Plays

Love in Idleness

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Terence Rattigan's Love in Idleness is the third in an unofficial trilogy of war plays, following Flare Path (1942) and While the Sun Shines (1943). It is a play that explores the conflict between the values of pre-war Britain, and those that Rattigan saw would dominate the post-war world. The play was first produced (after a pre-London tour) at the Lyric Theatre, London, on 20 December 1944.

The plot, which consciously draws on that of Hamlet, has seventeen-year-old Michael Brown returning to wartime London from evacuation to Canada, brimming with socialist convictions – only to find that his widowed mother, Olivia, has become the mistress of wealthy industrialist Sir John Fletcher, a leading member of the war cabinet and a staunch Tory. Sparks fly between the idealistic younger man and the pragmatic politician while Olivia is torn between them.

Rattigan's first version of the play had the title Less Than Kind (another Hamlet reference), and had been written for stage and musical comedy star Gertrude Lawrence. But when Lawrence turned down the play without even reading the script, Rattigan reconceived it as a vehicle for Lynn Fontanne and Alfred Lunt. The Lunts, as they were known, were perhaps the most beloved actors of the era, stars of Broadway since the 1920s and resident in London during the second half of the war. The play then evolved considerably, particularly at the behest of Alfred Lunt, who imposed on Rattigan to make his character (Sir John Fletcher) more sympathetic – changes that Rattigan seemed happy to make, yet which significantly altered the balance of the play's politics. A full account of the differences between Love in Idleness and Less Than Kind is given by Dan Rebellato in his introduction to the Nick Hern Books edition (2011), which contains the texts of both plays.

The Lyric Theatre premiere of Love in Idleness was directed by Alfred Lunt, with Lynn Fontanne as Olivia Brown, Margaret Murray as Polton, Peggy Dear as Miss Dell, Alfred Lunt as Sir John Fletcher, Brian Nissen as Michael Brown, Kathleen Kent as Diana Fletcher, Mona Harrison as Celia Wentworth, Frank Forder as Sir Thomas Markham and Antoinette Keith as Lady Markham.

The reviews were hugely enthusiastic, yet more so for the Lunts' performances than for Rattigan's script. The critic for the Recorder was typical: ‘But what about the author? It is so hard to say. The lines sounded as if they were the wittiest since the days of Oscar Wilde. What is more, they may have been. But what can a critic say when there are two actors who are so supreme in their art that they can make the mention of a boiled egg sound like the climax of human happiness or the depths of disillusionment?’

A new production of the play under the title O Mistress Mine, with the Lunts reprising their original roles, opened on Broadway at the Empire Theatre on 23 January 1946. It ran for 452 performances, by far Rattigan’s longest US run.

Madame Rubinstein  

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Set against the glamorous skylines of 1950s Manhattan, world-leading cosmetics entrepreneur Helena Rubinstein is locked in a power struggle with rivals Elizabeth Arden and Revlon.

From humble beginnings as a Polish-Jewish immigrant, this is the story behind one of the best-known faces in the world of beauty. But as her professional and family conflicts reach fever pitch, will the ghosts of a turbulent past topple one of the world's richest businesswomen?

Madame Rubinstein is a bright new comedy where the nails are painted and the gloves are off. Yet when the lipstick bleeds and the makeup fades, what is there left to hide behind?

Written by esteemed Australian playwright John Misto, this edition of the text was published to coincide with its 2017 run at the Park Theatre, London. 

audio Middle of the Night

LA Theatre Works
Type: Audio

One of America’s best-loved writers, Paddy Chayefsky - an Academy Awards winner for his manuscripts of Marty, The Hospital and Network - created this lovely, wistful play about an unlikely romance. An unforgettable story of true love about an older widower who falls in love with his young secretary.

An L.A. Theatre Works full-cast performance featuring Annie Abbott, Elliott Gould, Christina Haag, Andrew Hawkes, Sally Kellerman, Sharon Madden,Julia McIlvaine, Lisa Pelikan, Amy Pietz and Kenny Williams.

Featuring: Annie Abbott, Elliott Gould, Christina Haag, Andrew Hawkes, Sally Kellerman, Sharon Madden,Julia McIlvaine, Lisa Pelikan, Amy Pietz, Kenny Williams

Nude With Violin

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

When world-famous painter Paul Sorodin dies it is, for his friends, a tragedy, but for the world, a catastrophe. Adding to the trauma of the loss it seems, at first, that the master left no will, meaning his wife, estranged from the great man for more than twenty years, is set to pocket his entire lucrative estate, the proceeds from a lifetime of producing renowned and valuable art.

However, Sorodin's bereaved friend and valet Sebastien does produce a will, sent to him personally by the great painter, which states unequivocally that while his estate will go to his wife, that estate is worth nothing – for Sorodin was a life-long and inveterate fraud who never painted a picture in his life.

Written originally as a vehicle for Sir John Gielgud who directed and starred in the play's premiere at the Olympia Theatre, Dublin, 1956, Nude with Violin is a light comedy of manners that reflects on the nature of art and its value, and cost, to society.

audio On the Waterfront

LA Theatre Works
Type: Audio

Terry Malloy, the “seemingly soulless street survivor,” unwittingly lures a rebellious longshoreman to his death in Budd Schulberg’s searing drama about the New York waterfront, the racketeering unions controlling it, and the kid who “could’a been a contender.”

An L.A. Theatre Works full-cast performance featuring Scott Atkinson, Jake Bern, Maurice Chasse, Richard Cox, Kevin Daniels, Bruce Davison, Jeffrey Donovan, Hector Elizondo, Dave Florek, Chris Hatfield, Jon Matthews, Nick Offerman, Rebecca Pidgeon, Stephen Ramsey, David Selby, Josh Stamberg and Tegan West.

Featuring: Scott Atkinson, Jake Bern, Maurice Chasse, Richard Cox, Kevin Daniels, Bruce Davison, Jeffrey Donovan, Hector Elizondo, Dave Florek, Chris Hatfield, Jon Matthews, Nick Offerman, Rebecca Pidgeon, Stephen Ramsey, David Selby, Josh Stamberg, Tegan West

Quadrille

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Quadrille, a glittering Victorian comedy of marital reassortment, tells the story of Hubert, the Marquess of Heronden, and Charlotte, otherwise known as Mrs. Axel Diensen, who both leave their respective spouses to run off together. When the abandoned spouses, Serena, the Marchioness of Heronden, and Axel Diensen, a railway magnate, join forces to get their spouses back, they find that they are more drawn to each other than to the partners who had abandoned them.

Quadrille was first performed at the Opera House, Manchester, on 15 July 1952, and then in London at the Phoenix Theatre on 12 September 1952, in a production directed by Coward himself. At the time, the Evening Standard wrote: ‘Miss Fontanne plays the madcap Marchioness with the crackle and sheen of a five-pound note. Her eyes mock marvellously, her voice cuts like a knife into a wedding cake, and the scene in Act Three, on the eve of her elopement with Mr. Lunt, is as delicious as crushed ice.’

Relative Values

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Miranda Frayle is an actress who has risen, she says, from poverty and cockney squalor to acquire a higher station in life: a station she intends to consolidate by her marriage to the wealthy Nigel Marshwood, son of Felicity, Countess of Marchwood.

What Miranda doesn't know is that her future mother-in-law's maid, Moxie, is in fact Miranda's sister, a sister she was raised with not in squalor, but in bourgeois and ordinary surroundings in Sidcup. When Moxie hears Miranda romanticising and slandering her family, she cannot help but reveal the connection.

An upstairs–downstairs satire of the complexities of snobbery and reverse snobbery, Relative Values was first performed in 1951, premiering at the Savoy Theatre, London in November of that year, restoring Coward's contemporary reputation as a playwright after a string of post-war box-office flops.

The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui (Modern Classics)

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui is a savage satire in blank verse on the rise of Hitler, wittily transposed into a small-time gangster’s takeover of Chicago’s greengrocery trade. The seam of black comedy which runs through this political parable does not lessen the sharpness of its accusation; the unpleasantness of the pseudo-dictator Ui, one of Brecht’s most intense creations, is hardly a revelation, but Brecht points to the resistibility of his rise, and on the society that permitted it.

The names he gives to Ui’s henchmen mirror those of their Nazi counterparts, and the ominous pattern of events by which Ui takes control of the Cauliflower Trust is mapped by explanatory notices onto the real historical events in Germany, ensuring the play never strays far from its terrible inspiration. The play was not staged in Brecht’s lifetime, and although he intended it for an American audience, the first production was at Stuttgart in 1958.

Using a wide range of parody and pastiche – from Al Capone to Shakespeare’s Richard III and Goethe’s Faust – Brecht creates a hilariously comic and darkly condemnatory allegory which warns of the persistence of fascism. This version is translated by Ralph Manheim.

The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui (Student Editions)

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui is a savage satire in blank verse on the rise of Hitler, wittily transposed into a small-time gangster’s takeover of Chicago’s greengrocery trade. The seam of black comedy which runs through this political parable does not lessen the sharpness of its accusation; the unpleasantness of the pseudo-dictator Ui, one of Brecht’s most intense creations, is hardly a revelation, but Brecht points to the resistibility of his rise, and on the society that permitted it.

The names he gives to Ui’s henchmen mirror those of their Nazi counterparts, and the ominous pattern of events by which Ui takes control of the Cauliflower Trust is mapped by explanatory notices onto the real historical events in Germany, ensuring the play never strays far from its terrible inspiration. The play was not staged in Brecht’s lifetime, and although he intended it for an American audience, the first production was at Stuttgart in 1958.

Using a wide range of parody and pastiche – from Al Capone to Shakespeare’s Richard III and Goethe’s Faust – Brecht creates a hilariously comic and darkly condemnatory allegory which warns of the persistence of fascism. This version is translated by Ralph Manheim.

A Resounding Tinkle

Faber and Faber
Type: Text

N. F. Simpson, whose work includes One Way Pendulum, led the twentieth century British Absurdist movement. His first play, A Resounding Tinkle, was one of the winners in the Observer play competition in 1957. The 'incessant ambush of non-sequiturs', as Kenneth Tynan described it, is a gloriously comic revelation of the absurdity of every day life.

A Resounding Tinkle was revived with the sketch Gladly Otherwise at the Donmar Warehouse in July 2007.