Plays by James Fritz

Comment Is Free  

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

James Fritz's play Comment is Free is about a journalist caught up in a devastating media storm. The published version of the play was first broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on 5 October 2016. An earlier version was performed in a staged reading as part of Old Vic New Voices in June 2015, directed by Kate Hewitt and produced by Martha Rose Wilson.

The play is presented as a text featuring hundreds of voices. According to an author's note, 'It should feel noisy – things should overlap, and not everything needs to be heard.' The action centres around a columnist and political commentator, Alistair Cooper, who is constantly in the news because of his inflammatory opinions. Alistair's voice is heard only through his answerphone message, but the play allows us to infer details of his public persona from the array of hostile voices ranged against him, including one voice that threatens to 'murder you and your wife slowly and then drown your daughter'. Alistair's wife, Hilary, insists that her husband's public persona is a 'panto version', very different from the 'real guy at home' who, she says, is 'a wonderful husband'. When Hilary's brother, Ben, warns her that Alistair's public image is getting out of hand, and that people are getting 'very upset', she dismisses his concerns. But then Alistair is found dead, the police come calling, and public opinion rapidly shifts in unpredictable ways.

The BBC Radio 4 production was directed and produced by Becky Ripley and performed by Rachael Stirling, Tobias Menzies, Alice Kirk, Alison Belbin and Jolyon Jenkins. The news was read by Neil Nunes, Susan Rae, Zeb Soanes and Ritula Shah, with Jonathan Dimbleby hosting Any Questions. ‘The Noise’ was voiced by Natasha Cowley, Luke MacGregor, Clare Perkins and Gavi Singh Chera, alongside hundreds of crowdsourced contributors from across the country.

The production went on to win both the Tinniswood and Imison Awards for Audio Drama.

The Fall

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

James Fritz’s The Fall is a play about ageing and intergenerational differences, written to be performed by young people. It was first performed by the National Youth Theatre of Great Britain at the Finborough Theatre, London, on 9 August 2016.

The play comprises three loosely connected scenes. In 'First', two young people, Boy and Girl, encounter a dead body for the first time. In 'Second', set 'years later', a married couple, One and Two, experience difficulty and frustration while caring for an ageing parent and supporting their child. In 'Third', again set 'years later', four older people, A, B, C and D, try to accommodate themselves to straitened circumstances in an institutional room intended for two, repeatedly tempted by the offer of cash settlements for their families if they agree to be euthanised.

The National Youth Theatre premiere was directed by Matt Harrison and designed by Chris Hone. The cast was Simeon Blake-Hall, Ben Butler, Oliver Clayton, Matilda Doran-Cobham, Hannah Farnhill, James Morley, Katya Morrison and LaTanya Peterkin.

Lava  

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

James Fritz’s play Lava is a drama set in the aftermath of a asteroid strike on the capital city, exploring grief, masculinity and the power of expression. It was first performed at Nottingham Playhouse on 15 June 2018, produced by Fifth Word and Nottingham Playhouse.

The play is set in an unspecified English town, in a time period not far removed from the present. A young man called Vin has lost the power of speech, and the only person who seems to notice is his friendly colleague Rach, who resolves to find out what’s troubling him and help him find his voice again. Vin's condition seems to be related to recent events in London, which has been hit by a small asteroid, displacing thousands of people. But Rach's concern for Vin, and their growing intimacy, is overtaken when her family take in Jamie, an articulate and charismatic survivor of the asteroid incident. Suddenly Vin is no longer Rach's first priority, and the resulting tensions bring the truth about Vin’s silence to the surface.

The premiere production was directed by Angharad Jones and designed by Amy Jane Cook. It was performed by Fred Fergus (as Jamie), Safiyya Ingar (as Rach), Emma Pallant (as Vicky) and Ted Reilly (as Vin). 

Parliament Square  

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

James Fritz's Parliament Square is a play that explores how far an individual should take a gesture of political protest in order to effect change. It won the Judges’ Award in the Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting 2015. It was first performed at the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester on 18 October 2017. The production then transferred to the Bush Theatre, London, from 30 November 2017.

The play follows the story of Kat, a young wife and mother, through three phases. In the first section, 'Fifteen Seconds', we watch as, instead of going to work one morning, she boards a train for London where she has determined to tip a can of petrol over her body in Parliament Square and set herself alight. We hear Kat on the trip to London in heated conversation with her inner voice as they play out the struggle between wanting to remain with her husband, Tommy, and daughter, Jo, and her belief that she will be bequeathing them a better world though her sacrifice. But she hasn’t bargained for the brave young woman, Catherine, who comes to her rescue and puts the flames out with her jacket. In the subsequent sections, Fifteen Steps and Fifteen Years, we see the consequences of Kat's actions play out in unexpected ways.

The first production was directed by Jude Christian and designed by Fly Davis. It was performed by Lois Chimimba, Esther Smith (as Kat), Damola Adelaja, Jamie Zubairi, Kelly Hotten, Joanne Howarth and Seraphina Beh.

Ross & Rachel

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

What happens when two friends who were always meant to be together, get together - and stay together? No one told them life was going to be this way...

A dark and uncompromising play about romance, expectation and mortality, James Fritz's Ross & Rachel takes an unflinching look at the myths of modern love. It was first produced by MOTOR at the Assembly George Square Theatre as part of the 2015 Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Start Swimming  

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

James Fritz's Start Swimming is a play that asks what power young people have to affect change and resist authority. It was developed by the Young Vic Taking Part department, and was first performed in The Clare, Young Vic, London, on 26 April 2017. It transferred to Summerhall, Edinburgh, on 2 August 2017, as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

The playtext is presented as a series of questions or instructions issued by an unnamed, unidentified authority figure to a subject or subjects, whose responses are met with either a reward or a punishment. In the text, a 'Y' indicates an affirmative response, 'a yes, or a ding, or a reward of some sort', while an 'X' indicates a negative response, 'a no, or a buzzer, or a punishment of some sort'. If the subject's response is met with an 'X', indicating a 'wrong' answer, the action is often reset to an earlier point, forcing the subject to amend their answer in order for the action to proceed.

In an Introduction in the published text, James Fritz writes that 'Start Swimming was made incredibly quickly in the spring of 2017 with director Ola Ince and Young Vic Taking Part. Tasked with responding to Paul Mason’s performance and book Why It’s Kicking Off Everywhere (which documented the successes and failures of the various protests and revolutions of 2011), Ola and I worked with a group of twelve young people from Lambeth and Southwark to create a new piece that would transfer from the Young Vic to the Edinburgh Fringe. Our aim was to make something that would articulate how our cast felt about growing up marginalised in a major city during a time of incredible political upheaval.'

The first production was directed by Ola Ince and designed by Jacob Hughes. It was performed by Adrian David Paul, Charlotte Dylan, Eleanor Williams, Emma James, Filipe Caetano, Hana Oliveira, Isaac Vincent, Kaajel Patel, Kimberley Okoye, Kwabena Ansah and Shanice Weekes-Brown.

Picture of James Fritz

James Fritz’s plays include Parliament Square (Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester, and Bush Theatre, London, 2017); Start Swimming (Young Vic Taking Part, Edinburgh Fringe, 2017); The Fall (National Youth Theatre at the Finborough Theatre, London, 2016); Comment is Free (Old Vic New Voices, 2015; BBC Radio 4, 2016; winner of the Imison and Tinniswood Awards for audio drama, 2017); Ross & Rachel (MOTOR at Assembly George Square, Edinburgh Festival Fringe, 2015; 59E59 Theaters, New York); Four Minutes Twelve Seconds (Hampstead Theatre, 2014; Most Promising Playwright, Critics' Circle Awards) and Lines (Rosemary Branch Theatre, 2011).