Plays

The Idiot

Faber and Faber
Type: Text

The Idiot is a dramatisation of Fyodor Dostoievsky’s original novel. In creating this stage play, Simon Gray chose some of the most vivid and contrasting episodes recounting the strange involvement between Prince Myshkin, the good natured ‘Idiot’, the beautiful Nastasya Filippovna and her desperate lover and husband, Rogozhin. The ambiguity of these episodes and the paradoxical atmosphere of Dostoievsky’s novel – hovering between sombre tragedy and grotesque farce – is heightened by the use of a strange, sinister commentator, the character of Ferdyschenko.

The Idiot was first presented by the National Theatre Company at the Old Vic, London, in July 1970.

I Just Stopped By To See The Man  

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Stephen Jeffreys’s play I Just Stopped By To See The Man is a drama about the myth surrounding an old blues singer. It was first performed at the Royal Court Theatre, London, on 30 November 2000.

The play is set in a bare ‘shotgun’ house in a small town in the Mississippi Delta in the summer of 1975. It is home to Jesse Davidson, 75, last of the old-time Delta blues singers, who is thought to have died fourteen years ago, and to his daughter Della, 34, on the run after her involvement with the Black Panthers. Their peace is shattered by the arrival of Karl, 31, an English rock star who idolises Jesse and whose band has been doing a gig in Memphis, Tennessee. Karl, facing the break-up of his band, sees salvation in persuading the reluctant Jesse to step back into the limelight for one last stand.

The Royal Court production was directed by Richard Wilson and designed by Julian McGowan. It was performed by Ciarán McMenamin (as Karl), Tommy Hollis (as Jesse) and Sophie Okonedo (as Della).

In Event of Moone Disaster  

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Andrew Thompson's play In Event of Moone Disaster is a family drama about space exploration and its impact on the lives of three women across a time-span of 80 years. The play won the 2016 Theatre503 Playwriting Award, and was first performed at Theatre503, London, on 9 October 2017.

The play's action takes place between 1969 and 2056, primarily in a small northern English village. In 1969, a young Sylvia Moone watches the moon landing and longs for someone to sweep her off on an adventure. In 2017, she’s a crotchety old woman, her memory failing, and her son and daughter-in-law are trying to conceive. In 2055, her granddaughter, also named Sylvia Moone, is preparing to become the first person to set foot on Mars.

The premiere production was directed by Lisa Spirling and designed by Sarah Beaton. It was performed by Rosie Wyatt (as Sylvia Moone), Thomas Pickles, Will Norris, Alicya Eyo and Dar Dash.

In Praise of Love

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Terence Rattigan's In Praise of Love is a play about a husband and wife who, with the best of intentions, deceive each other over the wife's fatal illness. It was based in part on the relationship between Rattigan's friend, the actor Rex Harrison, and his wife Kay Kendall, who died of leukaemia. The play was first produced as a one-act play under the title After Lydia in a double-bill with the short farce, Before Dawn, at the Duchess Theatre, London, on 27 September 1973. Rattigan reworked and extended the play as In Praise of Love for its New York premiere at the Morosco Theatre on 10 December 1974, starring Rex Harrison himself.

The play is set in a small flat in Islington in north London, the home of Sebastian and Lydia Cruttwell. Sebastian was a once-promising novelist, now a critic with Marxist sympathies. His sardonic indifference is tolerated amicably by Lydia, an Estonian refugee, whom Sebastian married after the war to secure her a British passport, and whom he seems absent-mindedly to have neglected to divorce ever since. But Lydia is dying: she has been diagnosed with advanced polyarteritis and is unlikely to live more than a year. She confides all this to a family friend, Mark Walters, but, wanting to spare him anxiety, not to Sebastian. Sebastian, however, admits to Mark that he knows all about the illness, and has been keeping Lydia in a state of what he believes to be sublime ignorance. The diagnosis has made Sebastian realise how much he loves his wife, though the need to persuade her that everything is normal has forced him painfully to continue a subterfuge of cantankerous off-handedness. Mark, caught between the loyalties of his old friend and the woman he has always loved, points Lydia towards the truth.

The Duchess Theatre premiere was directed by John Dexter with Joan Greenwood as Lydia and Donald Sinden as Sebastian.

The complex relationship between the action of the play and the real-life story of Rex Harrison and Kay Kendall is examined by Rattigan scholar Dan Rebellato in his introduction to the Nick Hern Books edition (2001). Rebellato traces the play's evolution as Rattigan reworked it for the New York premiere in which Harrison took on the part that he'd originally inspired, concluding that In Praise of Love is 'Rattigan’s last attempt at a well-made play and one of his best'.

The Jail Diary of Albie Sachs

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

When Albie Sachs walks into his chambers one morning, he feels a hand on his shoulder and soon finds himself surrounded by men in suits. Arrested and imprisoned without trial for speaking out against apartheid law, the young lawyer is held in solitary confinement in a concrete cell without a bunk or a chair, and only the Bible to read. Albie’s refusal to answer the special officers’ questions ensures his continued detainment, as he struggles to retain his convictions, and his sanity, alone in jail.

Based on the real-life figure of Albie Sachs, a South African lawyer, and drawing heavily on his diaries which detail his experience of apartheid in South Africa in the 1960s, this adaptation by David Edgar explores the endurance of the individual against loneliness, oppression and a justice system that is threatened by a growing movement towards emancipation.

The Jail Diary of Albie Sachs was first presented by the Royal Shakespeare Company at the Warehouse Theatre, London, in June 1978.

John, Paul, George, Ringo… and Bert

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

John, Paul, George, Ringo . . . and Bert was the first major hit for Willy Russell, one of Britain’s best-loved playwrights. A musical about The Beatles, it won the Evening Standard and London Critics’ awards for Best New Musical of 1974.

Commissioned and directed by Alan Dosser for Liverpool's Everyman Theatre where it opened in May 1974, the critically acclaimed production transferred to the Lyric Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, London in August. At the time, Time Out wrote that it was ‘Funny, incisive, well-acted and makes its points without any arty philosophising’.

Full of Willy Russell’s trademark wit and local Liverpudlian colour, John, Paul, George, Ringo . . . and Bert is a humourous and heart-warming story of Liverpool’s most famous four sons . . . and Bert.

Junkyard  

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Jack Thorne's Junkyard is a play, with music by Stephen Warbeck, about the creation of a playground out of junk. It was first performed at Bristol Old Vic Theatre on 2 March 2017 (previews from 24 February), in a co-production between Headlong, Bristol Old Vic, Rose Theatre Kingston and Theatr Clwyd.

The play's action takes place in a playground in Lockleaze, Bristol, in 1979. A group of kids from a Bristol school, seen as misfits and disregarded simply for coming from troubled backgrounds, are invited by a man named Rick to join him in building an adventure playground on a plot the headmaster has earmarked for the new maths block. Initially suspicious of the project, they nonetheless hang about watching Rick at work, feigning lack of interest but making bonds. By the end of the summer, they would die to defend the playground, and one of them almost does.

In an Introduction to the published script, Jack Thorne writes that the play was inspired by his own father and the 'junk playground he built with some kids at Lockleaze School in Bristol... But Junkyard is not about my dad... Rather,

it’s an attempt to walk the high wire he walked – and to tell the truth about the type of kids who built these playgrounds, the places they come from, the lives they lead.'

The premiere production was directed by Jeremy Herrin and designed by Chiara Stephenson. It was performed by Scarlett Brookes, Calum Callaghan (as Rick), Josef Davies, Erin Doherty, Kevin McMonagle, Enyi Okoronkwo, Seyi Omooba, Lisa Palfrey, Jack Riddiford and Ciaran Alexander Stewart

audio Just Between Ourselves

LA Theatre Works
Type: Audio

The first of Ayckbourn’s darkly comic masterpieces involves a relentlessly cheerful handyman in a disastrously fractured marriage. Two couples develop an unlikely friendship in this painfully funny portrait of British suburban life.

An L.A. Theatre Works full-cast performance featuring:

Gia Carides as Pam

Kenneth Danziger as Dennis

Judy Geeson as Vera

Miriam Margolyes as Marjorie

Alfred Molina as Neil

Directed by Waris Hussein. Recorded before a live audience at the Skirball Cultural Center, Los Angeles.

Featuring: Gia Carides, Kenneth Danziger, Judy Geeson, Miriam Margolyes, Alfred Molina

Lakeboat

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Dale Katzman is spending his summer vacation from university aboard a cargo ship on the Great Lakes. Hired on as a cook – to replace the unfortunate Guigliani who suffered a violent attack of some sort while on shore leave – Dale is thrust into a world of swearing, drinking, bordeom and sailing; a world, above all, of men.

Described by the New York times as 'Mamet's Life on the Mississippi [a memoir by Mark Twain] . . . the writing is effortless and intuitive - and some of tales are as tall as Twain's', Lakeboat is a semi-autobiographical play which draws inspiration from Mamet's own time working aboard a cargo ship.

Written first in 1970, it was revised and first performed in 1980 by the Court Street Theater, a project of the Milwaukee Repertory Theater, Wisconsin.

Laughter!

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Laughter! is a two act play that dramatises the screaming cruelty of Ivan the Terrible – the sixteenth century Russian Tsar – and the anaesthetized bureaucracy which administrated the Nazi concentration camps in the twentieth century.

Act One joins Ivan the Terrible in a torture chamber, raging in devout and deranged anguish as he slowly impales a man on a stake, and kills his own son. Act Two takes place in an administrative building in Berlin, 1942, where office-workers are have received new instructions for the systematic categorisation of deaths. Laughter!’s daring treatment of concentration camps, which involves a music-hall style routine, meant that the play had a troubled reception, but Peter Barnes does more than court controversy, probing the cavity between comedy and tragedy, examining the mechanisms – among them laughter – which dampen atrocity.

Laughter! was first performed in 1978 at the Royal Court Theatre, London.