Plays

Agnes Colander - An Attempt at Life  

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

We should all have been taught more of life and less good manners

It is three years since Agnes, an artist, left her unfaithful husband Henry. Now he writes to her in her Kensington studio begging to reunite, but Agnes married young; her innocence has gone and her ambition and independence is growing. As she travels from London to France, Agnes finds herself torn between Otho, a worldly Danish artist and Alec, an infatuated younger suitor, between a longing to paint and be an independent woman and a yearning to be loved.

This witty and compelling exploration of love, sexual attraction and independence was written in 1900 and unearthed among Granville Barker's papers in the British Library a century later. Revised by playwright and librettist Richard Nelson this edition was published to coincide with the world premiere at the Theatre Royal Bath in Spring 2018. 

An Anti-Suffragist or The Other Side

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

A monologue about an inexperienced young woman, An Anti-Suffragist or The Other Side is a clever monologue describing the growing incomprehension of a critic of the Suffragette movement as she struggles to undersand why she was against votes for women in the first place.

Described in her introduction by Naomi Paxton as ‘charming, clever . . . a fantastic monologue for an actress, full of character, well written and enjoyable to play’, An Anti-Suffragist or The Other Side was first published by the Actresses’ Franchise League (AFL) in 1910.

At the Gates

Aurora Metro Books
Type: Text

At the Gates dates from and is based on the events of the same year when the Women’s Freedom League picketed the House of Commons from July 5th to October 28th, 1909: “an example of patient endurance which should go far to silence the foolish cry of “hysteria” as applied to the Suffrage Movement”.

Chapin was actually in prison when the play was first scheduled to be performed at the Albert Hall in December 1909. However, it was cancelled due to the “lateness of the hour” following a long programme. Based on the experience of a young woman’s 540-hour picket, it presents a series of encounters between her and various passers by, including: a male sympathiser, an embarrassed waiter, two well-disposed policemen ardently interested in politics, cynical about most of their rulers and one of them a great theatre-goer who likes serious drama. Others include: small boys and grown men who jeer; a drunk (who boasts that he has the vote while she does not); a seamstress (who works in a sweatshop and is battered by her husband) and who supports the suffragists as a means to gain the power, it is implied, to change her circumstances; an elderly, self-described “womanly woman”, who attacks the male sympathiser with her umbrella. The line: “These Antis are so militant”, spoken by the heroine, was added to the play between the submission of the manuscript to the Lord Chamberlain’s office and the play’s publication. It is interesting dramaturgically in its attempt to give theatrical form to a durational experience and find a theatrical language to describe an experience of multiple brief encounters, rather than a defining dramatic collision of different viewpoints. The piece makes reference to the biblical Book of Esther comparing the arbitrary exercise of power by the tyrannical King Ahasuerus who ordered the slaughter of the Jews of Persia to that of the government of the day – but “Ahasuerus was a gentleman. He did hold out his sceptre . . . He didn’t keep her waiting either”. The published play is rare and has attracted little critical attention

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.

audio The Cherry Orchard

LA Theatre Works
Type: Audio

Chekhov’s masterful last play, The Cherry Orchard, is a work of timeless, bittersweet beauty about the fading fortunes of an aristocratic Russian family and their struggle to maintain their status in a changing world. Alternately touching and farcical, this subtle, intelligent play stars the incomparable Marsha Mason. Translated and adapted by Frank Dwyer and Nicholas Saunders.

Recorded before a live audience at the Skirball Cultural Center, Los Angeles.

Directed by Rosalind Ayres
Producing Director: Susan Albert Loewenberg
Marsha Mason as Madame Lyubov Andreyevna Ranyevskaya
Hector Elizondo as Leonid Andreyevich Gayev
Michael Cristofer as Yermolay Alekseyevich Lopakhin
Jennifer Tilly as Dunyasha (Avdotya Fyodorovna)
Joey Slotnick as Semyon Panteleyevich Yepikhodov
Christy Keefe as Anya Ranyevskaya
Amy Pletz as Varya Ranyevskaya
Jordan Baker as Charlotta Ivanovna
Jeffrey Jones as Boris Borisovich Semyonov-Pischick
Charles Durning as Feers
Tim DeKay as Pyotr Sergeyevich Trofimov
John Chardiet as Passer-By

Sound Effects Artist/Stage Manager: Jane Slater
Assistant Stage Manager: Cary Thompson
Radio Producer: Raymond Guarna
Associate Producer: Susan Raab

The Cherry Orchard (adapt. Murphy)

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

In Chekhov’s tragicomedy of inertia and loss – perhaps his most popular play – an aristocratic family cling to their sheltered lives in a picturesque estate while the forces of social change beat on the walls outside.

Completely bankrupt, Lyubov Ranyevskaya returns with her daughter Anya from Paris to her childhood home, to the beautiful cherry orchard outside the house and to her grief. The estate is paralysed by debt, but she and her billiard-playing brother refuse to save their finances by having the vast orchard cut down to build holiday cottages. Hopelessly paralysed, incapable of decisive action, they put the estate up for auction, and find their world is brought crashing down by powerful forces rooted deep in history and in the society around them

Chekhov maintained that the play was a cheerful and frivolous comedy, but audiences have found its tragedy irresistible. The comedy is poignant; the tone is ambiguous, both farcical and piercing. While remaining faithful to the original, Tom Murphy’s adaptation reimagines the events of this classic play in a language that resonates with wit, clarity and verve. It was first performed in 2004 at the Abbey Theatre, Dublin.

video The Cherry Orchard (NT)

National Theatre
Type: Video

Age recommendation: 12+

Recorded through National Theatre Live on 30th June, 2011.

Ranyevskaya returns more or less bankrupt after ten years abroad. Luxuriating in her fading moneyed world and regardless of the increasingly hostile forces outside, she and her brother snub the lucrative scheme of Lopakhin, a peasant turned entrepreneur, to save the family estate. In so doing, they put up their lives to auction and seal the fate of the beloved orchard.

Set at the very start of the twentieth century, Andrew Upton’s new version of Chekhov’s classic captures a poignant moment in Russia's history as the country rolls inexorably towards 1917.

For teacher resources, visit this page.

CAST
Dunyasha: Emily Taaffe
Lopakhin: Conleth Hill
Yepihodov: Pip Carter
Anya: Charity Wakefield
Ranyevskaya: Zoe Wanamaker
Varya: Claudie Blakley
Gaev: James Laurenson
Charlotta: Sarah Woodward
Simyonov-Pishchik: Tim McMullan
Yasha: Gerald Kyd
Firs: Kenneth Cranham
Peya Trofimov: Mark Bonnar
A Passer-by: Craige Els
The Station Master: Paul Dodds
Ensemble: Mark Fleischmann
Ensemble: Colin Haigh
Ensemble: Jessica Regan
Ensemble: Tim Samuels
Ensemble: Stephanie Thomas
Ensemble: Joseph Thompson
Ensemble: Rosie Thomson
Ensemble: Ellie Turner

CREATIVES
Director: Howard Davies
Author: Andrew Upton
Designer: Bunny Christie
Lighting Designer: Neil Austin
Music: Dominic Muldowney
Sound Designer: Paul Groothuis
Choreographer: Lynne Page

Children of the Sun (Trans. Upton)

Faber and Faber
Type: Text

Protasov, detached and idealistic, wants only to immerse himself in chemical experiments to perfect mankind. He’s more or less oblivious to the voracious advances of the half-crazed widow Melaniya and his best friend’s unrelenting pursuit of his wife, let alone the cholera epidemic and the starving mob at his gates. While Nanny fusses round, Protasov’s admiring circle, variously sceptical, romantic and lovesick, spar over culture and the cosmos. Only Liza, neurotic and patronized, feels the suffering of the peasantry and senses that their own privileged world is in jeopardy.

Written during the abortive Russian Revolution of 1905, Maxim Gorky’s darkly comic Children of the Sun depicts the new middle-class, foolish perhaps but likeable, as they flounder around, philosophizing, yearning, or scuttling between test tubes, blind to their impending annihilation. This translation by Andrew Upton was first performed at the National Theatre, London, in 2013.

Deirdre of the Sorrows

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Deirdre of the Sorrows is based on an ancient Irish myth, a story of a beautiful young woman, Deirdre, and her equally handsome lover Naisi, one of three brothers sworn to protect each other - and the young lovers - from Deirdre's betrothed, the ageing king Conchubhor.

Almost finished upon Synge's premature death, and published posthumously after revisions by Synge's fiancée, the actress Mary 'Molly' Algood, and poet and theatre-manager W. B. Yeats, Deirdre of the Sorrows is a vivid reimagining of the Deirdre myth, complete with Synge's distinctive lyric style.

audio The Doctor's Dilemma

LA Theatre Works
Type: Audio

The blowhards, the know-it-alls, the scrupulous and the impecunious are all targets for Shaw’s incisive wit in his classic satire of the medical profession. A well-respected physician is forced to choose whom he shall save: a bumbling friend or the ne’er-do-well husband of the woman he loves.

An L.A. Theatre Works full-cast performance featuring Jane Carr, Gregory Cooke, Kenneth Danziger, Roy Dotrice, Martin Jarvis, Jennifer Dundas Lowe, Simon Templeman, Douglas Weston and Paxton Whitehead.

Includes a conversation with Dr. Neil Wenger, the Director of the Healthcare Ethics Center at the University of California-Los Angeles

The Doctor’s Dilemma is part of L.A. Theatre Works’ Relativity Series featuring science-themed plays. Major funding for the Relativity Series is provided by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to enhance public understanding of science and technology in the modern world.

Featuring: Jane Carr, Gregory Cooke, Kenneth Danziger, Roy Dotrice, Martin Jarvis, Jennifer Dundas Lowe, Simon Templeman, Douglas Weston, Paxton Whitehead