Contemporary Dramatists

Plays

Year of the Family

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Fliss's real father has been dead, presumed missing, since she was two years old. Now she believes she has found him, living rough on the streets of London. She takes him in, shaves and bathes him, and puts in place of his total amnesia the identity she hopes he will live up to.

Her half-sister, Claire, doesn't believe her, but has enough trouble of her own, juggling an ageing boyfriend Dickie and the younger, leaner Sid. She doesn't know what she sees in both of them – but see it in both of them she must.

Claire and Fliss may be sisters, but are separated not just by paternity, but by shady goings-on in the childhood home, a separation they seem pathologically driven to compound with every action they take and choice they make.

Neilson's Year of the Family was first performed in 1994, the European Year of the Family, at the Finborough Theatre, London.

The Worlds

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

The Worlds offers a clipped and lucid examination of the violent machinery of capitalism, the politics of industrial action and the use of terrorism.

After a difficult week trying to deal with a strike by his organisation’s employees, Trench goes away for the weekend to a smart country hotel, to dispense wisdom to his boardroom protégés. He is then suddenly kidnapped, his captors holding him hostage until the demands of the strikers are met. Meanwhile, his workers shiver on the picket line, trying to figure out why some men get to follow different rules. But while Trench is absent, his protégés find they appreciate being in charge, and the ruthlessness of the corporation turns in on itself.

The Worlds was first performed at the Newcastle Playhouse in 1979. Bond has written a set of texts entitled The Activist Papers as a commentary on the play.

The Woods

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

In The Woods, David Mamet shows us one evening, night and morning in the life of a couple, Nick and Ruth, who are spending some time in a summerhouse. As they pass the time, sharing stories and arguments, the mechanics of their relationship – and by implication, the relationships between women and men generally – come into focus.

The play has been praised by the New York Times, who wrote ‘Mamet's language has never been so precise, pure and affecting’. It was first produced by the St Nicholas Theatre Company, Chicago on 11 November 1977, in a production directed by the playwright.

Womberang

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Sue Townsend delights in smashing the grim silence of the hospital waiting room in a charming and comic short play, as Rita whirls into a drab gynaecology clinic and smokes, rearranges the furniture and frightens away the clerk.

Rita’s sparky no-nonsense attitude quickly livens up the sheepish patients: she gets Audrey to stand up to her husband for the first time, persuades Mrs Conelly to finally take off her corsets and hands everyone their own medical files. With the Assistant Hospital Administrator giving up and joining in with the general gin-drinking, and with no doctors anywhere to be seen, Rita takes charge and proves that there is sometimes no better tonic than wit, candour, and treating patients as people.

Womberang was first presented in 1979 at the Soho Poly Theatre Club, London.

The Woman

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

The Woman is set at the end of the Trojan War, recasting Hecuba (the wife of King Priam of Troy) as the main character, and reshaping the epic narrative into what Bond calls a ‘socialist rhapsody’.

Bond’s play deviates from the orthodox narrative of the siege, emphasising instead its significance as a dissertation on morality and historical truth, and a celebration of individuals who can change society. It begins with Priam’s death, showing the savage struggle over a statue of a goddess, a relic which Troy has stolen from Greece. Later, the half-blind Hecuba and half-mad Ismene are living on a remote island, where they meet an escaped miner searching for sanctuary, and the Greeks arrive still searching for their statue.

The Woman refuses resolution, offering instead a complex definition of social conflict. It was first performed in 1978 at the National Theatre, London.

A Window

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Liz is a troubled woman, who read a violent story in a newspaper and can't get it out of her head. This obsession drives away her partner Richard; or maybe he left because she was pregnant with Dan.

Years later, when Dan is old enough to look after himself, he ends up looking after his mother, sourcing her drugs so she can escape the thoughts in her head. It is a venture doomed to failure; and his situation is not improved when Richard returns to meet his son.

A Window: A Triptych is a play about the cruelty that exists even when there is love. It was first staged by Big Brum at Golden Hillock School, Birmingham, on 19 October 2009.

A Whistle in the Dark

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

The uprooted Carney family live in Coventry, England. Michael, the eldest, is the exception to the cult of violence that prevails; he would live a civilised life. But he has taken the tragic step: thinking to influence his brothers, he has brought them to live with him and his English wife in his Coventry home. And now two more are arriving from Ireland to descend on him.

Described by Time magazine as 'a play worth every tribute', A Whistle in the Dark was first produced by the Theatre Royal, Stratford East, in 1961.

Where The Shot Rabbits Lay  

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

A father and son are trying to negotiate their own feelings with the performative roles they feel they have to meet. The father is dogged by a belief that he can never live up to his idea of being a good father whilst the boy sits awkwardly between fascination and anger with his estranged dad.  

Where The Difference Begins

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

David Mercer’s movingly naturalistic play takes as its starting point the varieties of dispossession and disparity: between the deprivation of the 1930s and the affluence of the 1950s; and between material prosperity and its accompanying spiritual and political apathy.

The divisions are embodied by Wilf, a sixty-year-old railwayman, whose wife is dying. His sons Richard and Edgar come home: Edgar the nuclear scientist bringing his wife Margaret; Richard the failed artist bringing his heavily pregnant fiancée. Edgar is self-satisfied and conventionally successful, Richard is a disillusioned political idealist drifting into teaching. Both of Wilf’s upwardly mobile sons are unrecognisable to him, as all struggle to understand each other’s values.

Where the Difference Begins was first broadcast by BBC Television in 1961.

Weldon Rising

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Weldon Rising is a startling, surreal and incandescent play, about four people in a heat wave, and a murder.

The spindly Natty Weldon is trapped in the epicentre of a city on heat. His boyfriend has been stabbed, and Natty is consumed with cowardice and grief. The incident was witnessed, and is re-enacted, under the gaze of two quarrelsome neighbourhood lesbians, Tilly and Jaye, whose own relationship floods the stage in tandem with the main event. Further commentary is provided by an outrageous transvestite, Marcel, who speaks only in the third person.

The rising heat is accompanied by reports on the radio of a plane exploding on take-off, of a bus melting, and of all the bridges collapsing: Nagy presents a city in meltdown in which the characters are cast adrift, but bravely trying to reclaim the world and each other.

Weldon Rising was first produced at the Liverpool Playhouse Studio in 1992.

The Contemporary Dramatists series celebrates the work of individual playwrights, bringing together a number of plays from their oeuvre into omnibus editions. Each volume features a chronology of the writer’s work and an introduction to the pays featured. In many cases these editions of the plays represent the definitive post-production versions, incorporating all rehearsal changes and other amendments to the edition first published to coincide with the play’s premiere.

The series is truly international, containing the work of leading British, Irish, American, German, French and Italian playwrights.