Plays by Pam Gems

Deborah’s Daughter

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Pam Gems' play Deborah’s Daughter explores the fragile relationship between the West and the developing world seen through the prism of a mother/daughter relationship. It was first performed at the Library Theatre, Manchester on 3 March 1994.

Deborah Pedersen has been recently widowed. Her husband was an enormously powerful oil tycoon to whom Deborah was devoted. She even sacrificed her burgeoning career as a scientist to enable his ambitions. Now she is left to pick up the pieces after his death in an unnamed North African country with strong business ties to Pedersen Oil. The trouble is, she is largely unacquainted with the country and its people. Along with her precocious and privileged daughter, Stephanie, and her short-tempered mother, Rhoda, the women find themselves caught up in a violent coup. When Deborah becomes romantically involved with Hassan, an army Colonel with a poetic streak, her life begins to unravel.

The Library Theatre production was directed by Sue Dunderdale and designed by Shimon Castiel. The cast was Anna Carteret, Jane Freeman, Mia Fothergill, Raad Rawi, Peter Yapp, Philip Darling, Nasser Memarzia and Royce Hounsell.


Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Pam Gems’ play Stanley is a dramatic portrait of 20th-century British painter Stanley Spencer and his milieu, focusing on his complicated relationship with his first wife, Hilda, and with his subsequent wife, Patricia Preece. The play was first performed in the Cottesloe auditorium at the National Theatre, London, on 1 February 1996 (previews from 24 January).

Stanley Spencer, the wayward genius of modern British painting, hasn’t lost his ‘rough edges’, despite being taken up by the smart set. Married to Hilda, a gifted painter in her own right, he nevertheless falls head over heels for Patricia, a family friend and defiantly unconventional lesbian who is incapable of loving him. He eventually divorces Hilda in favour of Patricia, who inveigles him to sign over his financial affairs to her, thus leaving Hilda completely bereft. Much of the play revolves around this complicated ménage-a-trois and dramatises the intensity of Spencer’s love for both women.

The National Theatre premiere was directed by John Caird and designed by Tim Hatley. The cast was Antony Sher (as Stanley), Deborah Findlay (as Hilda), Ann Chancellor (as Patricia), Pip Torrens, Nicola King, David Collings, Selina Cadell, Richard Howard, Stephanie Jacob, Avril Elgar, Nicholas Deigman, Daniel Forster-Smith, Robbie Morton and Robert Smythson.

Stanley won the 1996 Evening Standard Theatre Award for Best Play, and the 1997 Olivier Award for Best New Play.

Picture of Pam Gems

Pam Gems was an English playwright. Her four-woman play Dusa, Fish, Stas and Vi premiered at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe before transferring to Hampstead Theatre and the West End in 1976. Her play Piaf, about the life and work of chanteuse, Edith Piaf, was first produced at the RSC in 1978 and went on to transfer to the West End and Broadway. Since its premiere, it has enjoyed numerous high-profile revivals.

Her other plays include Queen Christina (RSC, 1977); The Blue Angel (RSC, 1991); Deborah’s Daughter (Library Theatre, Manchester, 1994) and Stanley (National Theatre, 1996 and winner of the Evening Standard and Laurence Olivier Awards for Best Play). Theatre adaptations include Camille, an adaptation of the novel The Lady of the Camellias by Alexandre Dumas (RSC and West End, 1984); versions of Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya (Hampstead Theatre, 1978), The Seagull (National Theatre, 1994) and The Cherry Orchard (Sheffield Crucible, 2007) as well as Ibsen’s A Doll’s House (Tyne-Wear Theatre, 1980) and Ghosts (Sherman Theatre, 1996).

She also wrote two novels: Mrs Frampton and Bon Voyage, Mrs Frampton.

Pam Gems died in 2011.