Plays

Enlightenment

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Enlightenment is a powerful study of the mechanisms of grief, identity and absence.

When Adam disappears overseas, all his mother Lia and step-father Nick have is an email saying that he was thinking of going to Jakarta. The first act is the story of their grief, and their search for meaning or confirmation from a silent world. A vague medium and an invasive television producer do nothing to alleviate their harrowing uncertainty, and their hope that every time the phone rings, it might be Adam calling.

Then a young man appears at the airport, looking uncannily like Adam, with his passport and amnesia in tow. As this version of Adam comes to live with Lia and Nick, the play, at first a delicate study of the psychology of loss, unravels into something dark and raw.

Enlightenment premiered at the Abbey Theatre, Dublin in 2005.

Have I None

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

A woman sitting alone hears a constant knocking at the door, but no one is there. Her husband returns and tells her of an extraordinary meeting with an old woman found roaming in a ruined part of the city. Then a stranger comes to the door, like a visitor from an earlier, lost world. What follows is tragic and absurdly funny until both seem to melt into a strange hallucinatory vision of the future.

In his introduction, Edward Bond writes: 'All human existence is fiction. In the end natural reality does not impose its own necessities on us . . . Fiction is our reality because ultimately it determines our existence in society. The power of ideology is that it uses the humanising forces – our appetites, passions, needs – that bind us to the reality of nature, to bind us to its psychotic fictions. We free ourselves from these fictions only by using the same force.'

Have I None was first presented by Big Brum on 2 November 2000 at Castle Vale Artsite, Birmingham.

Home (Storey)

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

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

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

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

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

The Hothouse

Grove Atlantic
Type: Text

The Hothouse was first produced in 1980 at the Hampstead Theatre, London, though Harold Pinter wrote the play in 1958 just before commencing work on The Caretaker.

The Hothouse is one of Pinter’s best plays: one that deals with the worm-eaten corruption of bureaucracy, the secrecy of government and the disjunction between language and experience.’ Michael Billington

Joyriders

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Joyriders is the moving, tragicomic story of four teenagers taking part in a Youth Training Programme in Belfast, 1986, surrounded by the violence of The Troubles. When unemployment seems their most likely prospect, it is difficult for them not to be cynical about a training scheme which seems little more than a cheap way to keep them off the streets. Some of them sometimes dare to wish for greater things, but others find that growing up surrounded by violence and crime does not leave much room for hope.

The play, with its refreshing focus on working-class young people, was inspired by Reid’s visits to Youth Training Programmes and the Divis Community Centre in Belfast in the 1980s; the songs were written and first performed by residents of Divis Flats. It opened in 1986 at the Tricycle Theatre in London. The sequel Clowns revisits the characters eight years later.

audio Just Between Ourselves

LA Theatre Works
Type: Audio

The first of Ayckbourn’s darkly comic masterpieces involves a relentlessly cheerful handyman in a disastrously fractured marriage. Two couples develop an unlikely friendship in this painfully funny portrait of British suburban life.

An L.A. Theatre Works full-cast performance featuring:

Gia Carides as Pam

Kenneth Danziger as Dennis

Judy Geeson as Vera

Miriam Margolyes as Marjorie

Alfred Molina as Neil

Directed by Waris Hussein. Recorded before a live audience at the Skirball Cultural Center, Los Angeles.

Featuring: Gia Carides, Kenneth Danziger, Judy Geeson, Miriam Margolyes, Alfred Molina

Kill the Old Torture Their Young

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Kill the Old Torture their Young is an urban tragicomedy of alienation, as what could have been a hymn to a beautiful Scottish city becomes a muffled cry of rage against alienation and disconnection.

A documentary maker returns to the place of his birth. His task is to film his impressions. An old man remembers a time when eagles flew overhead. A TV executive reaches breaking point in the city he loves. A struggling actor seeks fame in a city that doesn't seem to want him. A young woman ends her artistic dreams in a city that eludes her. A receptionist tries to break the mould of her life in the city where she's always lived. A rock star sings to himself in a city he's forgotten the name of. Each of them has a story to tell, but the question is whether anyone will listen.

Kill The Old Torture Their Young was first performed in 1998 at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh.

Life of Riley

Faber and Faber
Type: Text

‘As perceptive as ever… Ayckbourn has once again achieved a satisfyingly rich, tragi-comic complexity.’ Daily Telegraph

Life of Riley was first performed at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, in September 2010.

The Makropulos Case

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

The Makropulos Case (1922) [is] a tragic-comic fantasy about ageing and human mortality. There are many inspirations for this marvellous play: the Russian zoologist Professor Mechnikov’s tehories about the ageing process as a self-intoxication of the organis; Shaw’s Back to Methusaleh; the immortal monsters of Frankenstein and Dracula; the French philosopher Henri Bergson, and his explorations of free will and temporality.’ So say the translators of The Makropulos Case, Peter Majer and Cathy Porter, in their introduction to the anthology in which this translation was first published.

The Makropulos Case is an enduring story of the invention of a potion that will give its consumer eternal life. In typical Čapek style though, the elixir proves to be the undoing of those surrounding it, as the prospect of unlimited life reduces them to greed, secrecy and litigation.

The Makropolus Case was first performed in Prague in 1922.

Marriage A-La Mode

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Half comic and half serious, Marriage A-la-Mode is a spirited study of the trials and passions of love and marriage, and generally considered John Dryden’s finest comedy.

The play is set in the Sicilian court, and consists of a comic plot written in prose, and a tragic plot written in verse. The comic plot wittily explores the fluttering courtly mode of romance. Two fashionable couples, lifted straight from London drawing rooms into the Sicilian court, play at switching partners in the ‘modern style’, flirting with the boundaries of marriage and betrothal. The tragic scenes belong to Leonidas and Palmyra, who have grown up in obscurity but find their love threatened when their true parentage is discovered. This serious plot, by contrast, offers a timeless understanding of love and marriage as deeply intertwined, and of love as springing from country innocence and honour, and not from the social intriguing of shallow courtiers. With a blend of satire and true romance, Dryden leads the play to the conclusion that the most stylish and modish kind of marriage is what is simple, honourable and true.

M arriage A-la-Mode was presented to King Charles II at Windsor in the summer of 1671; the king was, reputedly, a great fan of the comedy, a factor which contributed to its great success onstage at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. After the theatre was destroyed by fire in early 1672, the play moved temporarily to the Duke’s Company’s old theatre in Lincoln’s Inn Fields.

A genre that blends elements of tragedy and comedy. Tragicomedies tend to fall into two main categories; those in which a potentially tragic series of events is resolved happily and those in which the comedy has dark or bitter overtones. Although the form can be traced back to Euripides and Plautus, tragicomedy first emerged as a recognizable genre in the Renaissance. In Spain, Fernando de Rojas’s frequently staged dialogue novel La Celestina (1499) was subtitled the Tragicomedia de Calisto y Melibea, while in 16th-century Italy the term was applied to several plays by Giovanni Giraldi. A number of Shakespeare’s works – most notably, perhaps, The Merchant of Venice, Measure for Measure, Troilus and Cressida, and Cymbeline– are regularly described as tragicomedies. Many pastoral works of the 16th and 17th centuries are essentially romantic tragicomedies. The first French tragicomedy, Robert Garnier’s Bradamante, was published in 1582. Alexandre Hardy (c. 1575–c. 1632) developed the genre in the early 17th century, influencing his countrymen Molière and Corneille, whose Le Cid (1637) has been called the perfect tragicomedy. He was also imitated by the Jacobean and Caroline dramatists in England. The last example of a romantic tragicomedy in English is probably Dryden’s Secret Love, or the Maiden Queen (1667). Although it has disappeared as a distinct genre, tragicomedy has arguably become the dominant mode of serious dramatic writing in the 20th century. The works of Chekhov, O’Casey, Brecht, Beckett, and Pinter could all be described as tragicomic.

from Jonathan Law, ed., The Methuen Drama Dictionary of the Theatre (London, 2011).