Plays

Noir

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

George is on the hunt for the man who is seducing his wife Ruth, a lecturer in film noir at the university.

Alison, an adult chat-line operator, tells her psychiatrist a dream that she was shot in the woods by her father, Howard, whom the Pentecostal preacher Reverend Lang suspects of stealing £20,000 from the church accounts.

When Morris, Ruth's seducer, turns up as a waiter in a Chinese restaurant, things take a sinister turn for the worse.

Noir is a dark comedy of desire, dreams and coincidental disappearances. It was co-produced by Live Theatre and Northern Stage Ensemble and premiered at Newcastle Playhouse in May 2002.

Pity

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Two bombs in one day is a foul coincidence
Don't forget the lightning strike

A normal day. A person stands in the market square watching the world go by.
What happens next verges on the ridiculous.

There's ice cream. Sunshine. Shops. Some dogs. A wedding. Bombs. Candles. Blood. Lightning. Sandwiches. Snipers. Looting. Gunshots. Babies. Actors. Azaleas. Famine. Fountains. Statues. Atrocities. And tanks. (Probably).

Rory Mullarkey's new play asks whether things really are getting worse. And if we care.

The Stock Da'wa

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

The Stock Da’wa is a taut and blackly comic three-person play about truth, fundamentalism and mothers.

Paul, Joan and Mr Wilson are standing in the kitchen. Paul has just returned with a bag and a bloodied nose to his hometown of Stock after an absence of seventeen years. As a boy he was practically adopted by Joan after becoming friends with her son Oliver. She lives with Mr Wilson, a gay retired English teacher who taught the boys when they were young. Paul is now married, and converted to Islam. As the secrets of the past are exhumed, the reunion atmosphere is strained enough without there being something distinctly odd about the bag Paul is carrying.

The Stock Da’wa was first performed at the Hampstead Theatre, London, in 2011.

The Tempest (Arden Shakespeare Third Series)

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

The Tempest has long been regarded as Shakespeare’s swan-song. Critical readers from Coleridge onward have interpreted Prospero’s epilogue, ending ‘Let your indulgence set me free’, as Shakespeare’s own farewell to the stage; however, this interpretation has since been queried by more recent chronologies that suggest the playwright went on to compose Henry VIII and The Two Noble Kinsmen after The Tempest.

In its first publication (in the First Folio of 1623), The Tempest appears in the ‘Comedies’ section. In modern criticism, it is more likely to see The Tempest described as a ‘late play’ (written towards the end of what we perceive to be Shakespeare’s writing career, c. 1607-13) or a ‘romance’ – a group of plays set in an unspecified time and/or place, whose loose plots revolve round familial reunion and fantastical happenings.

Prospero, a magus and the usurped Duke of Milan, and his spirit-servant Ariel, conjure a storm that casts Prospero’s treacherous brother (the current Duke of Milan), the King of Naples and their courtiers onto an unnamed island. The king’s son, Ferdinand, now alone on the island, meets Prospero and falls in love with his daughter, Miranda. Meanwhile, Caliban, the deformed offspring of the island-witch Sycorax, encounters Naples’ jester Trinculo and butler Stephano, who desire to overthrow Prospero and become kings of the island themselves. All parties are eventually reunited, and Prospero forgives his brother and reclaims his dukedom. Miranda and Ferdinand are married, and Ariel is set free, whilst Caliban is castigated for his actions.

The first recorded performance of the play is in November 1611 before King James I at Whitehall. A year previously, in 1610, word had reached England of the shipwreck of an exploratory vessel, the Sea Venture, in the Bermudas. One survivor, William Strachey, wrote a lengthy letter home narrating their encounter of the ‘dreaded I[s]land . . . given over to Devils and wicked Spirits’. His account has been seen as a major influence of The Tempest, along with the essay ‘Of the Caniballes’ by sixteenth-century French humanist Michel de Montaigne, whose Essais (translated into English by John Florio in 1603) have been perceived as a significant influence upon Shakespeare’s Jacobean oeuvre.

The play’s dramatic opening (with the stage direction ‘A tempestuous noise of thunder and lightning heard’), its abundance of music and its lavish masque suggest that The Tempest was written for the indoor theatre at Blackfriars, which Shakespeare’s company, the King’s Men, had taken over in 1608. Unlike the ‘wooden O’ of outdoor amphitheatre venues such as the Globe on Bankside, Blackfriars offered a much darker, more intimate space, suited not to the large battles of Elizabethan plays such as we see in the Henriad, but to the psychological drama and fantastical set-pieces of ‘romances’ such as The Winter’s Tale.

The trajectory of responses to The Tempest has moved from a Restoration emphasis of the centrality of the patriarchy, to Romantic enthusiasm for the individual creative genius represented by Prospero, to post-colonial readings of the enslaved native Caliban, to feminist re-appropriations of the play’s only living female character, Miranda.

video The Tempest (Donmar)

Donmar Warehouse
Type: Video

The final instalment in the Donmar Warehouse’s all-female Shakespeare Trilogy sees Harriet Walter take on the role of Prospero in this evocation of the eternal struggle for freedom, morality and justice.

Directed for both stage and screen by Phyllida Lloyd. Set on an isle ‘full of noises’, this magical production features a glowing score by Joan Armatrading. Critics celebrated the original staging as ‘A glorious reminder that genuine diversity offers astonishing creative benefits’.

The Donmar Shakespeare Trilogy began in 2012 with an all-female production of Julius Caesar led by Dame Harriet Walter. Set in a women’s prison, the production asked the question, ‘Who owns Shakespeare?’ Two further productions followed: Henry IV in 2014 and The Tempest in 2016, all featuring a diverse company of women. The Trilogy enthralled theatre audiences in London and New York and was shared with women and girls in prisons and schools across the UK. The film versions were shot live in a specially built temporary theatre in King’s Cross in 2016.

For teacher resources, visit this page.

For more videos about the trilogy, visit this page.

video The Tempest (Globe on Screen)

Globe on Screen
Type: Video

Twelve years ago, Prospero, formerly the Duke of Milan, was usurped by Alonso, King of Naples, and Alonso's brother, Sebastian and cast adrift with his three-year-old daughter, Miranda. They now live on an island. Desiring revenge, Prospero uses his powerful magic to cause a great storm which shipwrecks his enemies. Stage director: Jeremy Herrin. Screen director: Ian Russell. Featuring: James Garnon, Jessie Buckley, Roger Allam, Jason Baughan, Sam Cox, Pip Donaghy, Trevor Fox, Peter Hamilton Dyer, Will Mannering, Joshua James, Colin Morgan, Sarah Sweeney, Amanda Wilkin, Matthew Raymond.

Ten Tiny Fingers, Nine Tiny Toes

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

A story of motherhood set in a totalitarian society where children must be perfect specimens if they are to be allowed to live. Ten Tiny Fingers, Nine Tiny Toes is caught between laughter and despair: a passionate, comic, alarming play.

In future Britain, the population is divided into five segregated classes: only those in the upper strata of society are permitted to reproduce, and Dot and Pete are arrested for an illegal pregnancy. Lucinda and Ralph haven’t been able to conceive; luckily for them they can afford to buy a Government baby, artificially conceived and guaranteed to be beautiful and healthy. But scans reveal that the foetus has nine toes instead of ten. In a world where babies are bought and sold and advertised, everyone is surprised to find that Lucinda doesn’t want her money back.

Ten Tiny Fingers, Nine Tiny Toes was first performed in 1989 at the Library Theatre, Manchester.

audio Three Sisters

LA Theatre Works
Type: Audio

A full-cast performance of Chekhov’s masterpiece starring Jennifer Westfeldt, Tessa Thompson, Sarah Zimmerman and Jon Hamm.

Meet Olga, Masha, and Irina, warm and cultured young sisters who were reared in the exciting hubbub of Moscow, but have been living in the dull, gossipy backwaters of Russia for far too long. With their father’s passing, and the ordinary grip of day-to-day life slowly suffocating them, the urge to return to the city with its rich and exciting life rises to a fever pitch. First performed in 1901, Three Sisters beautifully mixes humor and heartbreak and is a perennial favorite of actors and audiences alike. The great Russian playwright Anton Chekhov is one of the most influential figures in modern literature, whose classic works include Three Sisters and The Cherry Orchard (also available from L.A. Theatre Works). An L.A. Theatre Works full-cast performance featuring: Jennifer Westfeldt as Masha Tessa Thompson as Irina Sarah Zimmerman as Olga Jon Hamm as Vershinin Josh Clark as Solyony and Rode Josh Cooke as Kulygin Dan Donohue as Tuzenbach Pamela Dunlap as Anfisa Marc Halsey as Fedotik Rebecca Mozo as Natasha Robert Pine as Chebutykin and Ferapont Reid Scott as Andrei Translated by Christopher Hampton. Directed by Jenny Sullivan. Recorded before a live audience at the Skirball Cultural Center, Los Angeles.

Featuring: Josh Clark, Josh Cooke, Dan Donohue, Pamela Dunlap, Marc Halsey, Jon Hamm, Rebecca Mozo, Robert Pine, Reid Scott, Tessa Thompson, Jennifer Westfeldt, Sarah Zimmerman

Troilus and Cressida

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

In staging the famous story of the Trojan war and the doomed relationship of Troilus and Cressida, Shakespeare stages the demystification of the classical heroes and the deflation of their chivalric ideals. The play is generically indeterminable, combining history, comedy and tragedy into a sceptical analysis of war-politics, potent sexuality and disillusionment.

Troilus and Cressida was written around 1601-2, in the aftermath of the abortive rising of the Earl of Essex. The play’s earliest extant text is the 1609 Quarto, whose preliminary pages exist in two states; this text is based on the 1623 First Folio, supplemented and corrected from the 1609 Quarto.

The city of Troy has been besieged by the Greek army for seven years. The Trojan prince Troilus is preoccupied by his love for Cressida; Cressida’s uncle Pandarus is assisting him. In the Greek camp outside the city walls, the commander Agamemnon complains about his army’s listlessness; Ulysses blames the renowned warrior Achilles, who spends all day in his tent with Patroclus instead of fighting. Hector sends a challenge to single combat, and Ulysses suggests choosing Achilles’ rival Ajax.

The Trojans debate whether keeping Helen (who eloped with the Trojan prince Paris from her husband the Greek Menelaus) is worth the lives that have been lost, but Troilus persuades his brother Hector that it is the honourable thing to do. Pandarus has arranged for Troilus and Cressida to meet privately, attended by himself. But Cressida’s father Calchus, who defected to the Greeks, arranges an exchange: Cressida will come to the Greek camp and the Greeks will release their Trojan prisoner Antenor.

After the lovers’ farewells, Cressida is escorted out of Troy by the Greek Diomedes. The Trojans arrive at the Greek camp for the combat between Hector and Ajax, but it is interrupted because they are cousins. Achilles swears to meet Hector in battle the next day. Having accompanied Hector, Troilus sees Cressida being familiar with Diomedes, and furiously vows to kill the Greek. In battle the next day, Troilus fights with Ajax, Patroclus is killed, and Achilles treacherously kills Hector.

video Troilus and Cressida (RSC)

The Royal Shakespeare Company
Type: Video

Filmed live in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in November 2018

“Lechery, lechery, still wars and lechery: nothing else holds fashion”

Troilus and Cressida swear they will always be true to one another. But in the seventh year of the siege of Troy their innocence is tested, and exposed to the savage corrupting influence of war, with tragic consequences.

Virtuoso percussionist Evelyn Glennie collaborates with RSC Artistic Director Gregory Doran to create a satirical futuristic vision of a world resounding with the rhythm of battle.

For teacher resources, visit this page.

CAST
Priam: Ewart James Walters
Hector: Daniel Hawksford
Andromache: Gabby Wong
Paris: Geoffrey Lumb
Helen: Daisy Badger
Troilus: Gavin Fowler
Cassandra: Charlotte Arrowsmith
Helenus: Mikhail Sen
Polyxena: Esther McAuley
Aeneas: Amanda Harris
Pandarus: Oliver Ford Davies
Cressida: Amber James
Clachas: Helen Grady
Alexandra: Leigh Quinn
Paris' servant: Nicole Agada
Agamemnon: Suzanne Bertish
Menelaus: Andrew Langtree
Ulysses: Adjoa Andoh
Nestor: Jim Hooper
Achilles: Andy Apollo
Patroclus: James Cooney
Ajax: Theo Ogundipe
Diomed: Daniel Burke
Thersites: Sheila Reid

CREATIVES
Stage Director: Gregory Doran
Designer: Niki Turner
Incidental Music: Evelyn Glennie
TV Director: Robin Lough

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).