NHB Modern Plays

Plays

Albert Speer

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

David Edgar's Albert Speer is a panoramic adaptation of Gitta Sereny’s biography of the man whose devotion to Hitler blinded him to the worst crime of the twentieth century. It was first performed in the Lyttelton auditorium of the National Theatre, London, on 25 May 2000.

Plucked from obscurity to be Hitler’s chief architect and Minister of War, Albert Speer became the second most powerful man in Nazi Germany and the closest Hitler had to a friend. Having narrowly escaped hanging at Nuremberg, Speer emerged from twenty years at Spandau gaol, as he thought, a changed man. But even as he publishes his bestselling accounts of the Third Reich, the extent of his complicity in Nazi crimes returns to haunt him – and his long-suffering family.

The National Theatre premiere was directed by Trevor Nunn and designed by Ian MacNeil, with a cast of 28 actors playing more than 65 parts, including Alex Jennings as Albert Speer and Roger Allam as Hitler.

Albion  

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Mike Bartlett's play Albion is a tragicomic drama about national identity, family, mourning and the disappointment of personal dreams. It was first performed at the Almeida Theatre, London, on 17 October 2017 (previews from 10 October).

The play is set in a garden (known as Albion) attached to a country house in Oxfordshire. The house has been bought by successful businesswoman Audrey Walters, who intends to restore the garden, now in ruins, to its former glory, and to use it to memorialise the son she recently lost in a foreign war. In the course of the play, Audrey alienates her daughter Zara, her son’s lover Anna, her oldest friend Katherine, and the entire village.

The premiere production was directed by Rupert Goold and designed by Miriam Buether. It was performed by Nigel Betts, Edyta Budnik, Wil Coban, Christopher Fairbank, Victoria Hamilton (as Audrey), Charlotte Hope, Margot Leicester, Vinette Robinson, Nicholas Rowe, Helen Schlesinger and Luke Thallon.

All Our Children  

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Stephen Unwin's debut play All Our Children explores the fate of disabled children in Nazi Germany, examining the moral dilemma facing those in whose care they were placed. It was first produced by Tara Finney Productions in association with Jermyn Street Theatre, and was first performed at Jermyn Street Theatre, London, on 26 April 2017.

The play is set in January 1941, in the Winkelheim Clinic near Cologne, run by paediatrician Victor Franz. Having created the clinic in peacetime to help sick children, Victor is now being forced to use it to dispatch severely disabled people to their deaths. His own growing qualms about the process are brutally countered by a young SS officer, Eric, who has been installed as his deputy. In the course of the play's action, Victor is forced to defend himself against two visitors: a mother, Elizabetta, anxious about the fate of her son; and the historical figure of Bishop von Galen, who, as in life, challenges both the practice and the philosophy of the extermination of the supposedly 'unproductive citizens'.

In a note in the published script, Stephen Unwin writes: 'All Our Children is very much a work of fiction. There is no evidence that von Galen had a meeting of the kind that I have dramatised (though he did talk with senior figures in the SS) nor do we know of a doctor involved in the programme having qualms about what he was doing. What’s clear, however, is that his intervention raised the most profound questions about the innate value of the human being, regardless of cost or productivity, and his voice, for all its stubborn absolutism, deserves to be heard.'

The premiere production was directed by Stephen Unwin and designed by Simon Higlett. It was performed by Edward Franklin, Rebecca Johnson, Lucy Speed, Colin Tierney (as Victor) and David Yelland (as Bishop von Galen).

All the Little Lights

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Jane Upton's play All the Little Lights is a drama about the sexual exploitation of young girls who have fallen through the system. It was produced by Fifth Word and Nottingham Playhouse, and first performed at Nottingham Playhouse, on 20 October 2015, later touring the UK in 2017. The play was the joint winner of the George Devine Award for most promising playwright in 2016.

The play is set 'somewhere on the outskirts of an urban sprawl, high up overlooking houses, next to a railway line.' Joanne (age 16) is throwing an impromptu birthday party for her friend Lisa (15), who has recently been taken into foster care and has reluctantly agreed to come along. Joanne has brought her new sidekick, Amy (12), promising to introduce her to TJ, an older man from the local chip shop. As the three young women camp out near the railway line, they talk about anything but the traumatic experiences Joanne and Lisa have been through. They also play games, from a version of chicken when they hear the trains approaching, to imagining who lives in the ‘little lights’ that they can see in the distance. But the horror of what has happened to them in the past, and what might yet happen to Amy, gradually emerges.

The original production was directed by Laura Ford and designed by Max Dorey. It was performed by Esther-Grace Button as Amy, Sarah Hoare as Lisa and Tessie Orange-Turner as Joanne.

Angel  

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Henry Naylor's Angel is a dramatic monologue for a female performer, inspired by the true story of Rehana, the 'Angel of Kobane', a Kurdish fighter who became a symbol of resistance against Islamic State. The play is part of Henry Naylor's Arabian Nightmares trilogy, which also includes The Collector and Echoes.

Angel was first performed at the Gilded Balloon, Edinburgh, on 3 August 2016 as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, winning a Fringe First award.

The story is narrated by Rehana, the 'Angel', who, according to a note in the script, 'tells her autobiographical story directly to the audience, through the "fourth wall"’. The action takes place in Syria, in 2014. The town of Kobane is under siege by ISIS, who, having steam-rollered through Iraq, are expecting to take the town easily. But the citizens have found a heroine: a crackshot sniper with a hundred kills to her name. And she appears indestructible. She's the legendary Angel of Kobane.

The premiere production was directed by Michael Cabot and performed by Filipa Bragança. In the subsequent tour of Australia (beginning at Mittagong Playhouse on 7 February 2017), Rehana was played by Avital Lvova.

Anna Karenina (adapt. Edmundson)

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Helen Edmundson's adaptation of Leo Tolstoy's novel, Anna Karenina, is a meditation on the nature of love. It was first performed by Shared Experience at the Theatre Royal, Winchester, on 30 January 1992 at the start of a nationwide tour.

Married to a provincial governor, the punctilious Alexei Karenin, Anna revolts against her life of compromise when she meets the charming officer Count Vronsky. She embarks on a scandalous affair, which completely destroys her family life and brings her to the brink of destruction. Interspersed with Anna’s tragic downfall is the story of Levin, an idealistic landowner striving to find meaning in his life – a character often seen as a self-portrait of Tolstoy himself. Edmundson's adaptation illuminates the story's grand pattern: how the adulterous Anna travels towards disintegration and death, while the young landowner, Levin, travels toward maturity and a sense of wholeness.

Edmundson frames the action of Tolstoy’s novel within an imagined dialogue between Levin and Anna. She brings Anna and Levin together in the opening scene: 'This is my story,' says Anna. 'It seems it is mine too,' replies Levin, and for the remainder of the play scenes are set and emotions summarised through the imaginary exchange of their confidences. The device allows Edmundson to distil the novel down to a carefully curated selection of episodes; she is able to translate almost a thousand pages, and a cast of nearly as many, into an intimate chamber drama.

In an author's note in the published text, Edmundson explains her decision not to cut the Levin strand of the novel, as many adaptations do: 'Without Levin, Anna Karenina is a love story, extraordinary and dark, but essentially a love story. With Levin it becomes something great.'

The Shared Experience production was directed by Nancy Meckler and designed by Lucy Weller. The cast was Annabelle Apsion, Katherine Barker, Tilly Blackwood, Gregory Floy, Max Gold, Richard Hope, Nigel Lindsay and Pooky Quesnel. The production then toured to Cardiff, Oxford, Leeds, Leicester, Taunton, Salisbury, and finally to the Tricycle Theatre, London, where it opened on 10 March 1992.

The play was revived at the Arcola Theatre, London, in 2011 by The Piano Removal Company, directed by Max Webster.

Anne Boleyn

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Howard Brenton's Anne Boleyn is a dramatisation of the life and legacy of the notorious second wife of Henry VIII. It was first performed at Shakespeare's Globe, London, on 24 July 2010.

King James I, rummaging through the dead Queen Elizabeth’s possessions upon coming to the throne in 1603, finds alarming evidence that Elizabeth's mother, Anne Boleyn, was a religious conspirator in love with Henry VIII but also with the most dangerous ideas of her day. Anne comes alive for him as a brilliant but reckless young woman confident in her sexuality, whose marriage and death transformed England forever. The potent love between Anne and Henry is so alive and electric that it cannot be contained in the stultifying social mores of the time, but is viewed with alarm by those at Court who fear the threat it poses to their position and influence.

The premiere at Shakespeare's Globe was directed by John Dove, with Miranda Raison as Anne Boleyn, James Garnon as King James and Anthony Howell as King Henry. It was well received by the critics, with the Daily Mail (not generally favourable to Left-leaning playwrights) commenting 'It takes a big, generous spirit to fill the Globe, and in this Brenton follows Shakespeare – not just with asides and soliloquies, but with a large colourful canvas.' The play was named Best New Play at the Whatsonstage.com Awards in 2011.

Anne Boleyn was revived at the Globe in 2011 and toured regionally in 2012 in a joint production between Shakespeare’s Globe and English Touring Theatre.

Antigone (trans. McCafferty)

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Owen McCafferty's version of Sophocles’ Antigone is a muscular take on the ancient Greek tragedy that offers a reflection on the nature of power, democracy and human rights. It was first performed by Prime Cut Productions at the Waterfront Studio Hall, Belfast, in October 2008 as part of the Ulster Bank Belfast Festival.

The play takes place in a huge hall within the palace of Creon, the new ruler of Thebes. The palace is in ruins after battle and, although the war has ended, with peace comes conflict. Antigone’s brother Polyneices lies on the battlefield where he fell, his burial outlawed by Creon. Antigone is determined to overrule him and attempts to persuade her sister, Ismene, to join her in rebellion against the king, but to no avail. When Creon discovers that Antigone has disobeyed him and buried her brother, she is captured, a decision that triggers a catastrophic chain reaction resulting in the double suicide of his son Haemon and wife Eurydice.

Sophocles’ tragedy has a powerful resonance in post-conflict Northern Ireland and this version is set entirely within the walls of a palace destroyed by war. Written in his distinctive style, McCafferty highlights the human frailties of these mythic characters by drawing attention to the family saga element of the story.

The Prime Cut Productions premiere was directed by Owen McCafferty and designed by Lorna Ritchie. It was performed by Walter McMonagle, Katy Ducker (as Antigone), Rosie McClelland, Ian McElhinney, Conor MacNeill, Paul Mallon, Harry Towb, Eoin McCafferty, Tom Loane, Chris Corrigan, Julia Dearden, Cat Barter, Barry Etherson and Matt Faris.

Apologia

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Alexi Kaye Campbell's second play, Apologia presents a disastrous family reunion as the occasion for a critical look at what has happened to 60s idealists and their children. It was first performed at the Bush Theatre, London, on 17 June 2009.

Kristin Miller is an eminent and successful art historian in her sixties. As a young mother she followed her politics and vocation, storming Parisian barricades and moving to Florence. Now she has written a book about her life – a book that fails to mention her two children, Peter and Simon. So when her sons and their partners, Trudi and Claire, gather at Kristin's cottage in the countryside to celebrate her birthday, she finds herself ambushed by their very different versions of the past. Over the course of the evening, everyone must confront the cost of Kristin’s commitment to her passions.

The Bush Theatre premiere was directed by Josie Rourke with Paolo Dionisotti as Kristin, Tom Beard as Peter, John Light as Simon, Sarah Goldberg as Trudi, Nina Sosanya as Claire and Philip Voss as Hugh, an old friend of Kristin's.

The play was well received by the critics, with several remarking on how it built on the promise of Campbell's previous play, The Pride. Charles Spencer in The Daily Telegraph wrote that Campbell was 'fast emerging as a dramatist of rare distinction', while Henry Hitchings in The Evening Standard concluded that the play 'confirms his standing as a fresh and sensitive voice'.

The Approach  

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Mark O'Rowe's play The Approach is a drama about the inner lives of three Dublin women as they try to make sense of their world. It was first performed at Project Arts Centre, Dublin, on 6 February 2018, produced by Landmark Productions, and was staged at the 2018 Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

The play's action comprises a series of two-way conversations between three women, Anna, Cora and Denise. In the first, Anna and Cora catch up after a substantial period of time, sharing news and gossip. They recall a girl they both knew from school, Emily Dowling, who later committed suicide. Anna says she hasn't been in touch with her sister, Denise, whom she blames for taking from her the man she loved, Oliver, who has subsequently died. They reminisce fondly about the time they lived together with Denise in a house in Ranelagh. They part, promising to meet again soon. In the next section, Cora meets up with Denise, and the details of what they share begin subtly to diverge from the previous conversation. Over the course of further meetings, only ever between two of the three women, Anna and Denise decide to put their differences behind them, while confidences exchanged between the women turn out to be less than reliable, new beginnings appear to falter, and darker confessions emerge.

The premiere production was directed by Mark O’Rowe with set and lighting design by Sinead McKenna. It was performed by Cathy Belton (as Cora), Aising O’Sullivan (as Anna) and Derbhle Crotty (as Denise).

Nick Hern Books is one of the UK’s leading specialist performing arts publishers, with a vast collection of plays, screenplays and theatre books in their catalogue. They also license most of their plays for amateur performance.