of providing shelter for members of the Irish travelling community;

Mary's Name: a plot summary describing a play about one woman's decision to retain her maiden name after she gets married;

and A Pinprick of History: a play which imagines a socialist revolution which has enveloped the entire world – except Great Britain.

Ink  

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

I want to tell you a story. And it's true. That's what makes it a good fucking story, right, 'cause all the best stories are true.

Fleet Street. 1969. The Sun rises.

James Graham's ruthless, red-topped play leads with the birth of this country's most influential newspaper – when a young and rebellious Rupert Murdoch asked the impossible and launched its first editor's quest, against all odds, to give the people what they want.

Ink was first published to coincide with the world premiere of the play at the Almeida Theatre, London, on 17 June 2017, in a production directed by Rupert Goold.

Interruptions  

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Stephen Jeffreys’s play Interruptions is a drama exploring ideas about democracy, politics and leadership. It was written while he was resident at the University of California, Davis, and first performed at UC Davis Main Theatre on 26 April 2001.

The play shows an imaginary country preparing for an election, undergoing a military coup, and then living through the consequences. There are about eighty different characters, each intended to reflect a different part of society. Each of the seven scenes (Politics, Game, Death, Food, Sex, Work and Song) shows a group of people engaging in a basic human activity, and being frustrated in their attempts.

In her Introduction to the collection Stephen Jeffreys: Plays (Nick Hern Books, 2018), Jeffreys' wife Annabel Arden writes: '[Interruptions] sprang from [Stephen's] fascination with the Japanese aesthetic principle of Jo-ha-kyu and his desire to create a particular narrative form to express our struggles with democracy and leadership.'

In an Author's Note in the same edition, Jeffreys writes: 'My fellow playwright, David Edgar, once pointed out to me the large number of scenes in Shakespeare which could be described as ‘interrupted rituals’ (e.g. the play scene in Hamlet, the banquet in Macbeth). I worked on this idea of a single interrupted ritual – including burial, circumcision, and negotiations for a wedding. Interruptions is my own contribution to the genre. It asks the questions: "Do we need to be led?" "How do we decide who leads?" and "What happens when there are no leaders?"'

The UC Davis production was directed by Annabel Arden with scenic design by Brian Garber. It was performed by Cara Burgoyne, Simon Burzinski, Diane DiPrima, Elias Escobedo, Michelle French, Virginie Magnat, Juan Manzo, Cooky Nguyen, Linda Noveroske Rentner, Bill Ritch, Damion Sharpe and Isaac Hirotsu Woofler. 

Jackets: or The Secret Hand

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Jackets sets out a resonant and poetic counterpoint between two scenes of martyrdom, a powerful dyadic commentary on the politics of sacrifice. Part One is set in eighteenth-century Japan and Part Two is set in modern Europe. The head of a boy is needed so it will appear that the prince has been killed, but the head needs to be convincing and must look like an upper-class boy. A dead solider is needed to increase the morale of the soldiers who are fighting rioters, and he needs to look like an officer so that the conspiracy will work. The play produces detailed and human portraits, the force of its argument emerging from their vividly drawn responses and the potent interaction between its two parts.

Derived from ‘The Village School’ scene of Sugawaraby Takeda Zumo, Jackets premiered in 1989 at Lancaster University.

Labour of Love  

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Labour MP David Lyons cares about modernisation and "electability"... his constituency agent, Jean Whittaker cares about principles and her community. Set away from the Westminster bubble in the party's traditional northern heartlands, this is a clash of philosophy, culture and class against the backdrop of the Labour Party over 25 years, as it moves from Kinnock through Blair into Corbyn... and beyond?

This razor-sharp political comedy from James Graham was produced by Michael Grandage Company and Headlong and received its world Premiere at the Noël Coward Theatre in September 2017.

Lally the Scut

Faber and Faber
Type: Text

The child's down a hole, the mother's up to high doh, the town's up in arms and humanity's down the drain.

Uproarious, occasionally macabre and always compelling, Lally the Scut draws a line in the mud for Northern Ireland.

Lally the Scut premiered at the MAC, Belfast, in a Tinderbox production in April 2015.

Limehouse

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Steve Waters' play Limehouse is a dramatisation of the clandestine meeting of the so-called Gang of Four that in 1981 led to a breakaway from the UK Labour Party and ultimately the formation of the Social Democratic party. It was first performed at the Donmar Warehouse, London, on 8 March 2017 (previews from 2 March).

The play is set in Limehouse, London, in a house belonging to Labour MP David Owen and his wife Debbie, on Sunday 25 January 1981. Disillusioned with his party's leftwing bias, Owen has convened a meeting of supposedly like-minded figures: Bill Rodgers, Shirley Williams and Roy Jenkins. Torn between ancestral loyalty to Labour and dismay at what they see as its current zealotry, the four are desperate to find a political alternative. Should they split their party, divide their loyalties, and risk betraying everything they believe in? Would they be starting afresh, or destroying forever the tradition that nurtured them? As the day proceeds, the time for decisive action draws ever nearer.

The Donmar Warehouse production was directed by Polly Findlay and designed by Alex Eales. It was performed by Nathalie Armin as Debbie Owen, Tom Goodman-Hill as David Owen, Paul Chahidi as Bill Rodgers, Debra Gillett as Shirley Williams and Roger Allam as Roy Jenkins.

Little Platoons

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

A satirical comedy and a family drama, Little Platoons takes the pulse of Coalition Britain and explores what the retreat of the state and the growth of people power really means for its citizens.

When Rachel’s ex threatens to remove their son from London to sort out his education, she joins a local group of parents setting up a ‘free school’. Her new friends, led by the charismatic Nick, want to create an education their children can enjoy not endure. But the vision of the Big Society they seek to create tears their lives apart. Waters’ play opens up the debate around free schools and highlights the double standards that some people apply when it comes to schooling their children. Ultimately, the education project becomes a battleground between those putting themselves before the greater social need, and vice-versa. The play also exposes the complexities behind David Cameron’s ‘Big Society’ policy, which aimed to give local communities more power.

Little Platoons premiered at the Bush Theatre in London in 2011 as part of the theatre’s Schools Season.

The Look Across The Eyes

Faber and Faber
Type: Text

Cardiff East 'As scene melts into scene, one’s appetite for knowing more and more about these people is constantly whetted, even for the ones one would avoid in real life. Each and every [character] rings true and resonates further. A play which is never less than gripping.' Mail on Sunday

Certain Young Men 'The play is marked by a fast turnover of scenes, lots of brusque, vivid, wryly funny dialogue . articulate, arresting and as freshly performed as anything in town.' The Times

The York Realist: Winner of the London Critics' Circle Award for Best New Play

'As a love story, The York Realist is riveting and heart-rending, performed with fine-tuned naturalism that's quiet and unhurried. Gill is always terrifically perceptive about male tenderness. Overall, the personal and political are subtly united in a study of English masculinity, class and culture. Such outstanding work.' Independent on Sunday

Original Sin 'Hauntingly powerful.' Guardian

Look At Me

Aurora Metro Books
Type: Text

Uses theatricality to explore behaviour in and out of school.

Lynndie’s Gotta Gun

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Enda Walsh's Lynndie's Gotta Gun is a short play subtitled 'A play for former US soldier Private Lynndie England'. It was written in the light of the Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse scandal of 2004, following which US Army Reserve Soldier Lynndie England was sentenced to three years in prison for her part in the abuse.

The play presents Lynndie as a children's party clown who attacks an unnamed Man with a variety of weapons including a large fish, a frying pan and a cream cake. The Man says he is looking for his son. Finally, after an ineffectual interrogation, she shoots him dead. When a ten-year-old boy enters, she turns the gun on him.

Lynndie’s Gotta Gun was first performed by Artistas Unidos, a not-for-profit community organisation, at Teatro Nacional D. Maria II in Lisbon on 16 June 2005. The piece formed part of the Confêrenca de Imprensa e Outras Aldrabices, a collection of sketches inspired by the writings of Harold Pinter. The play was directed by Jorge Silva Melo and designed by Rita Lopes Alves and João Calvário. It was performed by Gonçalo Waddingtin and Joana Bárcia.

Mainstream

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

It’s that time of the year. A time that Eoin, Mary Anne and Jack all remember. Having grown up together in various care homes for the disabled, they now rely on each other in adulthood for support, friendship and love.

But when young film-maker Eleanor arrives, struggling with hidden issues and agendas of her own, to make a documentary about their lives together, the examination and attention she brings threatens to disrupt the long-term relationships and friendships at the heart of their group.Mainstream is a complex drama about truth, lies and the mainstreaming of Travellers with disabilities.

Major Barbara

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Major Barbara is a play about power, religion and capital: Shaw’s story of a conversion contest between an arms manufacturer and a Salvation Army Major is a provocative dramatization of the relationship between money and morality. As with Mrs Warren’s Profession and Pygmalion, the play exposes the material reality behind the political and moral philosophies of the time.

Andrew Undershaft is an immensely powerful and wealthy arms manufacturer, owner of a company with immense pan-European power. His wife, the imperious Lady Britomart, was outraged by his decision to disinherit his own children and separated from him many years ago, but now finds she must ask Andrew for money to support their three children. Andrew’s consequent visit to his estranged family introduces him to his energetic daughter Barbara, who has recently been made a major in the Salvation Army, and her Greek professor fiancé, Adolphus. Their ideological conflict leads them into a conversion contest: Andrew will visit the Salvation Army shelter, and Barbara will visit the munitions factory.

Major Barbara is a challenging comedy of ideals which subverts ideals and moral expectations, following a three act structure intended to advance understanding by stages as per Shaw’s dialectic method. It was first produced in 1905 at the Royal Court, London, to great acclaim, despite one newspaper criticising Shaw for his ‘withering attack’ on the Salvation Army, a claim that Shaw disputed in his later Preface to the play; nevertheless, it was to be one of the series of his plays produced at the Royal Court (along with John Bull’s Other Island (1904) and Man and Superman, amongst others) that would help establish Shaw as a respected playwright. Its discussion of the morality of armaments was apt at its time of writing, when Britain was allied with Japan in the Russo-Japanese war of 1904-5; ongoing warfare sealed Major Barbara’s relevance throughout the twentieth century, and it was made into a 1941 film with Rex Harrison and Wendy Hiller as Adolphus and Barbara.

Mappa Mundi

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Seventy-year-old Jack is afraid of dying, or perhaps he’s afraid that he hasn’t lived, in this haunting play about memory, guilt and redemption.

While Anna prepares for her wedding, her father Jack is forced to confront the limits of his life. He is given a book on particle physics and suddenly realises how many things he does not know; he weeps when he discovers that the path of his life can be made into a single line on a map.

It is a play constantly in touch with history; Jack collects antique maps and is fascinated by research into the family’s ancestry which connects them to an eighteenth century cartographer and slave owner, though Anna is more interested in the discovery that they may also be descended from a slave. But this line to the past troubles the play, tying Jack to events he’d rather forget.

Mappa Mundi is a quiet and powerful story about trying to accept death, the past and the choices of the people we love. It premiered in 2002 at the Royal National Theatre, London.

Maydays

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

David Edgar's monumental Maydays dissects the saga of post-war political awakenings, as the many dedicated devotees of the ideals of communism become disillusioned, and dissent. In a play that spans five decades, we see socialists of various dedication and origin – from the apparatchik of the Soviet Union down to the radical university lecturer – each finding that the distance between their conscience and their comrades has become too great to traverse.

Written in the early eighties, Maydays was first presented against a backdrop of many prominent members of the Left abdicating and turning Tory. Edgar writes in his introduction that for Maydays, the "starting point was the insight that the unique thing about the conservative revival of the late seventies was that it was led largely by defectors from the left".

Described by the author as being "about as grand a narrative play as it's possible to be this side of Tamburlaine the Great", Maydays offers a rise-and-fall look at the ideals of communism, and its supporters, from the popular post-war rise of the 40s to the stagnant and jargon-laden demise of the 80s.

Maydays premiered at the Barbican, London, in 1983, in a production by the RSC.

The Messingkauf Dialogues

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Written between 1939 and 1942 The Messingkauf Dialogues are among the most concise, witty and light-hearted of all Brecht’s theoretical discussions of theatre. In Brecht’s words they constitute a ‘four-sided conversation about a new way of making theatre’ and provide the blueprint for Brecht’s radical aesthetic of the 1930s and 1940s.

The Actor who seeks admiration; the Actress interested in politics; the Dramaturg (or literary advisor) hoping for a new lease of life for theatre; these three argue with the Philosopher who wants to exploit their talent for imitation for his own purposes. The result is a lively and sharp debate about the place of art in society.

This text is translated by John Willett.

Mia

Aurora Metro Books
Type: Text

Of Roma background, Mia is a refugee who has lost her home, and most of her family. She has odd bits and pieces in her bag, which have stories attached to them. Mia has received a postcard of this town from her sister, Sofia, who has disappeared. She tells them about Sofia, shows them a photograph and reveals her fears.

Miss Appleyard's Awakening

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

When trying to gather signatures for an anti-suffrage petition, Miss Appleyard is invited into a potential signatory's house, a woman who shares Miss Appleyard’s anti-Suffrage stance. However, as their conversation continues, Miss Appleyard cannot help but notice that her hostess’s arguments are weak and contradictory. She leaves the house quite convinced of the opposite beliefs than those she had entered with.

In her introduction, Naomi Paxton writes: ‘It has humour in the text . . . and in the playing and is a great piece to introduce an audience to the arguments surrounding the suffrage debate in this period.'

Miss Appleyard’s Awakening was first performed at the Rehearsal Theatre, London, on 20 June 1911. It was published by the Actresses’ Franchise League (AFL) in 1911.

Mother Courage and Her Children (Student Edition)

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Brecht's classic play is here presented with ample scholarly material to aid in the study of this great work.

A chronicle play of the Thirty Years War of the seventeenth century, the remarkable Mother Courage follows the armies back and forth across Europe, selling provisions and liquor to both sides from her canteen wagon. As the action of the play progresses, between the years 1624 and 1646, she remains indomitable in her profiteering, refusing to part with her wagon and her livelihood even as she loses her each of her three children to the conflict. The play demonstrates poignantly that those trying to profit from a war cannot escape its costs.

The play is one of the most celebrated examples of Epic Theatre and of Brecht's use of alienation effect to focus attention on the issues of the play, over and above the individual characters. First performed in Switzerland in 1941, it is regarded as one of the greatest plays of the twentieth century and one of the great anti-war plays of all time.

This version is translated by John Willett.

Mother Courage and Her Children (trans. Hare)

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

A chronicle play of the Thirty Years War of the seventeenth century, the remarkable Mother Courage follows the armies back and forth across Europe, selling provisions and liquor to both sides from her canteen wagon. As the action of the play progresses, between the years 1624 and 1646, she remains indomitable in her profiteering, refusing to part with her wagon and her livelihood even as she loses her each of her three children to the conflict. The play demonstrates poignantly that those trying to profit from a war cannot escape its costs.

The play is one of the most celebrated examples of Epic Theatre and of Brecht's use of alienation effect to focus attention on the issues of the play, over and above the individual characters. First performed in Switzerland in 1941, it is regarded as one of the greatest plays of the twentieth century and one of the great anti-war plays of all time.

This version is translated by John Willett.

Mothers Against

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

David Edgar's Mothers Against is one part of a two-play cycle under the collective title Continental Divide, set against the background of a bitterly fought American governor’s election in an unspecified Pacific-coast state. Mothers Against examines the Republican campaign, while the other part, Daughters of the Revolution, looks at the same election from the Democrat perspective.

Across the two plays, Edgar explores what has happened to the revolutionary fervour that took hold of both the Right and the Left in the 1960s, and how it has been carried over into the politics of the twenty-first century.

Both plays were jointly commissioned and produced by Berkeley Repertory Theatre and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Mothers Against was first performed in The New Theatre, Ashland, Oregon, as part of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival on 1 March 2003 before transferring to Berkeley Repertory Theatre, with performances from 6 November 2003.

Mothers Against takes the form of an intense chamber play as Republican candidate Sheldon Vine prepares at home for a vital televised debate in a gubernatorial race once thought a lost cause for the Republicans, but which is turning into a contest that is too close to call. Ironically, fiscal conservative Sheldon Vine's jump in the polls arises from voter ignorance of his true, relatively liberal position on two interconnected hot-button issues: the shooting of an eco-terrorist by a Latino security guard and 'Proposition 92'. The latter is a loyalty oath that would make it illegal for registered voters to support a group that pursues its ends through force. However, securing the necessary votes to win the election exposes ideological rifts in the campaign team. His handlers struggle to position the candidate on these matters while maintaining his approval ratings, trying as much as they can not to betray the candidate's beliefs. Edgar injects dynastic struggles into this mix as Sheldon's campaign manager and older brother, Mitchell, is resentful of being passed over for the candidacy because of his seeming mismanagement of the family fortune, while Sheldon's daughter, Deborah, may know more than she reveals about the slain eco-terrorist.

The premiere at Oregon Shakespeare Festival was directed by Tony Taccone and designed by William Bloodgood, with a cast including Bill Geisslinger as Sheldon Vine.

The play received its UK premiere at Birmingham Repertory Theatre on 6 March 2004, with the original American cast directed by Tony Taccone. It subsequently played at the Barbican, London, as part of their BITE Festival, with performances from 20 March 2004.

Motortown

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Written during the London bombings of 2005, Motortown is a fierce, violent and controversial response to the anti-war movement – and to the Iraq war itself.

Danny returns from Basra to an England that is foreign to him, the play’s episodic structure leading him through a bleak and bitter portrait of the country he fought to save. His brother tells him that his ex-girlfriend doesn’t want to see him after being frightened by the letters he wrote home. Danny visits her only to find she is now with someone else, sending him on a journey through his once hometown, a place of questionable morals and men selling guns, anti-war protesters and middle class swingers.

Chaotic and complex, powerful and provocative, Motortown portrays a volatile and morally insecure world. The play premiered in 2006 at the Royal Court Theatre, London.

Mountain Language

Grove Atlantic
Type: Text

The characters in Harold Pinter's first play since 1984 are: Officer, Sergeant, Elderly Woman, Young Woman, Guard, Prisoner, Hooded Man, Second Guard. The action takes place in and outside prison.

The play consists of a series of images on the theme of language and oppression.

Mountain Language was first performed at the National Theatre, London, on 20 October 1988

My Country - A Work in Progress

Faber and Faber
Type: Text

Britannia calls a meeting, to listen to her people. Caledonia, Cymru, East Midlands, North East, Northern Ireland and the South West bring the voices of their regions. The debate is passionate and opinions divided. Can there ever be a United Kingdom?

In the days following the Brexit vote, a team from the National Theatre of Great Britain spoke to people nationwide, aged 9 to 97, to hear their views on the country we call home. In a series of deeply personal interviews, they heard opinions that were honest, emotional, funny, and sometimes extreme.

These real testimonials are interwoven with speeches from party leaders of the time in this play by Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy and director Rufus Norris.

My Country opened at the National Theatre, London, in March 2017 before playing at venues around the UK.

Nadirah

Aurora Metro Books
Type: Text

Alfian Sa’at’s Nadirah is highly topical as it addresses the theme of mixed marriages; in asking if mother and daughter can worship different gods, Sa’at welcomes the new developments in Singapore’s multi-racial and multi-faithed society.

The New World Order

Grove Atlantic
Type: Text

Two men command the stage. They discuss in bullish tones what they intend to do to a third man, who sits gagged, blindfolded and bound to a chair. The acts of violence and abuse referred to are present in the speech rather than the action but an oppressive air of menace persists. Pinter directed the first production of this unflinching dramatic sketch.

'The New World Order lasts 10 nerve-wracking minutes and gets closer to the nerve of torture than any play I know.' Robert Cushman, Independent

The New World Order was first performed on 19 July 1991 at the Royal Court Theatre Upstairs, London.

Now or Later

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Now or Later is a sharp-witted and searching examination of the mechanics of free speech and cultural criticism.

Election night in the US and things are looking rosy for the Democratic Party. Holed up in a hotel watching the results flood in are the likely President-elect, his wife, advisors and twenty-year-old son John Jnr. Every speech, interview and photocall has been carefully controlled and meticulously orchestrated, all leading up to this big night.

At the same time controversial photos of John Jnr from a party at his Ivy League college are gathering momentum on the internet. For John Jnr, his protest against hypocrisy was a lot more complicated than the apology they’ve written for him suggests. Whilst his father's advisors work against the clock on damage limitation, it's up to father and son to try and reach an agreement.

Now or Later is a deep and intelligent discussion of religion, freedom of expression and personal responsibility. The play premiered in 2008 at the Royal Court Theatre, London.

Over There

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Over There is an intense drama of synchronous disconnection, an allegory of competing ideologies set across the Berlin Wall.

When the mother of identical twins, Franz and Karl, defects to the West, she escapes only with Franz, leaving Karl behind. Twenty-five years later, Karl crosses the border from East Germany to West Germany to find his other half. The two men have shared experiences, know scraps of each other’s lives and talk at the same time, but the gulf of ideology and upbringing between them is impossible. When the Berlin Wall comes down, the physical barrier between them is removed, but although their worlds recombine it can never reconnect.

Ravenhill’s visceral, confrontational play examines the hungers released when two ideologies, separated by a common language, meet again.

Over There premiered in 2009 at the Royal Court Theatre, London.

Party Time

Grove Atlantic
Type: Text

A party in an elegant flat. Below, in the streets, a military presence. The party goes on.

Party Time was first performed at the Almeida Theatre, London, in October 1991.

Pentecost

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

David Edgar’s play Pentecost is part of his trilogy of post-Cold War plays, together with The Shape of the Table (1990) and The Prisoner’s Dilemma (2001). It was first performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company at The Other Place, Stratford-upon-Avon, on 12 October 1994.

The play is set in a church in an unnamed eastern European state not long after the fall of communism. A valuable fresco has been discovered in the church, hidden behind a large revolutionary mural, and international and local art historians meet to argue over who should claim ownership. Art curator Gabriella Pecs sees the fresco as a boost to the self-esteem of her nation, whereas the young Minister for Culture, Mikhail Czaba, plans on turning the church into a tourist hotspot, potentially yielding a fortune for the government. When a multinational group of armed asylum-seekers raid and occupy the church, taking the experts hostage, they soon realise that their human prisoners may be of far less value to them than the fresco itself. The fate of the painting becomes a metaphor for the future of the emergent nations of Eastern Europe as well as a focal point for conflicting attitudes towards art.

The Royal Shakespeare Company production was directed by Michael Attenborough and designed by Robert Jones. The cast was Charles Kay, Jan Ravens, Claire Carrie, Simon Cook, Nigel Cooke, Roy Ward, Steven Elliott, Glenn Hugill, Linal Haft, Judith Sweeney, Linford Brown, Nigel Clauzel, Quill Roberts, Katharine Rogers, Sean O'Callaghan, Natalie Izgol, Rebecca Underwood, Catherine Kanter, Sasha Behar and Thusitha Jayasundera.

The production transferred to the Young Vic, London, with performances from 31 May 1995.

Pentecost won the 1995 Evening Standard Award for Best Play.

Piknik

Aurora Metro Books
Type: Text

The powerless are given voice in this play by Joned Suryatmoko (Indonesia), reminding us that poverty can easily lead to abuse and exploitation.

Playing with Fire

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

David Edgar's Playing with Fire is a drama about racial tensions in modern, multicultural Britain, set mostly in a fictional town in West Yorkshire. It was first performed in the Olivier auditorium of the National Theatre, London, on 21 September 2005.

When the defiantly northern Wyverdale District Council fails to satisfy a government audit, a New Labour fixer, Alex Clifton, is despatched from the capital to formulate a robust recovery plan. But resources spent on websites, ‘faith festivals’ and council leaflets in Bengali seem beside the point to the Labour old guard, struggling as they are to provide basic services to an alienated and divided electorate. What's more, the reforms seem only to fan the flames of racial tension, and when riots break out, everyone starts looking for someone to blame.

The National Theatre premiere was directed by Michael Attenborough and designed by Lez Brotherston, with a cast including Emma Fielding, David Troughton and Oliver Ford Davies.

Pot and Kettle

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Pot and Kettle by Ciciely Hamilton and Christopher St John tells the story of young Marjorie, a newly signed-up member of the Anti-Suffrage movement, whose parents are delighted at the decision she has taken, hoping that by joining, she will meet lots of respectable and well-to-do people. They are thus in shock to see her return from a rally in floods of tears. It turns out that she has been arrested for assaulting a Suffragette, Lady Susan Pengarvon.

Described in her introduction by Naomi Paxton as ‘a comic pleasure’, Pot and Kettle was first performed at the Scala Theatre, London on 12 November 1909.

The Prisoner’s Dilemma

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

David Edgar’s The Prisoner’s Dilemma is a play about political negotiation and the difficulty of reconciling opposing nationalist forces. It is the third play in Edgar's post-Cold War trilogy, which also includes The Shape of the Table (1990) and Pentecost (1994). It was first performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company at The Other Place, Stratford-upon-Avon, on 11 July 2001.

Beginning in early 1989 and spanning some twelve years, the play follows a team of peace negotiators attempting to resolve an ethnic conflict occurring within a fictional former Soviet republic. Inside Kavkhazia lies a largely Muslim province, Drozhdevnya, that wants independence. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union the two ethnic groups have fought bitterly for control over the country. As the two sides fight on the ground, attempts are made by a Finnish peace-broker to hammer out an accord that will guarantee a democratic, multi-ethnic state. Just when it looks as if a deal has been reached, however, one side swerves and the whole cyclical process starts all over again.

The Royal Shakespeare Company premiere was directed by Michael Attenborough and designed by Es Devlin. The cast was Douglas Rao, Diana Kent, David Wilmot, Joseph Mydell, Penny Downie, Larry Lamb, Trevor Cooper, Alex Zorbas, Zoe Waites, George Clarke, Joshua Dale, Alan David, Robert Bowman, Robert Jezek and Hattie Morahan.

The production transferred to the Pit Theatre, Barbican, London, with performances from 24 January 2002.

Quiz  

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

I have to believe in the institutions we trust to be fair, and functional. Whether that be the judiciary, the police, the media … That they should all be able to resist the temptations of a more entertaining lie, over a less extraordinary truth.

April 2003. Army Major Charles Ingram, his wife and coughing accomplice are convicted for cheating on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?

The evidence is damning. The nation is gripped by the sheer audacity of the plot to snatch the £1,000,000 jackpot. But was he really guilty? It's time for you to decide.

Question everything you think you know in James Graham's provocative new play.

Olivier Award-nominee James Graham returns with a sharp, fictional imagination of one of the most famous quiz show controversies to date. The production premiered at Chichester Festival Theatre and this edition was published this edition was published to coincide with the West End opening at the Nöel Coward Theatre in April 2018. 

Reader

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Ariel Dorfman’s play Reader is a thriller about a censor who discovers that the novel he is about to ban bears a close resemblance to his own life. It was first performed at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, on 28 July 1995.

Daniel Lucas is a government censor in an unnamed country in the ‘near future.’ Nicknamed the 'Pope' for his infallibility, he has been shaping all subversive literature so that it falls in line with the current political regime. Under his watchful eye, many texts have been beaten into submission to make them palatable for the oppressed masses. However, when he discovers that one of these novels bears an uncanny resemblance to his own life and hints at the terrible fate that awaits his son, Nick, he desperately tries to hunt down its author. Unable to bring himself to ban the book, he is ultimately forced to confront his past crimes.

The play's Traverse Theatre premiere was directed by Ian Brown and designed by Tim Hatley, with a cast including Clive Merrison as Daniel Lucas and Dugald Bruce-Lockhart as Nick.

The Rubenstein Kiss

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

The Rubenstein Kiss vividly parallels two moving and personal stories of passion, justice and ideology. Inspired by a true story, the play explores the mysterious corridors of history to reveal the anguish of a family and a quest for atonement.

In McCarthy’s America, 1953, Jakob and Esther Rubenstein are betrayed and punished for an act of industrial espionage. Could this be the greatest miscarriage of justice of the twentieth century?

In New York, 1975, Matthew Maddison meets Anna Levi in front of an art gallery photograph of Jakob and Esther sharing one final kiss before they part. Young, radical and falling in love, together they seek justice for the past.

The Rubenstein Kiss premiered in 2005 at the Hampstead Theatre, London.

Scenes from 68* Years

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

A picnic interrupted by soldiers. Never-ending queues. Sunbathing in the shadow of a tank. How do people manage when every day is a struggle?

Scenes from 68* Years is an epic snapshot of life in Palestine, then and now. Palestinian-Irish playwright Hannah Khalil draws on stories from family’s and friends’ lives to paint this alternative picture – one rarely glimpsed in mainstream media and told with typical Palestinian black humour. Forget suicide belts and crying mothers – here the real human story is revealed: the dreams, comedy, sadness and frustrations of daily life in the shadow of the ‘separation wall’.

Scenes From 68* Years received its world premiere at the Arcola Theatre on 6 April 2016 in a production by Sandpit Arts.

The Shape of the Table

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

The Shape of the Table tracks the collapse of an Eastern Bloc government at the end of 1989. As the old regime retreats, former political prisoners join banned writers around the negotiating table...

The play is part of David Edgar's post-Cold War trilogy of plays, which also includes Pentecost and The Prisoner's Dilemma.

Witty and informative, this play is both an intensely topical account of what actually went on in the corridors of power and a timeless analysis of revolution in action. In particular the play explores not only the challenge of seizing power, but also the difficulty of relinquishing it.

Shibboleth

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Stacey Gregg's Shibboleth is a play about working-class life in Belfast, and the impact of a globalised economy on a city divided both physically and culturally. It was co-commissioned by the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, and the Goethe-Institut, and first performed during the Dublin Theatre Festival on the Peacock stage at the Abbey Theatre on 7 October 2015.

The play is set in Belfast in the present. A group of construction workers is building an extension to the Peace Wall that separates 'Themens' from 'Usens'. When Polish worker Yuri’s daughter starts having serious problems with her boyfriend, they rally round in support. But good intentions can easily go too far…

In an Afterword to the published script, Gregg writes: 'In 2008 the Abbey Theatre and the Goethe-Institut commissioned me as part of a European-wide response to the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. My subject was the interface barriers that separate communities across our region. Unlike other barriers of international conflict, this wall is generally wanted by the communities around it, restricting movement but not vital supplies, a nuisance to most, an oddity that no one feels strongly enough about to address wholeheartedly. ... Brick by brick by brick by I grew up among the bricks, the sand, the men. Boundaries and no-go zones criss-crossed the landscape of my childhood. ... The play didn’t present itself, but it knew it was a cacophony, chaos and bacon butties and men on a worksite building a wall. I called it Shibboleth, a Hebrew word for words or customs one tribe uses to mark itself apart from others.'

The Abbey Theatre premiere was directed by Hamish Pirie and designed by Paul Keogan. The cast was Piotr Baumann (as Yuri), Rhys Dunlop, Charlie Farrell, Sophie Harkness, Vincent Higgins, Andy Kellegher, Conor MacNeill, Louise Mathews, Jake O’Loughlin, Kerri Quinn and Cara Robinson.

Softcops

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

In a surreal, part-comic part-profound drama of ideas, Churchill renders Michel Foucault’s Discipline and Punish into an intelligent, entertaining play about state control. Vidocq is the trickster who is made Chief of Police, his criminal methods making him the very best of detectives. Lacenaire, an ineffectual poet-criminal, is made into a celebrity while the regicide is hidden out of sight. Pierre, adjusting the black and red ribbons on a scaffold for maximum educative effect, dreams of a Garden of Laws where every punishment for every crime is displayed to frighten the population into obedience. But the seed is sown when Jeremy Bentham shows Pierre that surveillance is much more disconcerting than spectacle.

Softcops gives a strange, amusing, powerful life to the history of punishment. The play was first presented in 1984 at the Barbican Pit, London.

Spring Awakening

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Spring Awakening is a classic but still startling play, addressing adolescent sexuality at a time when sexual oppression and ignorance made puberty a confusing and terrifying mystery.

Notorious for its supposed pornographic content, the play addresses homosexuality, abuse, abortion, rape, suicide and sadism, with an acute and semi-lyrical directness astonishing for its time. A group of teenagers struggle with fear and curiosity about their growing sexual feelings, while the adults raise a wall of disgust and misinformation.

It is a mosaic of scenes, the mood shifting between comedy and alarm, the characters tense and fiercely etched: a seminal and vastly influential treatment of adolescence, education and generational conflict.

Edward Bond’s scrupulous translation first brought the play to English audiences when it premiered at the National Theatre in 1974; it is now considered to be the definitive English translation.

Stone

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Stone is a one act parable of oppression, a politically-charged journey through a spare and allegorical landscape. It tells the story of a man who sets out into the world with seven coins saved up for him by his parents. The man meets a stonemason who robs him, returns the money, and gives him a stone to carry and promises to pay him if he carries it to the stonemason’s house. As the man walks he meets a tramp, a dancing girl, a policeman and a judge, and the stone gets bigger and heavier all the time. Sewn into forceful images and angular poetry, Stone is a simple but fervent discussion of injustice and freedom.

Stone was first presented in 1976 at the ICA, London.

The Straits

Faber and Faber
Type: Text

Rosia Bay, Gibraltar, 1982. Doink, Jock and Darren have the longest, hottest summer ahead; yomping, watching pirate copies of Rambo and fighting the local lads over a lucrative fleet of octopus that have just hit the Rock. With Darren's fit older sister Tracy to sell the bounty, their dominance of Rosia Bay seems assured.

But for the sons and daughters of the British Forces, another war beginning in the South Atlantic will soon bring a dark heart to their world.

The Straits – the tale of an extraordinary summer in the lives of four teenagers – was produced by Paines Plough Theatre Company and premiered at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, in August 2003.

Stuff Happens

Faber and Faber
Type: Text

Stuff happens... And it's untidy, and freedom's untidy, and free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things.

The famous response of Donald Rumsfeld, American Secretary of Defense, to the looting of Baghdad, at a press conference on 11 April 2003, provides the title for a new play, specially written for the Olivier Theatre, about the extraordinary process leading up to the invasion of Iraq.

How does the world settle its differences, now there is only one superpower? What happens to leaders risking their credibility with sceptical publics? From events which have dominated international headlines for the last two years David Hare has fashioned both a historical narrative and a human drama about the frustrations of power and the limits of diplomacy.

Stuff Happens premiered at the National Theatre, London, in 2004 season and has subsequently been performed around the world. In April 2006, it was given its New York premiere at the Public Theater in this new, slightly updated text.

Summer Begins

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Summer Begins follows four young people in and out of love, adrift in suburbia. Dave has asked Gina to marry him over the poppadums in their local Indian restaurant. Unfortunately, Dave isn’t really her dream come true – not much else is either. She works at a supermarket checkout, and doesn’t have any other options. Sherry’s doing better, with a graduate job, but sees her life shrinking to nothing more than work day after day. She’s started seeing Lee, who ought to be all set up since his dad won the lottery, but he’s lost and unmotivated, and lonely.

Eldridge’s skilful command of dialogue adds touches of poignancy to the domestic squabbling, showing with sympathetic humour and quiet melancholy how a changing country can leave young people without direction, struggling to take responsibility.

Summer Begins was first performed in 1997 at the Royal National Theatre Studio, London.

Temple

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Steve Waters' play Temple is a fictionalised account of the occupation of the area outside St Paul's Cathedral in London by the protest movement Occupy London in October 2011, and the subsequent enforced eviction of the protesters. It dramatises the different, often conflicting attitudes towards the protest by the Cathedral authorities, the wider Church of England and the City of London. It was first performed at the Donmar Warehouse, London, on 27 May 2015 (previews from 21 May).

The play's action is set in the Cathedral's Chapter House on 28 October 2011. The Cathedral, after a week’s closure because of the protestors, is about to re-open. The Dean is anxious to resume worship, but he is beset on all sides by problems. The Canon Chancellor, sympathetic to the Occupy movement, noisily resigns; the Virger feels the building is unready; and the Bishop of London still holds out hope of reaching some accord with the protesters. Above all, the Dean must decide whether or not to support the City of London in its plan to evict the protesters – if necessary by force.

The Donmar Warehouse premiere was directed by Howard Davies and designed by Tim Hatley, with Simon Russell Beale as the Dean, Rebecca Humphries as his PA, Paul Higgins as the Canon Chancellor, Anna Calder-Marshall as the Virger, Malcolm Sinclair as the Bishop of London and Shereen Martin as the City Lawyer.

Testing the Echo

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

David Edgar's Testing the Echo is a play that explores contemporary national identity in multicultural Britain, and examines the efficacy of the British citizenship test. It was first performed by Out of Joint Theatre Company at Salisbury Playhouse, on 17 January 2008, followed by a UK tour.

The citizenship test (or Life in the UK Test) became a requirement for anyone seeking British citizenship or settlement in the UK under the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act, 2002.

In the play, Emma is a dedicated ESOL teacher (English for Speakers of Other Languages), teaching British citizenship to people from all over the world. At the same time, Tetyana, Mahmood and Chong have their own, very different reasons for wanting to pass the citizenship test. As the Home Office worries about the questions on the test, Emma faces a challenge to her deepest-held beliefs. The play explores the notion of Britishness and asks whether it can really be defined by a simple test of multiple choice.

The Out of Joint production was directed by Matthew Dunster and designed by Paul Wills. The cast was Teresa Banham, Kirsty Bushell, Sushil Chudasama, Farzana Dua Elahe, Ian Dunn, Robert Gwilym, Syrus Lowe and Sirine Saba.

That Summer

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

That Summer is set in the late summer of 1984, at a time when miners were striking all over Britain as their unions and the Conservative government led by Margaret Thatcher, fought a battle that would change the industrial outlook of Britain forever.

In Edgar's play, a middle-class couple, Howard and Cressida, have decided to provide some support to the miners, by welcoming two girls from the mining community, daughters of striking miners, to join them in their holiday home near the Welsh coast. By placing these children of the working class amongst the interested, but unvested middle class, Edgar shows how an ideological battle can be fought not just intellectually, but experienced as a mere inexorable fact of life.

In a note on the play, Edgar writes 'That Summer is set against the background of the 1984-5 miners' strike. The play is a work of fiction and its characters are invented. But it nonetheless owes much to many Rhondda miners and their families'.

That Summer was first performed at the Hampstead Theatre in 1987.

Thirteenth Night

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Thirteenth Night is a dream play rewriting Shakespeare’s Macbeth for a Labour government, an denunciation of creeping tyranny and socialism’s dilution.

In the prologue, the socialist idealist Jack Beaty is hit over the head. He dreams of a world in which his speeches against bloated forms of government and American interposition can summon riots against the American embassy, and three women in an underground car park demand a new politics. He is driven by the taut, clawing invective of Jenny Gaze to commit murder, and ascend to the top of a brutal and tyrannical, and ostensibly socialist, government. Ominous and witty, Brenton recasts Macbeth to discover a contemporary path to tyranny.

Thirteenth Night was first presented in 1981 at the Warehouse, London.

A term denoting theatre used for political purposes, usually as part of a campaign or movement, sometimes as part of the work of a political party. At its loosest, it can have a wide application ranging from community theatre to consciousness-raising by groups with a specific identity such as women’s, black or gay companies. Its usage is often imprecise, overlapping with other terms like alternative, guerilla or radical theatre. Each country has its own tradition of political theatre. In the twentieth century the peaks of activity in the industrialized world coincided with two periods of social and political upheaval, the first and major one triggered by the Russian Revolution of 1917 and its aftermath, and the second coming in the 1960s and 1970s. Common themes emerged – for peace against war, for democracy and justice against exploitation and tyranny – and common forms too, e.g. Agitprop. Most of this theatre was socialist- or communist-inspired, and often involved professionals working with amateurs in nontraditional venues. By its nature much of the work is ephemeral, but it has also had an important effect on the theatre world through inspirational practitioners like Piscator, Brecht, Littlewood and Boal.

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