Plays

Roots

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

It’s 1958. Beatie Bryant has been to London and fallen in love with Ronnie, a young socialist. As she anxiously awaits his arrival to meet her family at their Norfolk farm, her head is swimming with new ideas. Ideas of a bolder, freer world which promise to clash with their rural way of life.

Roots is the remarkable centrepiece of Wesker’s seminal post-war trilogy. It was first performed in 1959 at the Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, before transferring to the Royal Court. It is the second play in a trilogy comprising Chicken Soup with Barley and I’m Talking About Jerusalem. It went on to transfer to the Duke of York’s Theatre in the West End.

A true classic, Roots is an affecting portrait of a young woman finding her voice at a time of unprecedented social change.

Ross

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Terence Rattigan's play Ross explores the enigmatic life of T.E. Lawrence and his heroic incarnation as 'Lawrence of Arabia'. It was first presented by H.M. Tennent at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket, London, on 12 May 1960. This edition, with an introduction by Dan Rebellato, was published alongside the revival at the Chichester Festival Theatre in 2016.

The play is structured with a framing device set in 1922, when Lawrence was hiding under an assumed name as 'Aircraftman Ross' in the Royal Air Force, and is being disciplined by his Flight Lieutenant for alleged misconduct. No one seems to have become aware of his true identity, except for a man named Dickinson, who had seen Lawrence at the Paris Peace Conference of 1919 and quickly attempts to blackmail him to keep his identity secret. Lawrence, however, refuses, and Dickinson decides to reveal his identity to the Daily Mirror. The action then flashes back to mid-1916 and proceeds to tell a version of Lawrence's much-contested life story, beginning with him being given an unofficial assignment as a liaison officer to the forces of the Arab Revolt.

In his introduction to the play published in the Nick Hern Books edition (2016), Dan Rebellato writes that 'Ross was Terence Rattigan’s second most commercially successful play (after the light comedy When the Sun Shines), playing for nearly two years at the Theatre Royal Haymarket, one of London’s biggest theatres. When it closed in March 1962, it had been seen by over two-thirds of a million people. .... Unfortunately, Ross coincided with the sharp downturn in Rattigan’s reputation. Although it received some of the best and most respectful reviews of his career, the goodwill it had earned him was snuffed out two months later by Joie de Vivre, a disastrous musical adaptation of French Without Tears that was booed at the opening and closed within a week. It took twenty-five years for his reputation to recover'.

The 1960 premiere was directed by Glen Byam Shaw with Alec Guinness as Aircraftman Ross.

The 2016 production was directed by Adrian Noble and designed by William Dudley, with Joseph Fiennes as Aircraftman Ross.

Separate Tables

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Terence Rattigan's Separate Tables comprises two linked one-act plays set in the same small residential hotel on the south coast of England. The play examines social attitudes towards lifestyles and behaviour deemed morally reprehensible in 1950s Britain. It was first produced at the St. James’s Theatre, London, on 22 September 1954.

The action of both plays takes place in the lounge and dining-room of the Beauregard Private Hotel near Bournemouth. In the first play, Table by the Window, ex-Labour MP John Malcolm, who has spent time in prison for assaulting his wife Anne Shankland, lives a life of virtual anonymity, writing for a left-wing weekly, New Outlook, under the name ‘Cato’. He is in a relationship with Miss Cooper, the manageress of the hotel, where Anne turns up unexpectedly. Their successful reconciliation is disrupted when John discovers that her ‘accidental’ arrival was actually arranged, and he suspects her of trying to ‘enslave’ him again. But Miss Cooper, recognising the strength of feeling on both sides, gives way to Anne, and at the end of the play Anne and John have tentatively agreed to try again.

The second play, Table Number Seven, is set in the same place eighteen months later. The focus is now on Major David Pollock, a long-term, ex-public school resident of the hotel, who has struck up a curious friendship with Sibyl, the infantilised, terrorised, fragile daughter of the tyrannical Mrs Railton-Bell. Despite Pollock’s best efforts to hide the report of it in the local newspaper, Mrs Railton Bell discovers that he has been arrested for molesting women in a cinema, and that his identity is largely confected: he never was a Major, and never went to Wellington School. She calls a residents’ meeting, and, despite many misgivings, they are railroaded into voting for Pollock’s expulsion from the Hotel. Despite Miss Cooper’s urging, Pollock prepares to leave. That evening the residents settle down to dinner and are surprised when Pollock also takes up his usual table. To Mrs Railton-Bell’s horror, the residents, one by one, acknowledge Mr Pollock’s presence, and tacitly accept him back into the hotel. When Sibyl herself, who had been utterly distraught and sickened by the news report, rebels against her mother, Mrs Railton-Bell leaves the dining room, and the diners continue with their meal.

Rattigan originally conceived Major Pollock's offence as that of homosexuality, the practice of which was still a crime in Britain throughout the 1950s. An alternative version of the play, discovered amongst Rattigan's papers in the 1990s, brings the homosexual subtext to the surface: in that version, the Major has been bound over at one in the morning after persistently importuning male persons on the Esplanade. The text presented here is the ‘standard’ version, which first appeared in Rattigan’s Collected Plays and has formed the basis of all subsequent editions; the alternative scenes, which when substituted transform the story of Pollock’s crime, are printed in an appendix; where a passage exists in a variant version, a line appears in the margin alongside that passage. A full account of the two versions is given by Dan Rebellato in his introduction to the Nick Hern Books edition of the play (1999).

The St James’ Theatre premiere was directed by Peter Glenville with a cast including Eric Portman as John Malcolm/Major Pollock, Margaret Leighton as Anne Shankland/Sibyl, Phyllis Neilson-Terry as Mrs Railton-Bell and Beryl Measor as Miss Cooper.

The play proved another major commercial success for Rattigan in the West End and on Broadway, though he was soon to fall out of favour, seen as old-fashioned and outdated after the premiere of John Osborne's Look Back in Anger at the Royal Court in May 1956 and the emergence the so-called ‘Angry Young Men’. As Dan Rebellato observes, 'Separate Tables was his last success before perhaps the most sudden and dramatic fall from grace of any playwright this century.'

South Sea Bubble

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

On the island of Samola (Coward's fictional name for Jamaica), a place where the islanders are apparently happy under colonial rule, and do not welcome the Empire's slipping in international status, the leftist, English governor George Shottor is pushing for self-rule for the island: a position opposed by the native, Imperial-favouring, Tory-leaning, local grandee, Hali Alani.

A politically-minded comedy about colonialism, South Sea Bubble was first performed in the USA in 1951 as Island Fling. It received its London premiere, as South Sea Bubble, some five years later.

A Taste of Honey

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

A Taste of Honey became a sensational theatrical success when first produced in London by Joan Littlewood’s Theatre Workshop in 1958. Now established as a modern classic, this comic and poignant play, by a then nineteen-year-old working-class Lancashire girl, was praised at its London premiere by Graham Greene as having ‘all the freshness of Mr Osborne’s Look Back in Anger and a greater maturity.’ It was made into a highly acclaimed film in 1962.

The play is about the adolescent Jo and her relationship with her irresponsible mum, Helen, the Nigerian sailor who leaves Jo pregnant and Geoffrey, the homosexual art student who moves in to help Jo with the baby. It is also about Jo’s unshakeable optimism throughout her trials. This story of a mother and daughter relationship (imitated in many other modern British plays since), set in working-class Manchester, continues to engage new generations of audiences.

Turandot or The Whitewashers' Congress

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Based on the story of Turandot, a story that had been previously been adapted by Carlo Gozzi as a commedia dell'arte piece; by Friedrich Schiller as a stage play and by Giacomo Puccini as an opera, tells the story of the emperor's daughter Turandot, and the suitors who would marry her.

For his adaptation, Brecht has the action take place during a strike by clothes-makers – and the clothesless – who rise up in protest at the Emperor's dishonest manipulation of the cotton-market in which he has a monopoly: he is withholding stock until the prices. In order to control public relations, the Emperor hires three thinkers to invent reasons as to why the cotton market should be so dry; the winning thinker will win the hand of his daughter.

His last complete play, Turandot or The Whitewashers' Congress was never performed in Brecht's lifetime. It premiered at Zurich Schauspielhaus, in February 1969.

audio Twelve Angry Men

LA Theatre Works
Type: Audio

Over the course of a steamy and tense afternoon, twelve jurors deliberate the fate of a 19-year-old alleged to have murdered his own father. A seemingly open and shut case turns complicated, igniting passions and hidden prejudices.

An L.A. Theatre Works full-cast performance featuring: Dan Castellaneta as Juror #5 Jeffrey Donovan as Juror #8 Hector Elizondo as Juror #10 Robert Foxworth as Juror #3 James Gleason as Juror #2 Kevin Kilner as Juror #6 Richard Kind as Juror #7 Alan Mandell as Juror #9 Rob Nagle as Juror #12 Armin Shimerman as Juror #4 Joe Spano as Juror #11 Steve Vinovich as Foreman/Juror #1 Directed by John de Lancie. Recorded before a live audience at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles.

Featuring: Dan Castellaneta, Jeffrey Donovan, Hector Elizondo, Robert Foxworth, James Gleason, Kevin Kilner, Richard Kind, Alan Mandell, Rob Nagle, Armin Shimerman, Joe Spano, Steve Vinovich

audio Under Milk Wood

LA Theatre Works
Type: Audio

Matthew Rhys and Kate Burton headline a Welsh and Welsh-American cast celebrating the centenary of Dylan Thomas’ birth in a performance of his timeless “play for voices.” With characters such as Captain Cat, Polly Garter, and Nogood Boyo, Thomas brings to life the inhabitants of the fictional town of Llareggub in funny, poignant, and poetic detail.

Includes a conversation with Andrew Lycett, author of Dylan Thomas: A New Life.

An L.A. Theatre Works full-cast production, starring Matthew Rhys, Kate Burton, Laura Evans, John Francis, Jason Hughes, Christopher Monger, Cerris Morgan-Moyer, Jo Osmond, and Morgan Ritchie.

Directed by Sara Sugarman. Recorded before a live audience by L.A. Theatre Works.

Featuring: Matthew Rhys, Kate Burton, Laura Evans, John Francis, Jason Hughes, Christopher Monger, Cerris Morgan-Moyer, Jo Osmond, Morgan Ritchie

audio A View from the Bridge

LA Theatre Works
Type: Audio

Italian-American immigrant life in the 1950’s textures this searing drama of love and revenge. Longshoreman Eddie Carbone is devoted to his wife, Beatrice and to his niece, Catherine. When Beatrice’s impoverished Sicilian cousins enter the U.S. illegally, in hope of finding work, Eddie gives them a helping hand. But when Catherine and one of the cousins fall in love, Eddie’s affection for his niece turns into obsession.

Includes an interview with accomplished stage director Ethan McSweeny, whose resume includes an ongoing stint as the co-Artistic Director of the Chautauqua Theater Company. An L.A. Theatre Works full-cast performance featuring: Charles Cioffi as Alfieri Harry Hamlin as Marco Jamie Hanes as Rodolpho Mary McDonnell as Beatrice Peter Morse as Louis and others Ed O'Neill as Eddie Carbone Amy Pietz as Catherine Don Tieri as Mike and others Directed by Peter Levin.

Featuring: Charles Cioffi, Harry Hamlin, Jamie Hanes, Mary McDonnell, Peter Morse, Ed O'Neill, Amy Pietz, Don Tieri

Waiting in the Wings

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

At The Wings, a retirement community for former actresses, plans are afoot for a charity evening; a group of younger actresses are to come to give a fundraising performance for the ladies of the home. This event, and the arrival of a new resident, piques rivalries among the former greats as the bickering badinage of their former days is revisited in their dotage with aplomb.

Sheridan Morley writes in his introduction that 'the play has moments of near-Chekhovian dignity and melancholy [as well as] insights into the processes of ageing for people who have made their careers out of youth'.

Waiting in the wings was written as Coward entered his sixties: it was his fiftieth play, and was first performed in Dublin in 1960.