Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

At the beginning of Bartlett’s political and profound epic play, twelve completely different people across London wake up from an identical, terrifying dream – monsters and explosions, thousands of voices. At the same moment, a young man named John returns home after years away to find economic gloom, ineffective protest, and a Prime Minister about to declare war. But John has a vision for the future and a way to make it happen.

Coincidences, omens and visions collide with political reality in this ambitious and dextrous play, which depicts a London both familiar and strange, a London staring into the void.

13 explores the meaning of personal responsibility, the hold that the past has over the future and the nature of belief itself.

The play was first performed in 2011 at the National Theatre, London.

20th Century Blues

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Four women bond and become one another's timetable of history. Through the vagaries of love, careers, children, lost causes and tragedy, the women reunite once a year for a photo shoot, chronicling their changing (and aging) selves. But, when these private photographs have the potential to become part of a public exhibit, mutiny erupts and relationships are tested. The images unearth secrets and force the women to question who they are, what they've become, and how they'll navigate whatever lies ahead.

2 Pianos 4 Hands

Playwrights Canada Press
Type: Text

Amidst pushy parents, eccentric teachers, hours of repetitive practice, stage fright, the agony of competitions and exams and the dream of greatness, Ted and Richard grow up as ‘piano nerds’. As they mature, they become more aware of the gap between the merely very good and the great, and come to the humbling realization that concert stardom may be out of reach, but they just might be two of the best piano players in the neighbourhood, and that in itself is worth celebrating.

6 Essential Questions

Playwrights Canada Press
Type: Text

6 Essential Questions tells the story of Renata as she travels to Brazil to reunite with the mother who abandoned her when she was just five years old. In Rio, Renata discovers more than she bargained for in her quest to uncover the truth of who abandoned whom. She is continually tossed about by her undead grandmother and a semi-invisible uncle as they choreograph the ultimate dance of mother and daughter, both of whom must confront their dreams before they can ever attempt to confront each other. Imaginations run wild in this strangely beautiful and funny story loosely based on Uppal’s critically acclaimed memoir, Projection: Encounters with My Runaway Mother, a finalist for both the Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction and the Governor General’s Literary Award for Non-Fiction.


Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

7/11 by Kia Corthron is a short play based on the September 11th attacks.

audio 8

LA Theatre Works
Type: Audio

George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Martin Sheen lead an all-star cast in a powerful portrait of an American civil rights struggle, written by Dustin Lance Black (Milk, J. Edgar) and directed by Rob Reiner (When Harry Met Sally, A Few Good Men).

In November 2008, California’s Proposition 8 stripped the freedom to marry away from gay and lesbian couples. Now, two of the nation’s most renowned attorneys, under the auspices of the American Foundation for Equal Rights, have joined forces to challenge Proposition 8 under the United States Constitution. “8” faithfully recreates the progression of the historic 2010 federal trial through original court transcripts and interviews conducted with the plaintiffs, as their stories are brought to life before a live audience. Exclusive interviews include: - Dustin Lance Black and Rob Reiner, playwright and director of “8” - David Boies and Theodore B. Olson, lead attorneys for the plaintiffs challenging Proposition 8 - Backstage interview montage with actors George Clooney, Martin Sheen, Jamie Lee Curtis, John C. Reilly, Jane Lynch, Jesse Tyler Ferguson and James Pickens, Jr. A full-cast performance featuring: Brad Pitt as Chief Judge Vaughn Walker George Clooney as David Boies Martin Sheen as Theodore B. Olson Kevin Bacon as Charles Cooper Jamie Lee Curtis as Sandy Stier Christine Lahti as Kris Perry John C. Reilly as David Blankenhorn Jane Lynch as Maggie Gallagher Jesse Tyler Ferguson as Dr. Ilan Meyer Matthew Morrison as Paul Katami Chris Colfer as Ryan Kendall Yeardley Smith as Dr. Nancy Cott Matt Bomer as Jeff Zarrillo George Takei as Dr. William Tam Rory O’Malley as Dr. Gregory Herek Cleve Jones as Evan Wolfson James Pickens, Jr. as Dr. Gary Segura Jansen Panettiere as Elliott Perry Bridger Zadina as Spencer Perry Vanessa Garcia as Clerk Campbell Brown as Broadcast Journalist Directed by Rob Reiner. Recorded before a live audience at the Wilshire Ebell Theater, Los Angeles on March 3, 2012.

Featuring: Kevin Bacon, Matt Bomer, Campbell Brown, George Clooney, Chris Colfer, Jamie Lee Curtis, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Vanessa Garcia, Cleve Jones, Christine Lahti, Jane Lynch, Matthew Morrison, Rory O'Malley, Jansen Panettiere, James Pickens Jr., Brad Pitt, John C. Reilly, Martin Sheen, Yeardley Smith, George Takei, Bridger Zadina

The Absence of War

Faber and Faber
Type: Text

The Absence of War offers a meditation on the classic problems of leadership, and is the third part of a critically acclaimed trilogy of plays (Racing Demon, Murmuring Judges) about British institutions.

Its unsparing portrait of a Labour Party torn between past principles and future prosperity, and of a deeply sympathetic leader doomed to failure, made the play hugely controversial and prophetic when it was first presented at the National Theatre, London, in 1993.

The Absence of Women  

Faber and Faber
Type: Text

- he hadn't forgotten i was there - he just didn't care whether i was there or not - it would've been better him forgetting rather than not caring at all

Gerry and Iggy face the ends of their lives in a London hostel. As they drift from present concerns – the funeral of an old drinking partner, the relative sizes of their swollen livers, tube routes, street names, God and the lure of Belfast – to remembering ghosts from long ago, we catch a poignant glimpse of what might have been.

Owen McCafferty's The Absence of Women, heartrending and darkly comic in turn, premiered at the Lyric Theatre, Belfast, in February 2010. 

audio Absent Forever

LA Theatre Works
Type: Audio

A bright and politically-engaged college student goes missing after a demonstration turns violent. But as her grieving mother begins her search, she uncovers a dark side to her daughter which she never knew existed.

An L.A. Theatre Works full-cast recording, starring: John de Lancie, Kaitlin Hopkins, Shirley Knight, Al Ruscio and Jennifer Warren.

Directed by Peggy Shannon and recorded before a live audience by L.A. Theatre Works.

Featuring: John de Lancie, Kaitlin Hopkins, Shirley Knight, Al Ruscio, Jennifer Warren

Absolutely! (Perhaps)

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Absolutely! (Perhaps) is a sparkling comedy on the elusive nature of reality, in which truth is negotiable and identity is performed. It is an adaptation of Luigi Pirandello’s first play Così è (Se Vi Pare), and opened at the Wyndham’s Theatre in 2003.

In a small Italian town lives Signor Ponza, his wife and his apparent mother-in-law Signora Frola, who he will not allow to visit. With the neighbours gossiping over his cruelty, Signor Ponza claims that Signora Frola is mad and refusing to accept that her daughter is dead, and that he now lives with his second wife. Signora Frola counters the accusation, claiming that Ponza has unwittingly re-married his first wife. Impossibly, the Signora Ponza in question claims to be both daughter and second wife, plunging the play into a tangle of fractious theatricality.

Contemporary British theatre

British theatre culture is characterised by innovative new writing, naturalistic acting and responsiveness to political change. During the past three decades, upheavals in society have been mirrored by the theatre. The long reign of Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, which started in May 1979 and ended in November 1990, broke the economic, social and political consensus of postwar Britain, introducing the ideology of monetarism, the practice of privatisation and the rule of the market. In the 1980s, the money distributed by the Arts Council to theatres was repeatedly cut. In 1994, the National Lottery was created by John Major’s Conservative government, and this paid for ambitious theatre building projects. The arrival of Tony Blair and New Labour in 1997 continued these trends, but it was not until the 2000s that, following the Boyden Report, an extra £25 million was pumped into the beleaguered theatre system nationwide. One result was a boom in new writing in the first decade of the new millennium.

The profoundest effect of Thatcherism was commercialisation: during the 1980s and 1990s, theatres became businesses as well as arts organizations. These years also saw the amazing triumph of the commercial West End. Composer and theatre-owner Andrew Lloyd Webber made theatre history in 1991 with six shows running at the same time in London’s Theatreland. In July 1993 his Sunset Boulevard opened with £4 million in advance bookings, and in January 1996 Cats (1981) — with its instantly recognisable yellow-eye logo — became the longest running musical in history. In 1994, he repeated his achievements of 1982 and 1988 by having three musicals running in London and three in New York at the same time. Two years later, Madonna starred in the film version of his Evita. In the 1997 New Year’s honours list, as a farewell gift from the departing Conservatives, he was made a life peer, a high point of a career that made him one of the richest men in Britain. Likewise, Cameron Mackintosh, the other major musical producer, enjoyed continued success with Claude-Michel Schonberg and Alain Boubil’s Les Miserables (1985), which had been developed by the RSC and is currently the longest-running musical, closely followed by Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera (1986), both making billions in box office worldwide. The decade ended with Schonberg and Boubil’s Miss Saigon (1989) and the arrival of jukebox musicals, led by Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story (1989). Since then, other West End long-runners include Willy Russell’s Blood Brothers (1983), Disney’s The Lion King (1997) and Abba’s Mamma Mia! (1999). Agatha Christie’s museum-piece The Mousetrap (1952) was joined by Stephen Mallatratt’s The Woman in Black (1987) and more recently by Patrick Barlow’s The 39 Steps (2005). By 2012, the Society of London Theatre announced that annual West End ticket sales had topped £500 million.

The broad trends of British theatre in the 1980s included not only the emergence of blockbusting musicals, but also the arrival of epic theatre. A good example is David Edgar’s eight-and-a half-hour adaptation of The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby for the state-subsidised RSC in 1980. Another is Tony Harrison’s three-part version of The Mysteries (1985) for the National Theatre. Traditionally, a mixture of naturalism and socially progressive realism was, to a greater or lesser extent, the main aesthetic of British theatre. Playwrights sought both to mirror society, and to change it. Controversial new plays by the 1968 generation of radicals were headed by Howard Brenton’s The Romans in Britain (1980), which was the subject of a private prosecution for obscenity by Mary Whitehouse. Other notable plays were Brenton and David Hare’s satirical Pravda (1985), Jim Cartwright’s debut Road (1986), Alan Ayckbourn’s A Small Family Business (1987) and Hare’s The Secret Rapture (1988). Each engaged with the social impact of Thatcherism.

Two other trends were visible: the rise in women playwrights and of black and Asian theatre. Older women such as Caryl Churchill, Pam Gems and Timberlake Wertenbaker were joined by new arrivals such as Sarah Daniels, April de Angelis, Charlotte Keatley, Sharman Macdonald and Andrea Dunbar. Churchill’s Top Girls (1982) and Keatley’s My Mother Said I Never Should (1987) are now modern classics. Characteristically, these plays represent women’s lives through an innovative approach to structure. Churchill’s Serious Money (1987) and Wertenbaker’s Our Country’s Good (1988) explore the contemporary by engaging with history. Dunbar was a genuinely working-class writer, and her play Rita, Sue and Bob Too (1982) was also filmed. Daniels’s Masterpieces (1983) is a feminist tract.

Black and Asian companies such as Tara Arts, Tamasha and Talawa, plus playwrights Hanif Kureishi (Outskirts), Mustapha Matura (Playboy of the West Indies) and Winsome Pinnock (Leave Taking), made their presence felt during the 1980s. Another trend involved the creation of small-scale companies, whose highly recognisable aesthetic styles proved widely influential. These were headed by Théâtre de Complicité, which later became Complicite, and whose long line of physical-theatre productions culminated in Mnemonic (1999). Likewise, Shared Experience pioneered outstanding adaptations of classic novels, often scripted by Helen Edmundson, while Cheek by Jowl concentrated on vividly acted revivals of the classics. But, across the decade, the embattled feeling due to cuts in state subsidy had a demoralising effect. By the end of the 1980s, there was talk of a crisis in new writing.

In the 1990s, new writing revived, but political plays gave way to personal ones. Starting with younger playwrights such as Philip Ridley (The Pitchfork Disney) and Anthony Neilson (Penetrator), a new sensibility, called in-yer-face theatre, developed. While the moment of in-yer-face theatre — raw, uncompromising drama that smashed taboos and provoked audiences — was short-lived, spanning the four years between the arrival of Sarah Kane’s notoriously shocking debut Blasted at the Royal Court in January 1995 and her suicide in February 1999, it changed the face of new writing.

The sudden emergence of a large number of new voices — Mark Ravenhill, Jez Butterworth, Martin McDonagh, Patrick Marber, Joe Penhall, David Eldridge, Moira Buffini, Phyllis Nagy, Judy Upton, Rebecca Prichard and Nick Grosso — suggested a renaissance and some critics spoke enthusiastically of a golden age. Ravenhill’s Shopping and Fucking (1996) publicised the new sensibility, while Butterworth’s Mojo (1995), McDonagh’s Leenane Trilogy (1997) and Marber’s Closer (1997) were commercially successful.

From Scotland came David Greig and David Harrower (Knives in Hens); from Ireland arrived Conor McPherson, whose The Weir (1997) was a massive West End success. Elsewhere, Roy Williams and Tanika Gupta moved across the theatrical spectrum from writing plays about their Caribbean and Bengali heritage to penning dramas about contemporary Britain. Ayub Khan Din’s East Is East (1997) was a big hit. In terms of the avant-garde, Martin Crimp’s Attempts on Her Life (1997) was the most experimental and daring play of the decade. It could never be as commercial as Jonathan Harvey’s feelgood Beautiful Thing (1993), Kevin Elyot’s comic My Night with Reg (1994) and Shelagh Stephenson’s resonant The Memory of Water (1996). Bucking the widespread trend against political drama, the Tricycle Theatre produced The Colour of Justice (1999), a tribunal theatre piece based on the Stephen Lawrence enquiry.

In the 1990s, many new writers were interested in the overarching subject of masculinity in crisis, but older playwrights had other concerns: having penned a farce classic — Noises Off (1982) — in the 1980s, Michael Frayn wrote a dazzling science play, Copenhagen (1998), while Stoppard’s Arcadia (1993) and The Invention of Love (1997) explored Englishness, as did Alan Bennett’s The Madness of George III (1991) and The Wind in the Willows (1991). David Hare’s Trilogy (1993), Skylight (1995) and Amy’s View (1997) confirmed his status as the National’s in-house political dramatist, while David Edgar’s Pentecost (1994) examined global politics after the Fall of the Berlin Wall. By contrast, Terry Johnson’s Hysteria (1993) and Dead Funny (1994) mixed farce with gender insights. Howard Barker and Edward Bond continued to write their uniquely challenging work.

In the 2000s, as state funding for theatre rose, new writing multiplied in its practitioners and diversified in its subjects — and young writers rediscovered overtly political concerns. In the aftermath of 9/11, the fashion for verbatim theatre was widespread: David Hare’s Stuff Happens (2004) mixed fact and fiction, while My Name Is Rachel Corrie and Talking to Terrorists are but two of many examples. Other political plays were headed by Alistair Beaton’s Feelgood (2001), which satirised Blair’s obsession with spin. Likewise, typical 2000s’ themes were the War on Terror, the Iraq War and the culture of fear, the social problems of poverty and violence, the effects of migration from the EU and beyond, and the disaffection of segregated communities. Joe Penhall’s ethical debate drama Blue/Orange (2000) and Charlotte Jones’s family drama Humble Boy (2001) were often revived.

As far as new arrivals are concerned, Simon Stephens (On the Shore of the Wide World) and Richard Bean were two of the most prolific and powerful new voices to emerge in this decade. Bean’s England People Very Nice (2009) was very provocative and his Goldoni adaptation, One Man, Two Guvnors (2011) was a huge international success, as was Jez Butterworth’s battered pastoral Jerusalem (2009). Similarly, in Scotland, Gregory Burke joined David Greig, David Harrower and Liz Lochhead as a chronicler of the new millennium. His Black Watch (2006) and Anthony Neilson’s The Wonderful World of Dissocia (2004) were hits for the newly established National Theatre of Scotland. Meanwhile, the most controversial play of the decade, Gurprett Kaur Bhatti’s Behzti (2004), was staged in Birmingham, and concerned religion and abuse.

While new black playwrights such as Kwame Kwei-Armah (Elmina’s Kitchen) and debbie tucker green (Stoning Mary) were staged at the National and Royal Court, The Big Life, a musical about the Windrush generation, moved from the Theatre Royal Stratford East into the West End in 2005. Roy Williams’s Sing Yer Heart Out for the Lads (2002) and Tanika Gupta’s Sugar Mummies (2006) were notable successes. The increase in dystopic visions of the future testifies to the imagination of playwrights: examples include Caryl Churchill’s Far Away (2000), her A Number (2002) and Philip Ridley’s Mercury Fur (2005). Lucy Prebble’s Enron (2009) summed up the economic crisis; Alan Bennett’s The History Boys (2004) and Lee Hall’s The Pitman Painters (2007) explored the past.

A new crop of talents, such as Dennis Kelly, Laura Wade, Mike Bartlett, Tim Crouch, Steve Waters, Bola Agbaje, Chloe Moss, Polly Stenham, Penelope Skinner and James Graham, together ensured that the 2000s were a remarkable decade for new writing. Many were also commercially successful: Peter Gill’s The York Realist (2002), Polly Stenham’s That Face (2007), Laura Wade’s Posh (2010), April De Angelis’s Jumpy (2011) and Nick Payne’s Constellations (2012) all transferred to the West End. As did National Theatre shows such as Nick Stafford’s adaptation of War Horse (2007), with its puppetry, and One Man, Two Guvnors, with its slapstick. Finally, new forms of non-text-based theatre, such as the work of the Shunt and Punchdrunk companies, as well as experiments in site-specific, immersive theatre and one-on-one theatre, made a big impact. By 2012, the effects of Coalition government cuts in funding for the theatre had not as yet been felt.

Aleks Sierz