Plays

An Enemy of the People (trans. Hampton)

Faber and Faber
Type: Text

The strongest man in the world is he who stands most alone.

Dr Stockmann attempts to expose a water pollution scandal in his home town which is about to establish itself as a spa. When his brother conspires with local politicians and the newspaper to suppress the story, Stockmann appeals to a public meeting - only to be shouted down and reviled as 'an enemy of the people'. Ibsen's explosive play reveals his distrust of politicians and the blindly held beliefs of the masses.

Christopher Hampton's version of Ibsen's classic was first staged at the National Theatre, London, in 1997.

An Enemy of the People (trans. Lenkiewicz)

Faber and Faber
Type: Text

Power. Money. Morality. In a tight knit community a shocking discovery comes to light and threatens the lifeblood of the town. Truth and honour are pitched against wild ambition and corruption in Ibsen's emotional maelstrom.

Rebecca Lenkiewicz's version of Ibsen's An Enemy of the People premiered at the Arcola Theatre, London in April 2008.

An Enemy of the People (trans. Meyer)

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

A bracing and eloquent attack against small-mindedness and reactionism, Ibsen called An Enemy of the People a comedy ‘based on a serious idea’.

The play is set in a coastal town in Norway. Dr Stockmann has discovered that the water supply to the new Baths, upon which the whole town’s financial hopes are resting, is poisonously contaminated. Expecting a public ovation for his services to public health, he is somewhat surprised when the townspeople attempt to hush up his discovery out of concern for their investment. The town’s reaction to his discovery becomes the cornerstone of a polemical epiphany: that the public majority are uninformed and self-serving, and an intellectual minority are best fitted to be in control. Dr Stockmann is drawn with depth and clarity, moving from boyish enthusiasm in the private scenes with his family to the thundering, polemical oration of the fourth act.

This version of An Enemy of the People was first performed in 1962 at the Playhouse, Nottingham.

(the fall of) The Master Builder  

Faber and Faber
Type: Text

Halvard Solness has arrived at the pinnacle of his career. He has just been awarded the prestigious Master Builder award, his beautiful wife still loves him, his beautiful secretary still flirts with him and Prince Charles is coming to open his new building tomorrow. Then a knock at the door propels Solness’ past into everyone’s future. The only way is down.

Zinnie Harris’s contemporary take on Henrik Ibsen’s classic, The Master Builder, premiered at West Yorkshire Playhouse in September 2017.

The Father (Strindberg)

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Strindberg’s intense and unyielding play displays his suspicion of women at its most implacable, in a portrait of fierce marital discord and sexual conflict.

The Captain and his wife Laura are locked in a disagreement about how their daughter Bertha is to be brought up. Legally, the Captain has the right to control the life of his wife and child, but he feels trapped in a household of demanding, combative women – his wife, his childhood nurse and his mother-in-law. Laura has been impeding his scientific research by intercepting his post, and now begins to poison his authority, warning the new doctor to look out for signs of insanity, and deftly torturing him with the suggestion that Bertha is not his own child. Their marriage is a livid, bitter struggle for power, as Strindberg explores the devastating force of the battle of the sexes.

The Father was written and first produced in 1887; this translation by Michael Meyer was first performed in 1964 at the Piccadilly Theatre, London.

A Florentine Tragedy

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

A Florentine Tragedy is a tragedy in blank-verse set in the sixteenth century. It tells the story of the illicit love between a burgher's wife, Bianca, and the young heir to the throne of Florence, Guido. Guido has come to the house of the burgher Simone to claim Bianca for his own. Encouraged by her, Guido promises a fortune to Simone in exchange for her hand. Simone, though greedy for the money, is not to be swayed so easily, and a fight to the death ensues.

Written in 1894, A Florentine Tragedy exists only as a fragment, often accompanied for the purposes of presentation by an opening scene commissioned from the Irish poet Thomas Sturge Moore by Robert Ross, Wilde's literary executor. Only Oscar Wilde's work is presented here.

Ghosts (trans. Lenkiewicz)

Faber and Faber
Type: Text

Norway, 1881. Mrs. Alving is ecstatic when her son Osvald visits after many years abroad. He has returned to celebrate the heroic memory of his dead father. But within hours of Osvald's homecoming his mother is forced to unearth the past and reveal its terrifying ghosts.

Rebecca Lenkiewicz's version of Henrik Ibsen's Ghosts, or Those Who Return, premiered at the Arcola Theatre, London, in a co-production with ATC in July 2009.

Ghosts (trans. Meyer)

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Mrs Alving, the widow of the King’s Chamberlain, is opening an orphanage on her estate, dedicated to the memory of her late husband. Her son, Oswald, has returned for the ceremony, intent on staying the winter. Regina, Mrs. Alving’s maid, primps coquettishly before her returned young master, while the carpenter Engstrand, Regina’s father, puts the finishing touches to the building.

But when old family friend Pastor Manders arrives to deliver prayers at the opening ceremony, a torrent of secrets is unleashed that leaves the household devastated and the memory of the late Chamberlain in tatters.

The ‘ghosts’ of the title haunt the play, be they the remembrance of filial and wifely duty, the scourge of inherited illness or the dissolution of received morality and the ethics of the status quo.

Ghosts met with critical and moral opprobrium when first published in Norway in 1881, and failed to gain a performance until a regional tour of Sweden in the autumn of 1883. Since then its reputation has been galvanised. It is now seen as one of the greatest works in Ibsen’s oeuvre, and indeed the whole of modern drama.

This translation by Michael Meyer was first performed in 1968 in a production for the BBC.

The Girl From Maxim's

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Discussing the manner in which a middle-class man is saved from retribution for an apparently illicit tryst by a level-headed woman of supposedly low morals, translator Kenneth McLeish writes that The Girl from Maxim's comes 'close to the Naturalist plays of the period in which bourgeois hypocrisy, especially in sexual matters, was satirised in more serious dramatic form.'

The morning after a heavy drinking session and Dr. Petypon is struggling to remember what he did the night before. Waking on his sofa to a sore head and a chamber in disarray, clarity begins to dawn on him, only to reveal, to his horror, that a show-girl from the Folies-Bergère is sleeping in his bed.

That girl, Shrimp, continues to be insinuated in the Petypons' life, and as the Doctor's wife must be avoided, and his uncle pacified, she proves herself to be a high-kicking, quick-thinking success.

The Girl from Maxim's is perhaps Feydeau's best-known play. It premiered at the Théâtre des Nouveautés, Paris, in 1899.

Heart's Desire Hotel

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

M. Pinglet’s plans for a romantic night at a seedy hotel with his neighbour’s wife, Marcelle, are thrown into disarray by the arrival of his friend Mathieu and his large family , and by his own wife’s close attentions to his comings and goings. Still, he manages to escape to the Heart’s Desire Hotel to meet with Marcelle. Sadly for him, so too does her husband, as well as many of their friends and acquaintances, who run a chaotic rule throughout a hotel which has many beds but no place to rest.

In his introduction, translator Kenneth McLeish writes: 'Heart's Desire Hotel (L'Hotel du libre échange) is justly one of the most famous comedies of assumed identity in the repertoire; the fact that the only couple to achieve any satisfaction is the young Maxime and Victoire, while the older characters remain frightened and frustrated, is entirely in keeping with the traditions of farce going back to classical times.'

Heart's Desire Hotel premiered at the Théâtre des Nouveautés in 1894.