Plays

A Flea in Her Ear

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Georges Feydeau’s A Flea in Her Ear (La puce à l’oreille) is a classic French farce, first performed at the Théâtre des Nouveautés in Paris on 2 March 1907.

Stephen Mulrine, in his introduction to this translation by Kenneth McLeish, describes A Flea in Her Ear as 'perhaps Feydeau’s best-known play, certainly to English audiences, and its intricate choreography draws together two classic farce plots – that of the suspicious wife who sets a trap to expose her faithless partner, and the venerable comic device of mistaken identity. And the latter complicates the former to such a degree that by the end of Act II, the spectator is almost as exhausted, mentally, as Feydeau’s characters are, physically, by their manic pursuit of each other across the stage, in a flurry of whirling doors and spinning beds.'

Mulrine also observes that 'Feydeau’s plays are a form of perpetual motion, and almost impossible to summarise, but taken by itself, the mistaken identity plot is comparatively straightforward: the supposed unfaithful husband, Chandebise, bears an uncanny resemblance to a drunken porter, Poche (both parts are played by the same actor), and when circumstances bring the two into proximity, in the seedy Hotel Casablanca, all hell breaks loose. Those circumstances arise through the workings of the main plot, set in motion with the entry of the principal characters, midway through Act I, when Chandebise’s wife Raymonde confesses to her friend Lucienne that she suspects her husband of infidelity, while Chandebise himself, a little later, complains to Dr Finache about a worrying, and inexplicable, loss of sexual vigour.'

Her Vote

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Naomi Paxton writes: ‘Her Vote features a young suffragist whose plans to attend a political meeting are disrupted by an unexpected proposal from her young man. It is an unusual suffrage play as the character of the Girl, a suffragist, is portrayed rather more like that of an anti-suffragist. When questioned by the Clerk she is unable to elaborate on her views about the Suffrage and the issues surrounding it and instead responds by repeating words and phrases that she has heard but clearly doesn’t really understand. Her firm resolve at the beginning of the piece to attend a Suffrage Meeting that night counts for nothing when a much more desirable offer arises . . . the play provides an interesting male viewpoint on the movement, criticizing the Girl for wanting to be part of a political movement without really knowing about it or understanding it – a criticism more often levelled at anti-suffragists in suffrage drama.'

Her Vote was first performed at Terry’s Theatre, London, on 13 May 1909 and was first published the follwoing year by Samuel French.

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.

In the Shadow of the Glen

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Dan Burke, it seems, is dead, his body lying on his bed beneath a sheet. His young wife Nora has taken in a Tramp into the house, a man seeking refuge from the cruel weather of the valley in which she lives. They pass pleasantries until Nora's intended arrives, a neighbouring shepherd named Michael Dara, with whom Nora schemes a fresh union even while her husband's body is not yet cold.

The comic surprise that follows is a magnificent coup de theâtre: that it is followed by a denouement as unexpected as any the Irish theatre had seen speaks volumes to Synge's sophistication as a playwright and master of his craft.

First performed in Molesworth Hall, Dublin, in 1903, In the Shadow of the Glen was the first play by Synge to be presented professionally, and, in its one act structure, contains the germ of all of the great playwright's oeuvre: comedy, macabre, rural isolation and the motivating power of lyrical speech.

Lady Geraldine's Speech

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

In her introduction, Naomi Paxton writes: ‘Lady Geraldine’s Speech is an all-female ensemble piece, full of wonderfully eccentric Suffragette characters . . . The whole play is delightful, representing Suffragettes as happy, talented, intelligent and good humoured and Lady Geraldine as misguided but charming. Beatrice Harraden defended the Suffragettes in response to criticism of the militant movement by feminist writer Sarah Grand, proudly writing of “the good temper, the courage, the good camaraderie of the Suffragettes”, all of which are evident in the characters of Dr Alice’s friends in Lady Geraldine’s Speech.'

Lady Geraldine’s Speech was first performed at the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) Women’s Exhibition in the Prince’s Skating Rink, Knightsbridge on 15 May 1909. It was first published in the WSPU newspaper ‘Votes for Women’ on 2 April 1909.

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.

audio Major Barbara

LA Theatre Works
Type: Audio

Barbara is a major in the Salvation Army - but she’s also the daughter of Andrew Undershaft, a man who’s made millions from the sale of weapons of war. The real battle, however, rages between between the devilish father and his idealistic daughter as they answer the question: does salvation come through faith or finance? This sparkling comedy traverses family relations, religion, ethics and politics - as only Shaw, the master dramatist, can!

An L.A. Theatre Works full-cast performance featuring: JB Blanc as Bill Walker/Dialect Coach Kate Burton as Lady Britomart Matthew Gaydos as Snobby Price/Bilton Brian George as Morrison/Peter Shirley Hamish Linklater as Stephen Undershaft Henri Lubatti as Adolphus Cusins Tony Palermo as Sound Effects Artist Kirsten Potter as Barbara Undershaft Roger Rees as Andrew Undershaft Russell Soder as Charles Lomax Amelia White as Rummy Mitchens/Mrs. Baines Missy Yager as Sarah Undershaft Sarah Zimmerman as Jenny Hill Directed by Dakin Matthews. Recorded before a live audience at the Skirball Cultural Center, Los Angeles in December, 2007.

Featuring: J.B. Blanc, Kate Burton, Matthew Gaydos, Brian George, Hamish Linklater, Henri Lubatti, Kirsten Potter, Roger Rees, Russell Soder, Amelia White, Missy Yager, Sarah Zimmerman

audio Misalliance

LA Theatre Works
Type: Audio

Taking place on a single day in May 1909, a self-made millionaire and his family invite their future nobleman-in-law for a visit to their estate in Surrey, England. In this delightfully clever play, issues of gender, class, politics and family are all targets for Shaw’s keen wit.

An L.A. Theatre Works full-cast performance featuring Tom Beyer, Joy Gregory, Roger Rees, Serena Scott Thomas, W. Morgan Sheppard, Eric Stoltz, Victoria Tennant, Tegan West and Douglas Weston.

Featuring: Tom Beyer, Joy Gregory, Roger Rees, Serena Scott Thomas, W. Morgan Sheppard, Eric Stoltz, Victoria Tennant, Tegan West, Douglas Weston

audio Mrs. Warren's Profession

LA Theatre Works
Type: Audio

Modern parallels abound in the plight of Cambridge-educated mathematics wiz Vivie Warren, who discovers that her comfortable upbringing was financed in unspeakable ways. Shaw pits a clever heroine against a memorable gallery of rogues in this superbly intelligent -- and still shocking -- comedy, banned for eight years from the English stage.

An L.A. Theatre Works full-cast performance featuring Paul Gutrecht, Kaitlin Hopkins, Shirley Knight, Basil Langton, Dakin Matthews and Robin Sachs.

Featuring: Paul Gutrecht, Kaitlin Hopkins, Shirley Knight, Basil Langton, Dakin Matthews, Robin Sachs

Now You See It

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Now You See It is a tale of love, jealousy, infidelity and hypnotism. Ribadier, the second wife of widow Angèle, evades his wife’s paranoid jealousy by means of his skills as a hypnotist. However, his cosy system begins to fall apart when he reveals his trick to Thommerau, a man seeking to romance Angèle himself.

In his introduction, translator Kenneth McLeish writes: 'Now You See It (Le Sysème Ribadier, written in collaboration with Hennequin in 1892), a darker comedy altogether, subverts the vaudeville tradition, even as it follows it, letting the men's obsessions turn them into mechanistic puppets – in a manner English readers may associate with Orton's characters in Loot or What the Butler Saw – while the heroine's character and personality flower before our eyes. It has one of the smallest casts and tightest construction of any Feydeau farce. It was one of the author's own favourite plays and he revived it in 1909 under a new title, Nothing Known.'

Now You See It was first performed at the Théâtre du Palais-Royal in 1892, the same year as The One That Got Away