Martin Sherman

Plays by Martin Sherman

Aristo

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Aristo, based on the life of the wealthy shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis, is an explosive account of how those in positions of enormous power and wealth often live lives detached from the realities and moralities of everyday existence.

After a notorious affair with the opera singer Maria Callas, Onassis married Jacqueline Kennedy, widow of the US President John F. Kennedy, in 1968. Commented on by a gossiping Greek chorus, Aristo is a portrait of the complex and sometimes dark entanglements of their families, his relationships with Jacqueline and the scorned Maria, and the tragedy of his son Alexandros. Aristo, like Onassis himself, is charming, charismatic, and inescapably sinister.

Based in part on Peter Evans’ book Nemesis, Aristo premiered at the Chichester Festival Theatre in 2008.

Bent

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Martin Sherman’s most famous play, Bent is a shattering tragedy about the treatment of homosexual men under the Nazi regime; its raw, harrowing depiction of extreme persecution and punishment lifted briefly by human connection has become a theatrical classic.

The play follows Max, who lives in Berlin with his partner Rudy, a dancer. On one cocaine-fuelled night he brings home a stranger, blond and into S&M, but wakes in the morning to find they have to get out of the city and disappear. Unable to get over the border and out of Germany, Max and Rudy are arrested and put on a train to Dachau. Max’s morality, affection and humanity are pressed to terrible extremes, as Sherman provides an account of defiance and courage amidst unimaginable oppression.

Bent was given a staged reading at the 1978 Eugene O’Neill playwrights’ conference in Connecticut; it received its world premiere in 1979 at the Royal Court Theatre, London.

Cracks

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Cracks is a farcical whodunit, a psychedelic and satiric twist on the Agatha Christie plot of eight party guests, a blackout and a murder.

The deceased – a rockstar named Rick – was shot in the middle of practising a wild dance routine involving covering his body in paint. His death brings the party mostly to an end, though some of the guests seem to consider sex, drugs and intimate plastercasts the best way to deal with their grief. Sherman creates an affectionately ridiculous melange of free-spirited, egomaniacal characters; among them the young woman possessed by the spirit of her dead analyst, the cross-dressing bodyguard, and the Jewish former Buddhist becoming a Catholic monk who is prepared to give up sex except inside the monastery. Their ineffectual attempts to solve the mystery are screamingly funny, and the list of suspects is narrowing each time the lights go out . . .

Sherman’s riotous comic thriller is a mocking appreciation of late sixties and early seventies drug culture and hedonism, as well as being a gripping mystery. It was first performed in 1975 at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre Centre in Waterford, Connecticut.

Gently Down the Stream  

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Beau, a pianist expat living in London, meets Rufus, an eccentric young lawyer, at the dawn of the internet dating revolution. After a life spent recovering from the disappointment and hurt of loving men in a world that refused to allow it, Beau is determined to keep his expectations low with Rufus.

But Rufus comes from a new generation of gay men who believe happiness is as much their right as anyone else's, and what Beau assumed would be just another fling grows into one of the most surprising and defining relationships of his life.

A remarkably moving, brilliantly funny love story, Gently Down the Stream is the latest play from acclaimed playwright Martin Sherman. The play reflects the triumphs and heartbreaks of the entire length of the gay rights movement, celebrating and mourning the ghosts of the men and women who led the way for equality, marriage and the right to dream.

It received its world premiere at the Public Theatre, New York, on 14 March 2017 in a production starring Tony-award winner Harvey Fierstein.

Messiah (Sherman)

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Through the story of a seventeenth-century Sephardic Rabbi widely greeted as the Messiah, Martin Sherman examines religious fanaticism and obsessive orthodoxy through the eyes of the intelligent, analytical Rachel.

This complex, potent play begins in Yultishk, a small village on what was once the Ukranian border of Poland which was viciously pillaged by Cossacks seventeen years ago. Rachel lives there with her mother Rebecca, who has been silent ever since the raid. Rachel conducts perceptive, argumentative, wise-cracking, one-sided dialogues with God, in which she discusses her homely looks, her impending marriage to the middle-aged Reb Ellis, and her secret desire for a beautiful husband. Then the whole village is turned upside down by the rumours about the coming of the Messiah to Constantinople, and Rachel finds herself uprooting her life and her belief in the hope of a new world.

Messiah was first performed in 1982 at Hampstead Theatre, London.

Onassis

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Onassis is based on the life of the wealthy shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis, an explosive account of how those in positions of enormous power and wealth often live lives detached from the realities and moralities of everyday existence.

After a notorious affair with the opera singer Maria Callas, Onassis married Jacqueline Kennedy, widow of the US President John F. Kennedy, in 1968. Commented on by a gossiping Greek chorus, Aristo is a portrait of the complex and sometimes dark entanglements of their families, his relationship with Jacqueline and the scorned Maria, and the tragedy of his son Alexandros. Onassis himself is charming, charismatic, and inescapably sinister.

Based in part on Peter Evans’ book Nemesis, the play premiered as Aristo at the Chichester Festival Theatre in 2008; Onassis is a revised version.

A Passage to India

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Before deciding whether to marry Chandrapore's local magistrate, Adela Quested wants to discover the "real India" for herself. Newly arrived from England, she agrees to see the famous Marabar Caves with the charming Dr Aziz. In the heat and darkness of a cave, Adela is attacked, and the fragile structures of Anglo-Indian relations collapse as Aziz is brought to trial for assault. It is a sensitive and profound story which exposes the absurdity, hysteria and depth of cultural ignorance that existed in British India.

Forster’s classic novel of disconnection and prejudice in 1920s India, adapted by Martin Sherman, is a highly theatrical, humorous and faithful version for the stage.

Rose

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Martin Sherman’s monologue play is a sharply detailed portrait of an elderly Jewish woman, the Rose of the title, remembering an extraordinary life, and providing an affecting reminder of some of the events that shaped the twentieth century.

Rose is a survivor. Her remarkable life began in a tiny Russian village, took her to Warsaw's ghettos and a ship called The Exodus, and finally to the boardwalks of Atlantic City, the Arizona canyons and salsa-flavoured nights in Miami beach. Now she is sitting shivah, and remembering her life, sometimes with piercing clarity and always with sincerity

Rose premiered in 1999 at the Royal National Theatre London.

Picture of Martin Sherman

Martin Sherman was born in Philadelphia, educated at Boston University and now lives in London. His early plays include Passing By, Cracks and Rio Grande, all originally presented by Playwrights Horizons in New York.

Bent premeiered at the Royal Court in 1979, transferred to the Criterion Theatre and was then presented on Broadway, where it received a Tony nomination for Best Play and won the Dramatist Guild's Hull-Warriner Award. Bent has been produced in over forty-five countries, and has been turned into a ballet in Brazil, and, in 1989, was revived at the National Theatre. It has been voted one of the NT2000 One Hundred Plays of the Century.

His next plays were Messiah (Hampstead and Aldwych Theatres, 1983), When She Danced (King's Head, 1988; Gielgud, 1991), A Madhouse in Goa (Lyric Hammersmith and Apollo, 1989), Some Sunny Day (Hampstead, 1996) and Rose (National Theatre, 1999). Rose received an Olivier nomination for Best Play and transferred to Broadway the following season.

Sherman has written an adaptation of E. M. Forster's A Passage to India for Shared Experience (Riverside Studios, 2002; Lyric Hammersmith, 2004) and a new version of a Luigi Pirandello play, Absolutely! (Perhaps) (Wyndhams, 2003). He has also written the book for the musical The Boy From Oz which opened on Broadway in 2003. His screenplays include The Clothes in the Wardrobe (US title: The Summer House), Alive and Kicking, Bent, Callas Forever and The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone. Martin Sherman Plays: One was published by Methuen Drama in 2004.