NHB Modern Plays

Plays

No Romance

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Nancy Harris's No Romance is a play about secret selves and the search for connection in a fractured world. It was first performed at the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, on 1 March 2011, and received the Stewart Parker Trust Award in 2012.

The play comprises three separate, subtly interlinked stories, all taking place in Dublin in the present day. In the first part, two old school friends now in their late 30s, Gail and Laura, are reunited when Laura commissions Gail, a photographer with what appears to be a glamorous and successful international career, to take a series of slightly pornographic portraits of her as a present for her lover's 40th birthday. Gail is a lesbian, something that ensured loneliness at school, and, despite her career and her long and stable relationship with her doctor lover, is more fragile than she seems; her equilibrium is badly shaken by the encounter. In the second, Carmel and Joe are in the funeral parlour awaiting the arrival of 'the relations' for Joe's mother's funeral. Joe is enraged because they've discovered that their recently university-graduated daughter has posted pictures of herself on the internet as the winner of a wet T-shirt competition from her holiday base in Australia; double standards emerge as the mayhem develops over the coffin. In the final part, Michael and his 12-year-old son Johnny are 'helping' Michael's 80-year-old mother to pack up her west Cork cottage prior to moving to a rest-home in Dublin. But Peg is made of stern stuff, her strength forged in the years of a harrowingly bad marriage to Michael's father, and has no intention of being brow-beaten if she can avoid it.

The Abbey Theatre premiere was directed by Wayne Jordan and designed by Paul Keogan, with Janet Moran as Laura, Natalie Radmall-Quirke as Gail, Tina Kellegher as Carmel, Stephen Brennan as Joe, Stella McCusker as Peg, Conor Mullen as Michael and Dáire Cassi as Johnny.

Notes for First Time Astronauts

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

A comic monologue from Tom Wells warning of the perils of self-abuse in zero gravity conditions.

Our unnamed male narrator is about to take off into space as the cameraman on board a rocket to the moon. However, there is someone special he’s left back at home, in Huddersfield, thousands of miles below and it is to him that this monologue is addressed. He runs through the dangers of masturbating and sleeping in space as well as reliving his schooldays and the tender moment when a tentative romance was sparked between them.

Notes for First Time Astronauts was first performed by the author himself at Soho Theatre in London in 2009 as part of Paines Plough’s LATER programme.

Notes on Falling Leaves

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Ayub Khan Din's Notes on Falling Leaves is a short, elegiac play about a young man losing his mother to dementia. It was first performed at the Royal Court Theatre Downstairs, London, on 11 February 2004.

The characters in the play, called simply Man and Woman, occupy a stage covered in fallen leaves, with a single park bench. The man (aged 26) has come to visit his mother (early fifties) in her care home, and has spent the previous night in the old family house before it is cleared by the council and offered to another family. He describes taking a new girlfriend to the former family home the previous night and having sex with her. But his repeated nervous coughs and throat-clearings suggest a man desperately ill at ease, and though he knows his mother can't understand a word he's saying, talking to her helps him. When he imagines what's going on now in his mother's brain, she begins to speak...

In his Foreword to Ayub Khan Din Plays: One (Nick Hern Books, 2014), the author notes that his own mother 'was diagnosed with Alzheimer's at an early age and eventually the disease claimed her life after three years. I always found it difficult during the family visits to see her. In my mind, I was never quite sure what it was I was actually visiting'.

The Royal Court premiere was directed by Marianne Elliot and starred Ralf Little and Pam Ferris.

Not Not Not Not Not Enough Oxygen

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Caryl Churchill's Not Not Not Not Not Enough Oxygen is a short radio play set in a futuristic London. It was first broadcast on BBC Radio 3 on 31 March 1971.

People live in one-room cellblocks in the London of 2010. Outside, the air is thick with smog and thronged with dangerous citizens referred to as ‘fanatics’ who frequently kill themselves and others in random attacks. Vivian, who is married to somebody else, wants to move in with Mick, a man old enough to remember when it was safe to walk around in London, when there were still birds and when you could procreate without a license. Mick yearns for a cottage in the country. Maybe his son Claude, a celebrated musician who is coming to visit after several years, will find it in his heart to help.

The BBC Radio 3 production was directed by John Tydeman, with Barbara Mitchell as Vivian, John Hollis as Mick and Clive Merrison as Claude.

Now This Is Not The End  

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Rose Lewenstein’s play Now This Is Not The End is a family-history drama that explores the meaning of legacy, identity and our sense of belonging, through the eyes of three generations of women. It was first performed at the Arcola Theatre, London, on 3 June 2015.

The play is set in London and Berlin. Eva lived in Berlin as a child before being dispatched to safety in the UK after the arrest of her Jewish father. Now Rosie, Eva's granddaughter, has come to live in Berlin to study German, while Eva herself begins to decline with dementia. As Rosie looks to the future, the secrets of her family’s past begin to unravel.

The premiere production was directed by Katie Lewis and designed by Holly Pigott. It was performed by Jasmine Blackborow (as Rosie), Daniel Donskoy, Brigit Forsyth, Wendy Nottingham, AndrewWhipp and Bernard Lloyd.

NSFW

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Lucy Kirkwood's NSFW is a comedy satirising media attitudes to sexuality and personal privacy. It was first performed at the Royal Court Theatre in the Jerwood Theatre Downstairs on 25 October 2012.

The first part of the play is set in the editorial offices of Doghouse, a fictional lads mag that, amongst other things, runs photographs of topless women. It has just proudly unveiled the winner of its Local Lovely 2012 competition, sent in by a reader; but the buxom Carrie, 18, turns out to be only 14 years old, and her father is taking legal action. In an attempt to save the magazine (and his own career), Aidan, the editor of the magazine, sacks the well-meaning junior, Sam, who sanctioned the use of the shots. But Carrie's irate father is not so easily mollified...

In the second part of the play, Miranda, editor of a glossy women's mag called Electra, interviews the now-destitute Sam. As part of the interview she requires him to look at pictures of famous, glamorous women and identify their physical flaws, thus demonstrating her own, more insidious objectification of women.

The play's title refers to a website acronym meaning 'not safe for work', applied to online material (typically pornographic in nature) which the viewer may not want to be seen accessing in a public or formal setting such as work.

The Royal Court premiere was directed by Simon Godwin and designed by Tom Pye, with a cast including Julian Barratt as Aidan, Sacha Dhawan as Sam and Janie Dee as Miranda.

A Number

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Caryl Churchill’s A Number is set in a world in which human cloning is a reality. It explores the ethics of cloning, the fragility of personal identity and the conflicting claims of nature and nurture. It was first performed at the Royal Court Jerwood Theatre Downstairs, London, on 23 September 2002.

The play begins with Bernard (B2), a thirty-five-year-old man, confronting his father, Salter, after making a startling discovery: he is not, as he'd thought, an only child, but just one of a number of clones. Salter explains that, after the death of his son Bernard (B1), he agreed to a cloning experiment to bring his son back, but that (unbeknownst to him) the doctors had unethically made several more clones. Salter decides that they should sue the doctors. But in the next scene, the original Bernard (B1) appears, very much alive. He has learned about the clones, and is furious at his father for doing it. Salter then admits that the clones were meant to give him another chance at raising Bernard, without any of his many parental mistakes. But Bernard (B1) is unwilling to live in a world that contains cloned versions of himself, and his determination to eradicate them leads to tragedy.

The play is written to be performed by two actors: one playing Salter, the other his sons.

In the original Royal Court production, directed by Stephen Daldry and designed by Ian MacNeil, Salter was played by Michael Gambon and his sons by Daniel Craig.

A Number received its American premiere at New York Theatre Workshop in December 2004, directed by James Macdonald, with Sam Shepard as Salter and Dallas Roberts as his sons.

It was revived in the UK at the Sheffield Crucible in October 2006, directed by Jonathan Munby and starring real-life father and son, Timothy and Samuel West. This production later played at The Menier Chocolate Factory, London, in 2010 and at the Fugard Theatre, Cape Town in 2011.

A television movie adaptation by the BBC and HBO Films starring Tom Wilkinson and Rhys Ifans was first broadcast in September 2008.

nut

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

debbie tucker green's nut is a play about a woman who wants to withdraw from the world. It was first performed in The Shed at the National Theatre, London, on 30 October 2013.

Elayne, a young black woman, is an obsessive, list-making semi-recluse who refuses to replace the batteries in her non-working doorbell. In Act One, we see Elayne speculating with her friends, Aimee and Devon, on the subject of funeral eulogies, each insisting that their own laying to rest will be the classier and better attended of the two. A young boy, Trey, floats into the action, singing; he is largely ignored by the other characters. In Act Two, the action switches to a furious row between a separated married couple – Elayne's younger sister and her former husband, Tyrone – over the husband's one-day-a-week custody of their 11-year-old daughter, Maya. The concluding act is a scene between Elayne and her sister, making clear the connections between the earlier scenes, and also the significance to Elayne of the burning cigarettes that conclude each segment.

The National Theatre premiere was directed by debbie tucker green and designed by Lisa Marie Hall, with Nadine Marshall as Elayne, Sophie Stanton as Aimee, Anthony Welsh as Devon, Tobi Adetunji/Zac Fitzgerald/Jayden Fowora-Knight as Trey, Sharlene Whyte as Ex-Wife and Gershwyn Eustache Jr as Ex-Husband.

Oil

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Ella Hickson's Oil is a play about the global implications of our dependency on oil, and tackles subjects including empire, energy and the environment, as well as mother-daughter relationships. It was first performed at the Almeida Theatre, London, on 14 October 2016 (previews from 7 October).

The play's action spans 150 years, beginning in Cornwall in 1889, proceeding via Tehran in 1908 and Hampstead in 1970, to Baghdad in 2021, and finally returning to Cornwall in the year 2051. The action focuses on a woman called May and her daughter Amy, who age as the play progresses but whose lives seem uncoupled from calendar time. We first see May as a 19th-century Cornish farmer’s wife, three months pregnant. When a mysterious American salesman arrives at her isolated, freezing, candle-lit home, his demonstration of the newly invented kerosene lamp lights something within her, and soon she is off to pursue her destiny, resurfacing at key junctures in the history of the oil industry. In Part Two, she is working as a servant in 1908 Tehran, at a time when the British are desperate to exploit Persia’s natural resources. By 1970, in Part Three, she has risen to become CEO of an international oil company threatened by Libya’s proposal to nationalise its assets. But, as May rises in the world, difficulties with her daughter Amy intensify and become deeply problematic as they head into a nightmarish future.

The Almeida Theatre premiere was directed by Carrie Cracknell and designed by Vicki Mortimer. It was performed by Anne-Marie Duff (as May), Yolanda Kettle (as Amy), Nabil Elouahabi, Brian Ferguson, Ellie Haddington, Patrick Kennedy, Tom Mothersdale, Lara Sawalha, Sam Swann and Christina Tam.

Once

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Based on the 2006 film written and directed by John Carney, Once is a musical with a book by Enda Walsh and music and lyrics by Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová (who both starred in the original film). The musical was originally developed at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in April 2011; it was first performed at New York Theatre Workshop on 15 November 2011.

The musical is performed with an onstage group of musicians and singers who are already mid-session as the audience enters. The narrative action follows that of the film: when an Irish busker, 'Guy', and a young Czech mother, 'Girl', meet through a shared love of music, their songwriting sparks a deep connection and a tender, longing romance that neither of them could have expected.

The New York Theatre Workshop production was directed by John Tiffany with movement by Steven Hoggett. It was designed by Bob Crowley. The cast included Steve Kazee as Guy and Cristin Milioti as Girl.

The production subsequently transferred to the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre, New York, on 18 March 2012, where it won eight Tony Awards, including Best Musical and Best Book.

Once received its European premiere at the Gaiety Theatre, Dublin, on 22 February 2013, before transferring to the Phoenix Theatre, London, on 9 April 2013 (previews from 16 March). The cast included Declan Bennett as Guy and Zrinka Cvitešić as Girl.

In his Author's Note to the published edition (Nick Hern Books, 2013), Walsh writes 'The story of Once existed in movie form but needed its own stage style, and also its own specific stage language and pace. Really the key to that was the 'Girl' character, who, on page one, became the driving force, the idiosyncratic swagger of the piece, the person who would change everything'.

The One

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Vicky Jones's play The One is a bleakly comic depiction of a couple trapped in a destructive cycle of love and lust, exploring taboos about gender roles and sexual violence. It was the winner of the 2013 Verity Bargate Award (an award for new writing for the theatre, given for an unproduced work) and was first performed at the Soho Theatre, London, on 26 February 2014.

The play's action is set over the course of a single night in a lounge belonging to 29-year-old Jo and her older, long-term partner Harry, Jo's former college teacher. In the opening scene, Jo and Harry are watching porn while having sex. Throughout their ensuing, bickering conversations, it becomes clear that the two of them are locked in a relationship based on desire, dependency and dirty games. Into this unstable mix walks Kerry, a colleague of Harry's, who thinks she might have been raped by her partner.

The Soho Theatre premiere was directed by Steve Marmion and designed by Anthony Lamble, with Phoebe Waller-Bridge as Jo, Rufus Wright as Harry and Lu Corfield as Kerry.

One For Sorrow  

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Cordelia Lynn's play One For Sorrow is a drama about a family who offer refuge to a stranger following an attack on London. The play was the 2017 Pinter Commission, awarded annually to a playwright to support a new work at the Royal Court Theatre. It was first performed at the Royal Court Theatre Upstairs, London, on 20 June 2018.

The play is set in 'a home. Today, now.' Two explosions have rocked London, and we hear John's voice as he runs through the city, arrives at a house, and asks to be let in. Imogen, early twenties, has joined a social media campaign offering refuge to victims. Before her prosperous, middle-class family (parents Emma and Bill, young sister Chloe) have even had a chance to discuss the situation properly, John is in their house. His presence provokes a moral crisis in the family, testing the limits of their trust and liberal tolerance.

The Royal Court production was directed by James Macdonald and designed by Laura Hopkins. It was performed by Sarah Woodward, Pearl Chanda, Neil Dudgeon, Kitty Archer and Irfan Shamji. 

Orca

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Matt Grinter's Orca is a play about the pressure to conform, as a girl in an isolated fishing community tries to prevent the enactment of a devastating ritual. The play was the winner of the 2016 Papatango New Writing Prize and was first performed at Southwark Playhouse, London, on 2 November 2016.

The play is set amongst a fishing community on a remote island. Each year, the community re-enacts an ancient legend in which a young girl gave her life to a killer whale in order to save the community. This year, eighteen-year-old Maggie, a carpenter’s child who has previously played the symbolic role of the Daughter in the annual pageant, desperately tries to stop her younger sister, Fan, from following in her footsteps.

The premiere production was directed by Alice Hamilton and designed by Frankie Bradshaw. It was performed by Carla Langley (as Fan), Rona Morison (as Maggie), Simon Gregor, Ellie Turner and Aden Gillett.

Our Few and Evil Days

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Mark O'Rowe's Our Few and Evil Days is a play about a married couple whose apparently normal life conceals a dark secret. It was first performed at the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, on 3 October 2014 (previews from 26 September).

The play's action takes place in a 'large living room/kitchen' in a house belonging to a middle-aged couple, Michael and Margaret. They find themselves unexpectedly hosting their daughter Adele’s new boyfriend, Dennis, while Adele herself is attending to a crisis-stricken friend. As Dennis begins to take more than a polite interest in his hosts, secrets are hinted at. In the small hours, Dennis makes a confession to Margaret that crosses social and personal boundaries. As cracks open up in the bland surface of their lives, the play moves into the realm of the psychological thriller, building to a disclosure that changes our understanding of all that has gone before.

The Abbey Theatre premiere was directed by Mark O'Rowe and designed by Paul Wills (set), Paul Keogan (lighting) and Catherine Fay (costumes). It was performed by Ian-Lloyd Anderson as Gary, Sinéad Cusack as Margaret, Ciarán Hinds as Michael, Charlie Murphy as Adele and Tom Vaughan-Lawlor as Dennis.

Our New Girl

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Nancy Harris's Our New Girl is a psychological drama about the darker side of modern parenthood. It was first performed at the Bush Theatre, London, on 12 January 2012.

The play's action is set in the kitchen of an upmarket family home in London belonging to Hazel and Richard Robinson. Despite the immaculate appearance, things aren't as good as they look for Hazel. Her plastic surgeon husband, Richard, has embarked on his latest charitable mission to Haiti, leaving her heavily pregnant and forced to cope alone with a failing business and a problem son, Daniel. When a professional nanny, Annie, arrives unannounced on her doorstep, Hazel finds her home under the shadow of a seemingly perfect stranger who has an agenda of her own. And when Richard finally turns up, his presence only fuels the tensions already simmering in this deeply unhappy household.

The Bush Theatre premiere was directed by Charlotte Gwinner and designed by Morgan Large, with Mark Bazeley as Richard, Denise Gough as Annie, Kate Fleetwood as Hazel and Jonathan Teale and Jude Willoughby alternating as Daniel.

Out of Love  

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Elinor Cook's Out of Love is a play about friendship, love and rivalry between two women over the course of thirty years. It was first produced by Paines Plough, Theatr Clwyd and Orange Tree Theatre and was first performed on 12 July 2017 in Paines Plough’s Roundabout at Theatr Clwyd. It was shortlisted for the 2018 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize.

The play centres on the relationship between two childhood friends, Lorna and Grace. As girls growing up in a town in the North East of England, they do everything together, sharing crisps, cigarettes and crushes. But when Lorna wins a place at university, and Grace gets pregnant, they suddenly find themselves in starkly different worlds, and their friendship is tested to breaking point and beyond.

The first production was directed by James Grieve and performed by Hasan Dixon, Sally Messham (as Lorna) and Katie Elin-Salt (as Grace).

Override

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Stacey Gregg’s Override is a science fiction play for two performers that explores the impact of technology on the modern world and questions what it means to be human. It was first performed at Watford Palace Theatre on 2 October 2013 as part of the theatre's Ideal World Season.

The play takes place in a rural cottage, an 'unplaceable contemporary space' ('the style might feel retro or bricolage, as though we could be in the 1960s, or 1990s ... As long as we do not feel we are seeing something "futuristic"'). It is, however, a world where using technology to erase one’s imperfections and disabilities is increasingly normal. But Mark and Violet are rejecting those values: they are looking forward to the natural birth of their first baby. Still, overriding the system has its perils, and when one half of the couple reveals that they were ‘augmented’ as a child, the whole relationship is thrown into doubt as their ideologies clash.

The play explores whether people can retain their sense of self in the face of a myriad of artificial augmentations. In the world of the play, the human race has meandered down this path to a frightening extent, but where does one draw the line? And what about using technology to help eliminate birth defects, or disabilities? The play offers no easy answers to such troubling questions.

The Watford Palace premiere was directed by Selina Cartmell and designed by Alex Lowde, with Geoffrey Breton as Mark and Matti Houghton as Violet.

Overspill

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Ali Taylor's play Overspill is a drama about three young men on a night out that ends in violence, written in stylised dialogue full of urban poetry and half-rhymes. Winner of Metamorphosis 08, a competition organised by Bromley's theatre, The Churchill, Overspill was first performed at The Churchill on 18 June 2008, transferring to Soho Theatre in October 2008.

The play is set in Bromley, south-east of London, in the present day. Potts, Finch and Baron, all twenty years old, have been mates since they were five. They are out on the town as they are every Friday night. But their night out takes a dramatic and terrifying twist when an explosion rocks the town centre, and a suspicious population points the finger at them.

In an Author's Note in the published script, Ali Taylor writes: 'Overspill is set in Bromley, outside London, but it could be set in any town anywhere in the UK. There are hundreds of Bromleys in Britain – suburbs sitting on the edge of bigger towns or cities, all with the same shops, restaurants and chain pubs. ... I encourage theatre companies interested in performing Overspill to make it specific to their town.'

The original production was directed by Tim Roseman and designed by Paul Wills. It was performed by Syrus Lowe, Paul Stocker and Danny Worters.

Pack

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Louise Monaghan's Pack is a play about bigotry and racism that explores the insidious rise of the British National Party. It was the winner of the 2012 Papatango new writing competition and was first performed at the Finborough Theatre, London, on 27 November 2012.

The play's action is set in a small function room in a community centre in Leeds. As a BNP rally gathers momentum on the streets outside, four women meet to play bridge: Dianna, the group instructor; Deb, a widowed, working-class hairdresser; Nasreen, a Muslim doctor with a Hindu husband; and Stephie, whose taxi driver husband is actively involved with the BNP. Struggling to find common ground, they talk about the men they married, their gifted and delinquent children and what their own heritage means. But beliefs and loyalties are tested to the limit when Stephie's fourteen-year-old son Jack is implicated in a brutal racist attack that leaves an eleven-year-old Pakistani boy close to death.

The Finborough Theatre premiere was directed by Louise Hill and designed by Olivia Altaras, with Angela Lonsdale as Deb, Sarah Smart as Stephie, Denise Black as Dianna and Amita Dhiri as Nasreen.

The Pain and the Itch

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Bruce Norris's play The Pain and the Itch is a social satire about Western liberal hypocrisy. It was originally commissioned by the Philadelphia Theatre Company and received its world premiere at the Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Chicago, on 30 June 2005.

The play is set in a handsomely appointed apartment in an unnamed American city. The apartment belongs to an apparently contented young couple: stay-at-home dad Clay and his high-flying lawyer wife Kelly. The play takes place in two separate time frames, at two gatherings spliced together for dramatic effect. One is a Thanksgiving holiday dinner, at which Clay and Kelly are joined by Clay's plastic-surgeon brother Cash, his Eastern European girlfriend Kalina, and Clay's mother Carol. During the dinner it is revealed that Clay and Kelly’s toddler daughter Kayla is suffering from an uncomfortable genital rash of unknown and possibly sinister cause. This discovery leads, through a chain of anxiety and coincidence, to the second gathering, at which the family tries to explain to a taxi driver, Mr. Hadid, just how the disturbing news of Kayla’s affliction led to the tragedy that has upended his life.

The Steppenwolf production was directed by Anna D. Shapiro and designed by Dan Ostling (set) and Janice Pytel (costumes). It was performed by James Vincent Meredith, Mariann Mayberry, Zak Orth, Lillan Almaguer, Darragh Quinn Dolan, Tracy Letts, Kate Arrington and Jane Houdyshell.

The play received its New York premiere at Playwrights Horizons on 1 September 2006 in a production directed by Anna D. Shapiro.

It was first performed in the UK at the Royal Court Jerwood Theatre Downstairs, London, on 14 June 2007 in a production directed by Dominic Cooke, his inaugural production as Artistic Director of the theatre. The production was designed by Robert Innes Hopkins and performed by Abdi Gouhad, Matthew Macfadyen, Sara Stewart, Hannah Gunn, Shannon Kelly, Angelica Trew, Peter Sullivan, Andrea Riseborough and Amanda Boxer.

Pandas

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Rona Munro's Pandas is a romantic comedy thriller set in Edinburgh charting the interconnected, frustrated love lives of a group of people while touching on themes including illegal exports, the black market and Internet dating. It was first performed at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, on 15 April 2011.

Jie Hui is a young Scots-Chinese businessman. Lin Han is the 19-year old daughter of a Chinese rug exporter. They have exchanged 536 emails and 72 jpegs, though they’ve only just met. She’s sure he’s the man she could fall in love with, if only he’d do it first. But Jie Hui’s a little distracted. When his business partner gets shot, things start getting very complicated – especially when he realises his heart is broken. Meanwhile, Madeleine finds herself falling for James, the most attractive man she’s met in years. And the feeling seems to be mutual. It’s just a pity he’s the policeman questioning her about the shooting of her ex-boyfriend.

The Traverse Theatre premiere was directed by Rebecca Gatward and designed by Liz Cooke. It was performed by Keith Fleming, Meg Fraser, Sin Hun Li, Vicki Liddelle, Phil McKee and Crystal Yu.

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.

Parlour Song

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

A play about deceit, paranoia and murderous desire in leafy suburbia, Parlour Song was first performed at the Atlantic Theater, New York, on 15 Febraury 2008, before receiving its European premiere at the Almeida Theatre, London, on 19 March 2009.

Demolition expert Ned lives with his wife Joy in a newly built house in a new estate on the edge of the English countryside. Their relationship is under strain and, after Ned confides in his neighbour Dale, Dale has an affair with Joy. At the same time, Ned is tormented by the mysterious disappearance of various prized possessions from his home, from gold cufflinks to a tandem bicycle. But while Dale and Joy's plan to run away together is never realised, Ned, haunted by surreal delusions, harbours murderous feelings towards his wife.

The play's Atlantic Theater premiere was directed by Neil Pepe, with Jonathan Cake as Dale, Chris Bauer as Ned and Emily Mortimer as Joy.

The Almeida Theatre production was directed by Ian Rickson, with Andrew Lincoln as Dale, Toby Jones as Ned and Amanda Drew as Joy.

Paul

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Exploring the life and teachings of Paul the Apostle, Howard Brenton's Paul is a play that examines – and raises profound questions about – the historical basis of Christianity. It was first performed in the Cottesloe auditorium of the National Theatre, London, on 9 November 2005 (previews from 30 September).

The play proposes that the most famous conversion in history – when Saul became Paul on the road to Damascus – was prompted by a trick: it was actually Jesus appearing to him. Jesus did not die on the cross but was rescued and sheltered by his brother James, by Peter and by Peter’s wife, Mary Magdalene. But they prefer to keep Paul in the dark because, although he is mistakenly preaching that Christ rose again, at least it keeps him busy and gets the message of Christianity out there. Now imprisoned by Nero, Peter finally tells Paul the truth before they go to their deaths as the first Christian martyrs.

Paul was Howard Brenton’s first solely authored original play to be professionally staged since Berlin Bertie in 1992. The National Theatre premiere was directed by Howard Davies and designed by Vicki Mortimer. Paul Rhys, the actor originally cast in the role of Paul, had to withdraw from the production due to exhaustion; he was replaced in the role by Adam Godley, and the press night, originally scheduled for 6 October, was postponed until 9 November.

It was reported (Observer, 9 October 2005) that the National Theatre received 200 letters of complaint about the 'irreverent' nature of the play, even before opening night. Paul nonetheless received admiring reviews, and Brenton went on to write a string of well-received, historically-inspired dramas including In Extremis (Shakespeare's Globe, 2006, later retitled Eternal Love), Never So Good (National Theatre, 2008) and Anne Boleyn (Shakespeare's Globe, 2010).

Peep  

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Jodi Gray’s play Peep is a darkly comic, claustrophobic tale of voyeurism and sexual politics.

The play is set in Dublin, in the present day. Caitlin and May, two Dublin women in their twenties, are sitting at the window of Caitlin's apartment with pairs of binoculars, spying on their mutual ex-lover in his apartment across the street. Both insist that they have been wronged by him, and, as they watch, he entertains a succession of different women – whom May and Caitlin will, in turn, attempt to co-opt into their vigil.

It was first staged in Bewley’s Café Theatre, Dublin, on 19 February 2018, directed by Gavin Kostick and performed by Alexandra Conlon (as Caitlin) and Emily Fox (as May). A shorter version of the play was performed at The Miniaturists 45, Arcola Theatre, London, on 9 February 2014.  

Penelope

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Enda Walsh’s Penelope is a tragicomic reinterpretation of the classic Greek myth of Penelope, wife of Odysseus, whose story is recounted in Homer’s Odyssey. Penelope was first performed by Druid Theatre Company in Druid Lane Theatre at the Galway Arts Festival on 13 July 2010. The production subsequently toured to Edinburgh, Helsinki and New York. (A version of the play in German had previously been performed at Theater Oberhausen, Germany, in February 2010.)

The play concerns the attempts of four men to win the heart of Penelope in the absence of her warrior husband, Odysseus, who is away fighting the Trojan wars. Quinn, Dunne, Fitz and Burns are supposedly the last of a long succession of suitors; all that remains of a fifth, Murray, is a bloodstain on the wall of the drained swimming pool in which they live out their days. We learn that Murray committed suicide the day before. Burns attempts to scrub away the blood, to no avail. A barbecue stands towards the rear of the pool; it has never been lit and is the source of great curiosity and fear amongst the men. In a shared dream, they see it bursting into flames, heralding their death at the hands of the returning Odysseus. Penelope, separated from the men, stands on a platform above and unseen from the pool. Each man in turn attempts to win her affections through a monologue relayed to her via a television screen. But as the day wears on, signs and premonitions of Odysseus’ return grow more ominous and they formulate a plan to work together in order that one of them may succeed in winning Penelope, thus saving the others from Odysseus’ revenge. In a climactic sequence, Quinn performs a quick-change cabaret routine to the music of Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, appearing as famous historical lovers including Napoleon and Josephine, and Rhett Butler and Scarlett O'Hara. Finally he is stabbed by Burns. Dunne and Fitz take part in the stabbing and Quinn is killed. Burns makes a final address to Penelope in which he argues for their collective redemption through love and human affection, but when the barbecue bursts into flames, the fate of the suitors is sealed.

In his Foreword to Enda Walsh Plays: Two (Nick Hern Books, 2014), Walsh writes: 'My one attempt to talk specifically about ‘something that was actually happening’ was in the play Penelope. When the crash in 2008 decimated the fantasy that Ireland had created for itself, a German theatre in Oberhausen had already approached me and four other European playwrights to each take a section of the Odyssey to adapt. I was reading a lot about Irish bankers and financiers who were either killing themselves or being publicly vilified. I decided to write a play about Penelope’s suitors as they await their collective murder. It became part-situation-comedy, part-existential-scratching – scored by Herb Alpert.'

The Druid production was directed by Mikel Murfi and designed by Sabine Dargent. It was performed by Niall Buggy, Denis Conway, Tadhg Murphy, Karl Shiels and Olga Wehrly.

The play received its London premiere at Hampstead Theatre in February 2011.

Pentecost

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

David Edgar’s play Pentecost is part of his trilogy of post-Cold War plays, together with The Shape of the Table (1990) and The Prisoner’s Dilemma (2001). It was first performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company at The Other Place, Stratford-upon-Avon, on 12 October 1994.

The play is set in a church in an unnamed eastern European state not long after the fall of communism. A valuable fresco has been discovered in the church, hidden behind a large revolutionary mural, and international and local art historians meet to argue over who should claim ownership. Art curator Gabriella Pecs sees the fresco as a boost to the self-esteem of her nation, whereas the young Minister for Culture, Mikhail Czaba, plans on turning the church into a tourist hotspot, potentially yielding a fortune for the government. When a multinational group of armed asylum-seekers raid and occupy the church, taking the experts hostage, they soon realise that their human prisoners may be of far less value to them than the fresco itself. The fate of the painting becomes a metaphor for the future of the emergent nations of Eastern Europe as well as a focal point for conflicting attitudes towards art.

The Royal Shakespeare Company production was directed by Michael Attenborough and designed by Robert Jones. The cast was Charles Kay, Jan Ravens, Claire Carrie, Simon Cook, Nigel Cooke, Roy Ward, Steven Elliott, Glenn Hugill, Linal Haft, Judith Sweeney, Linford Brown, Nigel Clauzel, Quill Roberts, Katharine Rogers, Sean O'Callaghan, Natalie Izgol, Rebecca Underwood, Catherine Kanter, Sasha Behar and Thusitha Jayasundera.

The production transferred to the Young Vic, London, with performances from 31 May 1995.

Pentecost won the 1995 Evening Standard Award for Best Play.

Perfect Days

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Liz Lochhead's play Perfect Days is a romantic comedy about a 39-year-old Glaswegian hairdresser who desperately wants to have a child. It was first performed on 7 August 1998 at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

The play is set in a 'large and very stylish Merchant City Loft in Glasgow' belonging to Barbs Marshall, a celebrity hairdresser. She is successful, has her own show on local TV, a nice apartment in a trendy part of the city, but she is 39 years old and almost deafened by the ticking of her biological clock. To make matters worse, her mother is a nag, her best friend is holding out on her and her ex-husband Davie has a new 22-year-old girlfriend. Then she meets 26-year-old Grant, who seems more than ready to oblige. But the complications are by no means over.

The Traverse Theatre premiere was directed by John Tiffany and designed by Georgia Sion. It was performed by Siobhan Redmond, Anne Kidd, Ann Scott-Jones, John Kazek, Vincent Friell and Enzo Cilenti.

The production was revived at Hampstead Theatre, London, on 6 January 1999 and then transferred to the Vaudeville Theatre in the West End on 21 June 1999.

Perve

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Stacey Gregg’s play Perve tackles the thorny subject of paedophilia and the hysteria that surrounds it. It was first performed on the Peacock stage at the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, on 31 May 2011.

Gethin has recently completed a course in film-making and, while his mum wants him to shoot her friend’s wedding video, he is interested in a much more daring project. He sets out to make a documentary about people’s reactions to a self-instigated rumour that he is a paedophile. Intent on proving society's paranoia over the subject, he quickly loses control of the project, landing himself in deep water and threatening his relationship with his family and friends.

The Abbey Theatre premiere was directed by Róisín McBrinn and designed by Alyson Cummins. It was performed by Ciarán O’Brien, Peter Campion, Andrea Irvine, Roxanna Nic Liam, Hilda Fay, Kerrie O’Sullivan and Jane Brennan.

Pests

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Vivienne Franzmann's play Pests is about how and why young women get caught up in the criminal justice system, and the impact that drug dependency, childhood sexual abuse and associated mental illness can have on their lives.

It was commissioned by Clean Break, a theatre company committed to exploring issues surrounding women and crime, in a co-production with the Royal Court Theatre, London, and the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester. It was first performed at the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester, on 12 March 2014 before transferring to the Royal Court on 27 March 2014 and touring the UK.

The play opens with Rolly, 21, returning home, heavily pregnant, to her older sister's squalid, rats' nest of a flat, after a spell in prison. The sister, Pink, 25, is suffering from psychosis and anxiety, which she previously had medication for, but she stopped taking it while Rolly has been away. Rolly is off the heroin and determined to make a fresh start, but Pink is finding it harder to escape the past: her psychosis is linked to memories of being taken into care and abused in the home by lots of different men. Pink has a child called Tia who has been removed from her. They both have cherished memories of a childhood caravan holiday in Camber Sands, where they watched The Wizard of Oz. But while Rolly was later fostered, Pink stayed in care, and she doesn't welcome the idea of her little sister escaping the nest.

The Royal Exchange premiere was directed by Lucy Morrison and designed by Joanna Scotcher, with Frances Ashman as Rolly and Ryan Fletcher as Pink.

At the Royal Court Theatre, Rolly was played by Ellie Kendrick, and Pink by Sinead Matthews.

Picnic At Hanging Rock

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Tom Wright’s stage adaptation of Joan Lindsay’s 1967 novel, Picnic at Hanging Rock, was first co-produced by Malthouse Theatre, Melbourne, and Black Swan State Theatre Company, Perth, and first performed at Malthouse Theatre on 26 February 2016. The play received its European premiere at the Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh on 13 January 2017.

The play's action is narrated by five performers, 'Five Australian women', who are named in the published script after the actors who played them in the first production. They are struggling to solve the mystery at the heart of Joan Lindsay's original novel, which presents itself as the true story of the disappearance of three schoolgirls and their teacher one summer's day in 1900 while on a picnic expedition to Hanging Rock in Victoria. Euphoria and terror reverberate throughout the community, as the potential for history to repeat itself becomes nightmarishly real.

The premiere production was directed by Matthew Lutton with set and costume design by Zoë Atkinson. It was performed by Harriet Gordon-Anderson, Arielle Gray, Amber McMahon, Elizabeth Nabben and Nikki Shiels.

Pigs and Dogs

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Caryl Churchill's Pigs and Dogs is a short play for three actors exploring the attitudes that led Uganda to pass its Anti-Homosexuality Act of 2014, which allowed the death penalty (later amended to life imprisonment) for those found guilty of homosexual activity. The play was first performed at the Royal Court Theatre, London, on 20 July 2016.

The play's action consists of dialogue (demarcated in the script only by a dash to signify a new speaker) presented as reported speech, frequently introduced with the line 'Somebody says'.

A note included in the script explains that the play should be performed by 'Three actors, any gender or race but not all the same. Each can play any character, regardless of the character’s race or gender.'

The play is substantially based on material from Boy-Wives and Female Husbands: Studies in African Homosexualities by Stephen O. Murray and Will Roscoe.

The Royal Court premiere was directed by Dominic Cooke and performed by Fisayo Akinade, Sharon D. Clarke and Alex Hassell.

Pilgrims

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Elinor Cook's Pilgrims is a play about adventure, betrayal, and man's impulse to conquer the world. It premiered at HighTide Festival, Aldeburgh, on 8 September 2016, before transferring to The Yard Theatre, London, on 20 September, and Theatr Clwyd, Mold, on 19 October 2016. It was co-produced by HighTide, Theatr Clwyd and Vicky Graham Productions in association with The Yard Theatre.

The play revolves around a triangular relationship between two young male mountaineers, the pragmatic Dan and the romantic Will, and a student of folk history, Rachel, with whom they both fall in love. Rachel, however, makes it clear that she rejects the role of the passive woman, subservient to the male hero; she wants to be the hero of her own story. But with the thrill of a climb just days away, it's not just principles, but people, in danger.

The premiere production was directed by Tamara Harvey and designed James Perkins. It was performed by Amanda Wilkin as Rachel, Steffan Donnelly as Will and Jack Monaghan as Dan.

Pine

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Jacqui Honess-Martin’s play Pine is a comedy about a group of recent graduates doing seasonal work selling Christmas trees in an affluent part of London. It was first performed at Hampstead Theatre Downstairs, London, on 10 December 2015.

The play is set, according to a note in the script, in 'December this year, [in] a car park in an affluent London "village", transformed annually into a large Christmas-tree store, Festive Pines'. Gabby, aged twenty-five, the manager, has a first-class honours degree and an MA, but somehow has found herself working at Festive Pines for the third year running. Betty, twenty-one, wishes she was ice-skating with her mates at Somerset House rather than ‘gaining work experience’. Joe, twenty-three, the assistant manager, is nursing a broken hand, and heart, by lugging trees. Taj, twenty-two, can’t decide whether he’s in love with Gabby or Betty. And they’re all being driven out of their minds by Christmas songs on repeat...

The Hampstead Theatre premiere was directed by Lisa Spirling and designed by Polly Sullivan, with Hannah Britland as Gabby, Matt Whitchurch as Joe, Lucy May Barker as Betty, Ronak Patani as Taj and David Mumeni as Sami.

Pink (Holcroft)

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Sam Holcroft's Pink is a short play written for the Tricycle Theatre’s Women, Power and Politics season, staged at the Tricycle, London, in June–July 2010. It is a comic political fantasia that brings together a female Prime Minister and a porn star turned successful businesswoman. It was first performed at the Tricycle on 8 June 2010, in rep with short plays by Joy Wilkinson, Zinnie Harris, Bola Agbaje and Sue Townsend.

The play's action takes place in the dressing room of a London television studio, where ex-porn star, now successful businesswoman, Kim Keen is preparing to launch her latest line of sex products on a TV chat show. She receives an unexpected visit from the Prime Minister, Bridget, whose husband has been caught buying sex toys from a porn website. The connection between the two women is eventually revealed, and the steely-hearted politician resorts to blackmail to get her own way. Finally, the pair form an unholy alliance to promote the female cause through blue movies.

The Tricycle Theatre production was directed by Indhu Rubasingham and designed by Rosa Maggiora. It was performed by Heather Craney, Amy Loughton, Tom Mannion and Stella Gonet.

Plastic  

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Kenneth Emson’s play Plastic is a school drama set in small-town Essex, filtered through the memories of its four characters. It was first performed at the Old Red Lion Theatre, London, on 3 April 2018 before transferring to the Mercury Theatre, Colchester, on 26 April 2018, produced by Poleroid Theatre in association with the Mercury Theatre.

The play is set in a small town along the Thames Estuary in Essex. Kev and Ben are in their thirties, looking back on their school years when Kev was captain of the school football team and scored the winner in the All-Essex Schools Cup Final, while Ben used to get beaten up most days, and stole money from his mum’s purse to pay off the school bully. On the day that Kev is anticipating a date with 15-year-old Lisa, she bunks off school for the afternoon with Ben and Jack, two friends with whom she has grown up but who are regarded as outsiders by their classmates. When Ben starts listing notorious American school killings, the threat of violence hangs in the air. All the characters speak in colloquial rhyming dialogue throughout.

The premiere production was directed by Josh Roche and designed by Sophie Thomas. It was performed by Mark Weinman (as Kev), Thomas Coombes (as Ben), Louis Greatorex (as Jack) and Madison Clare (as Lisa). 

Playing with Fire

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

David Edgar's Playing with Fire is a drama about racial tensions in modern, multicultural Britain, set mostly in a fictional town in West Yorkshire. It was first performed in the Olivier auditorium of the National Theatre, London, on 21 September 2005.

When the defiantly northern Wyverdale District Council fails to satisfy a government audit, a New Labour fixer, Alex Clifton, is despatched from the capital to formulate a robust recovery plan. But resources spent on websites, ‘faith festivals’ and council leaflets in Bengali seem beside the point to the Labour old guard, struggling as they are to provide basic services to an alienated and divided electorate. What's more, the reforms seem only to fan the flames of racial tension, and when riots break out, everyone starts looking for someone to blame.

The National Theatre premiere was directed by Michael Attenborough and designed by Lez Brotherston, with a cast including Emma Fielding, David Troughton and Oliver Ford Davies.

PMQ  

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Ella Hickson’s short play PMQ, created with Gwendolen Chatfield, was first performed as part of Coalition at Theatre503, London, in November 2010.

The play is set in a Westminster dressing room, where Prime Minister Dave is nervously preparing for his first ever bout of Prime Minister's Questions. As he rehearses his lines, he is continually mocked and interrupted by Speaker, a young woman who sits in a large green-leather armchair suspended high above the floor, strumming a guitar.

The Theatre503 production was directed by James Dacre and performed by Gwendolen Chatfield and Richard Lintern. 

Poison  

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Lot Vekemans' play Poison (its title in the original Dutch is Gif) is an austere portrait of a separated couple grieving for their dead son.

The first performance of Gif took place at NT Gent/NL on 8 December 2009. Poison, in Rina Vergano's English translation, was premiered at the Samuel Beckett Theater, off-Broadway, from 10 November 2016. It received its British premiere at the Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond, on 2 November 2017.

The play's action is set in the chapel of a cemetery, where a man and a woman (identified only as He and She) meet by arrangement after a separation that has lasted a decade. Their backstory emerges in the course of their conversation: they were married until he walked out on the millennial New Year’s Eve, and, while he has moved to Normandy, she has stayed in their native Holland. What brings them together is a scheme by the cemetery to relocate two hundred graves, including that of their son, Jakob, who died tragically young. The man, who is a journalist, is seeking some form of closure by writing a book and starting a new life; while his ex-wife immerses herself in daily routines without ever being able to overcome her grief.

The NT Gent/NL production was directed by Johan Simons and designed by Leo de Nijs, and performed by Elsie de Brauw and Steven Van Watermeulen.

The Samuel Beckett Theater production was directed by Erwin Maas and performed by Birgit Huppuch and Michael Laurence.

The Orange Tree Theatre production was directed by Paul Miller and designed by Simon Daw, and performed by Claire Price and Zubin Varla.

Port Authority

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Conor McPherson's Port Authority is a play about big dreams and lost opportunities, told through three interweaving monologues. It was first performed in a production by the Gate Theatre, Dublin, at the New Ambassadors Theatre, London, on 22 February 2001.

A young man, Kevin, moves out of his parents' home for the first time, living with friends and falling in love with a young woman he's afraid to pursue. Dermot, in his thirties, is bound for Los Angeles and a glamorous new job for which he's far from qualified. Joe, a pensioner, lives in a care home where meals are the big event – until he receives a mysterious package from a long-ago neighbour. The characters' stories are linked in small, teasing references, but also through deeper symmetries concerning fate, life chances, missed opportunities and the ineffability of the everyday.

The play's premiere was directed by Conor McPherson with Éanna MacLiam as Kevin, Stephen Brennan as Dermot and Jim Norton as Joe. It was praised by the critics, with Susannah Clapp in The Observer declaring 'His sentences are better, his sentiments more developed than many Booker Prize-winners. He is terrific'. The production subsequently transferred to the Gate Theatre, Dublin, on 24 April 2001.

The play was staged by the Atlantic Theater Company in New York from 21 May 2008, directed by Henry Wishcamper, with Brian d'Arcy James, John Gallagher Jr and Jim Norton.

Precious Little Talent

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Ella Hickson's Precious Little Talent is a play about the struggle of young people in their twenties to find their way in an increasingly hostile world. It was first performed at the Bedlam Theatre, Edinburgh, on 6 August 2009, as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

The play begins in New York in December 2008. Joey, a 23-year-old English woman with a first-class degree and £20,000 worth of debt, has just been fired from her waitressing job, so she has come to New York on a whim to visit her estranged father, George. Once there, she discovers that he's suffering from dementia. George's carer is an American teenager called Sam, as optimistic in outlook as Joey is cynical. They fall in love, leaving Joey with a choice of returning to the rat race in London or staying in America.

The premiere production was directed by Ella Hickson with Emma Hiddleston as Joey, John McColl as George and Simon Ginty as Sam.

A revised, full-length production opened at the Trafalgar Studios, London, on 5 April 2011, directed by James Dacre and designed by Lucy Osborne. The cast was Anthony Welsh as Sam, Olivia Hallinan as Joey and Ian Gelder as George.

The Pride

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Alexi Kaye Campbell's debut play, The Pride examines changing attitudes to sexuality between the late 1950s and the first decade of the subsequent millennium. It was first performed at the Royal Court Theatre in the Jerwood Theatre Upstairs on 21 November 2008.

The action of the play is set in two time periods, 1958 and 2008, which interrelate in several ways, most obviously through the characters: in each period there is an Oliver, a Philip and a Sylvia, all in their mid-thirties, and each played by the same actor in both periods.

The 1958 Philip is a well-heeled estate agent married to Sylvia, a children’s writer. However, when Sylvia invites her illustrator, Oliver, over for dinner there is an immediate attraction between the two men. Philip is both drawn to and repelled by Oliver’s advances, aware that his whole identity may be at stake should his true feelings be known. In 2008, the names are the same but Philip and Oliver are this time in a relationship, which has been damaged by Oliver’s addiction to anonymous sex. Sylvia is the friend to whom they turn for comfort.

The Royal Court premiere was directed by Jamie Lloyd, with JJ Feild as Philip, Bertie Carvel as Oliver, Lyndsey Marshal as Sylvia and the remaining parts played by Tim Steed. The designer was Soutra Gilmour. It won an Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in an Affiliate Theatre. The play won the John Whiting Award in 2009 and Alexi Kaye Campbell won the Critics’ Circle Award for Most Promising Playwright.

The Pride received its American premiere at the Lucille Lortel Theatre, produced by MCC Theater, on 27 January 2010 in a production directed by Joe Mantello, with Hugh Dancy as Philip, Ben Whishaw as Oliver, Andrea Riseborough as Sylvia and the remaining parts played by Adam James.

The play was revived at the Sheffield Crucible Studio in June 2011 in a production directed by Richard Wilson. It was again revived at the Trafalgar Studios in the West End in August 2013, in a production also directed by Jamie Lloyd and designed by Soutra Gilmour.

The Prisoner’s Dilemma

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

David Edgar’s The Prisoner’s Dilemma is a play about political negotiation and the difficulty of reconciling opposing nationalist forces. It is the third play in Edgar's post-Cold War trilogy, which also includes The Shape of the Table (1990) and Pentecost (1994). It was first performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company at The Other Place, Stratford-upon-Avon, on 11 July 2001.

Beginning in early 1989 and spanning some twelve years, the play follows a team of peace negotiators attempting to resolve an ethnic conflict occurring within a fictional former Soviet republic. Inside Kavkhazia lies a largely Muslim province, Drozhdevnya, that wants independence. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union the two ethnic groups have fought bitterly for control over the country. As the two sides fight on the ground, attempts are made by a Finnish peace-broker to hammer out an accord that will guarantee a democratic, multi-ethnic state. Just when it looks as if a deal has been reached, however, one side swerves and the whole cyclical process starts all over again.

The Royal Shakespeare Company premiere was directed by Michael Attenborough and designed by Es Devlin. The cast was Douglas Rao, Diana Kent, David Wilmot, Joseph Mydell, Penny Downie, Larry Lamb, Trevor Cooper, Alex Zorbas, Zoe Waites, George Clarke, Joshua Dale, Alan David, Robert Bowman, Robert Jezek and Hattie Morahan.

The production transferred to the Pit Theatre, Barbican, London, with performances from 24 January 2002.

a profoundly affectionate, passionate devotion to someone (– noun)  

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

debbie tucker green's play a profoundly affectionate, passionate devotion to someone (– noun) portrays a series of couples in their attempts to communicate. It was first performed at the Royal Court Theatre Upstairs, London, on 28 February 2017.

The play is structured in three parts. In Part One, a woman (A) and a man (B), both of them black, pick over the intimate details of their marriage. In Part Two, a woman (black or Asian) angrily confronts her black partner, simply identified as Man. In Part Three, the male character from the previous section reappears, some years older, now besotted with a young woman who is the daughter of the pair from the first section.

The premiere production was directed by debbie tucker green and designed by Merle Hensel. It was performed by Gary Beadle, Gershwyn Eustache Jnr, Lashana Lynch, Shvorne Marks and Meera Syal.

Pronoun

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Evan Placey's Pronoun is a play about a transgender teenager, exploring the impact on friends and family of an individual's decision to undergo gender transition. The play was commissioned as part of the 2014 National Theatre Connections Festival and premiered by youth theatres across the UK, including a performance at the National Theatre in July 2014.

The play's main character, Dean (formerly Isabella), is a transgender male – meaning Dean was born a girl, and is biologically female, but identifies as male, and is in transition to becoming male. The play is about Dean's experience of that transition and his relationships with his friends, his boyfriend and his family. He has started hormone treatment and is binding his chest while trying to save up for chest surgery. He has chosen his new name, inspired by his hero, James Dean, who takes on physical form in Dean's private fantasy world. He has asked everyone around him to treat him as the young man that he feels himself to be. But, while his friends are generally supportive, his mum and dad are struggling as they try to understand Dean's experience for themselves. Dean's sister, Dani, is struggling with the loss of a sister. And Dean's boyfriend, Josh, is struggling to make sense of a confused welter of feelings.

In an introduction accompanying the play in the volume Girls Like That and other plays for teenagers (Nick Hern Books, 2015), Placey writes: 'While Dean’s transition provides the structural spine for the story, for me, it’s really a story about Dean and Josh. It’s a love story. It’s a romantic-comedy. For a play about gender, I felt the play’s form had to somehow play with gender too. When researching the play I ran a workshop with a youth theatre in Ipswich. I went in wearing make-up just to see what would happen. Nothing happened. When I asked the group half way through if anyone noticed my makeup, about half had but hadn’t thought much more about it. Which was really refreshing. Perhaps contradictorily, they were less open to the idea of one of their friends being transgender. They didn’t care if I didn’t conform to gender norms because I was some random guy doing a drama workshop. But they cared if it was someone closer to home. And so that’s when I decided the play had to be a love story. And I hope, by the end of the play, we’re all rooting for Dean and Josh to get back together.'

Protection

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Fin Kennedy’s first play, Protection, is a behind-the-scenes look at a team of social workers and their clients. It was first performed at Soho Theatre, London, on 3 July 2003.

The action of the play takes place amongst a Family Support Social Services Team in a British inner city. Angela breaks the rules to get things done, her way. Shirley misses the old days, when protection came without a price. Their manager, Gordon, is having an affair with Angela whilst claiming on expenses. And as for newcomer Grace, it’s a struggle simply not to annoy anyone.

In an author's note in the published script, Fin Kennedy writes 'Social commentary [on the level attempted in the play] appears to have become unfashionable amongst writers of my generation. This troubles me. It is as essential a part of a democracy as a free press. In the current climate of increased centralisation of power, it has become nothing short of urgent. It is also a genre at which theatre excels. I’d like to think it offers a social service of its own. I hope that this play goes some way towards reviving the tradition.'

The Soho Theatre premiere was directed by Abigail Morris and designed by Tom Piper. It was performed by Saira Todd, Joe Armstrong, Corinne Skinner Carter, Lucy Davenport, Matthew Delamere, Margot Leicester, Kellie Shirley and Martin Turner.

Purgatorio

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Ariel Dorfman’s Purgatorio is a claustrophobic two-hander about revenge and redemption, with echoes of Jean-Paul Sartre’s 1944 play Huis Clos and Euripides' Medea. It was first performed at the Seattle Repertory Theatre, Seattle, USA, on 2 November 2005. (An earlier version was first performed in a rehearsed reading at the Criterion Theatre, London, on 30 November 2001).

Two characters – a 'Man' and a 'Woman' – are trapped in a soul-less white room. Each is interrogated in turn by the other. Each is groping for forgiveness and contrition. Finally the woman is forced to confront her past actions. Above all, she has to acknowledge that, after her partner abandoned her to marry another woman, she murdered their two children.

Purgatorio's premiere at Seattle Repertory Theatre was directed by David Esbjornson and performed by Charlayne Woodard and Dan Snook.

The play was first performed in the UK at the Arcola Theatre, London, on 15 January 2008 in a production directed by Daniele Guerra. The performers were Adjoa Andoh and Patrick Baladi.

Queen Anne

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Helen Edmundson's play Queen Anne tells the story of one of England’s little-known sovereigns, her friendship with Sarah Churchill and the birth of the free press in England at the turn of the 18th century. It was commissioned by the Royal Shakespeare Company and premiered at the Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, on 20 November 2015.

The play opens with a song satirising current political events, penned by a group of satirists whose influence grows throughout the play. Princess Anne has been plagued by ill health all her life and, despite seventeen pregnancies, has produced no heirs with her husband, Prince George of Denmark. The Union of King William III and Anne’s sister Queen Mary was also childless, leaving Anne in succession for the throne. With the death of King William in 1702, Anne becomes Queen. England is at war and in a Grand Alliance with the protestant nations against the Catholic Spanish and French sovereigns to prevent ‘The Pretender’ King Louis’ dominance in Europe. As Anne grieves for her recently deceased father and the loss of what will be her final pregnancy, her close advisors seek to influence her from all corners. Sarah Churchill, her intimate friend since childhood, is granted key positions in the Royal Household and seeks to advise and manipulate Anne to further her own political agenda and career, and that of her husband, the Duke of Marlborough. Lord Chancellor Goldolphin, together with Sarah’s husband Marlborough (trusted Commander-in-Chief of the allied forces), exert pressure to their own ends. Anne begins to understand her power as she becomes increasingly involved and informed in political matters. Sarah pushes the Whig agenda that supports her husband’s wars, but Anne is drawn to advisors who share her religious views and support a strong monarchy. As a result, her friendship with Sarah starts to unravel and Anne begins to find new allies. Sarah fears she is being replaced in Anne’s affection by a new member of the royal household, Abigail Hill, adding personal tension to the political difference between them. As tensions rise, Godolphin is dismissed by Anne and Sarah turns to the ruthless, increasingly bold satirists for help. Prince George dies. Despite a string of notable victories won by the Duke of Marlborough including at Blenheim, Anne uncovers his betrayal and suspends him from his position. Sarah and the Duke of Marlborough are dismissed from court and retreat to Europe and Anne brokers peace, finding her voice as Queen.

The RSC production was directed by Natalie Abrahami and designed by Hannah Clark. The cast was Daisy Ashford, Jonathan Broadbent, Robert Cavanah (as John Churchill), Jonathan Christie, Emma Cunniffe (as Queen Anne), Daniel Easton, Michael Fenton Stevens, Richard Hope, Natascha McElhone (as Sarah Churchill), Hywel Morgan, Beth Park, Carl Prekopp, Jenny Rainsford, Elliott Ross, Anna Tierney, Tom Turner and Ragevan Vasan.

Quelques Fleurs

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Liz Lochhead's Quelques Fleurs is a short play for two performers, a portrait of a marriage, both funny and tragic. It was first performed by Nippy Sweeties Theatre Company at the Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh Festival Fringe, on 10 August 1991.

In the play, Verena and her husband Derek speak in intercut monologues from two isolated spots on stage. Verena’s scenes span from 24 December 1990 until 23 December 1991, the date of Derek’s single journey – 'shown backwards from drunk till sober and measured by a dwindling mountain of beer cans' – from his Aberdeen home to Glasgow. The couple are childless and their marriage is unravelling. Gradually we enter the hearts of both of them as they reveal the hidden pain behind their union.

In her Foreword to Liz Lochhead: Five Plays (Nick Hern Books, 2012), Lochhead writes 'This is a play about two people, one of whom talks and talks (all year!) to not say what matters to her, until, after all that repressing, out it comes; and one who, in a single day at the end of that year, is taken backwards in time from being incoherently drunk and almost home to what we know will be hell, back to being sober and telling us the whole truth at the beginning of his journey. At the end of the play. ... Sound confusing? The interlaced structure, with its two different time frames, one for each character, is, I admit, hard to bring off. A flaw I see no solution for. The audience do seem to catch on fine, though.'

The premiere production at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 1991 was performed by Liz Lochhead and Stuart Hepburn.

The Quiet House

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Gareth Farr's play The Quiet House is a drama about the effects of infertility on a young couple, and their struggle to conceive. It was first performed at Birmingham Repertory Theatre on 26 May 2016, co-produced by Echo Presents, the Birmingham Repertory Theatre and Park Theatre, London. It transferred to Park Theatre on 7 June 2016.

The play follows young couple Jess and Dylan as they attempt to conceive their first child, embarking on a journey into the world of IVF. Forced to fight for the family they so desperately want, they put their faith in science and their relationship to the ultimate test.

The premiere production was directed by Tessa Walker and designed by Ana Inés Jabares-Pita. It was performed by Michelle Bonnard, Oliver Lansley, Allyson Ava-Brown and Tom Walker.

Rabbit

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Nina Raine’s debut play is a portrayal of a single woman on the cusp of her thirties. Faced with a myriad of expectations, she finds herself drowning in anxiety about her future.

It’s Bella’s 29th birthday. A select group of friends and former lovers meet for a drink to celebrate. They discuss sex and work and are simultaneously repelled and attracted by each other. Lively banter turns to personal insult as the bar becomes a gender battlefield. However, what they don’t know is that Bella’s father is terminally ill. His cancerous tumour becomes a metaphor for all the things his daughter perceives as wrong with her life – her overpaid but shallow job, her romantic dalliances that end in strife but most of all, the worry that she’s not living up to other people’s expectations.

Set over the course of one raucous evening, the scenes with Bella’s dying father are told in flashback but woven seamlessly into the main action of the play. The characters’ frank discussion about and subsequent enactment of the battle of the sexes struck a chord with theatregoers and critics alike, who hailed Raine as a distinctive new voice.

Having tried and failed to get her play produced by the major theatres, Raine eventually mounted her own production at tiny fringe venue the Old Red Lion Theatre in London in 2006. The play was a big success and transferred to the Trafalgar Studios in the West End before playing at the Brits Off Broadway festival in New York in 2007. Raine was subsequently awarded the Critics’ Circle and the Evening Standard Award for Most Promising Playwright.

Rafta, Rafta…

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Ayub Khan Din's play Rafta, Rafta... is a comedy about marital difficulties within a close-knit Indian family living in England. Based on Bill Naughton’s 1963 play All in Good Time, it was first performed at the National Theatre, London, in the Lyttelton auditorium on 26 April 2007 (previews from 18 April).

The play is set in the working class English town of Bolton. Eeshwar Dutt is a first-generation immigrant and patriarch of the family. He has a troubled relationship with his newlywed son Atul (aged twenty-two), whose married life with Vina Patel has got off to a rocky start. Atul is so woefully inhibited by the intrusiveness of his parents and his brother Jai’s childish pranks that his beautiful virgin bride remains just that. Six weeks later and the whole family starts to panic...

The National Theatre premiere was directed by Nicholas Hytner and designed by Tim Hatley, with a cast including Harish Patel as Eeshwar Dutt, Ronny Jhutti as Atul, Rudi Dharmalingam as Jai and Rokhsaneh Ghawam-Shahidi as Vina.

A feature film adaptation, with a screenplay by Ayub Khan-Din, was released as All in Good Time in 2012, directed by Nigel Cole.

The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Robert Tressell’s novel The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists, first published in 1914 after his death in 1911, is a recognised classic of working-class literature. It is an account of the working lives of a group of housepainters and decorators in the fictional town of Mugsborough, based on the southern English coastal town of Hastings.

Howard Brenton’s stage adaptation, first performed at the Everyman Theatre in Liverpool on 17 June 2010 in a co-production with Chichester Festival Theatre, lays bare the many social injustices perpetrated on these men whilst capturing their individual characters.

The plot recounts the little daily successes and the disasters of the group, living under constant fear of being laid off by employers forever looking for new corners to cut. Both workers and bosses are caught in a system spiralling out of control, with the workers always coming out the worse. The men debate the whys and wherefores of their poverty but one worker, Frank Owen, believes the cause of life-long poverty is actually due to what he calls the ‘Great Money Trick’. He attempts to convince the group that they are victims of a ruthless capitalist system, which transforms them into the ‘philanthropists’ of the title because they simply give the value of their work away to their oppressive employers.

The Everyman Theatre premiere was directed by Christopher Morahan with an ensemble cast including Dean Ashton, Will Beer, Louise, Larry Dann, Tim Frances, Finbar Lynch, Des McAleer, Thomas Morrison, Laura Rees, Paul Regan, Gyuri Sarossy and Nicolas Tennant. The production subsequently transferred to the Minerva Theatre in Chichester on 15 July 2010.

Ramona Tells Jim  

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Sophie Wu's Ramona Tells Jim is darkly comic debut play about confession and the gravity of young love. It was commissioned by the Bush Theatre, London, and first performed there on 20 September 2017.

The play takes place in the town of Mallaig on the west coast of Scotland, switching between two time periods,1998 and 2013. In 2013, Jim, a 32-year-old loner who collects crustaceans and acts as a luckless tourist guide, is being badgered by his 19-year-old girlfriend, Pocahontas, to settle down. She dreams of marriage, a job as a mortgage adviser and a four-bedroom house. What changes their lives is the unexpected arrival of an eccentric English woman, Ramona, whom Jim has not seen for fifteen years, since 1998, when the two of them lost their virginity on a beach while awaiting a rare meteor shower. Back then, the 16-year-old Ramona had been visiting Mallaig on a geography field trip, but she got caught in a scandal that has haunted her ever since.

The Bush Theatre production was directed by Mel Hillyard and designed by Lucy Sierra. It was performed by Ruby Bentall as Ramona, Joe Bannister as Jim and Amy Lennox as Pocahontas.

random

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

debbie tucker green’s random is a solo drama for a female actor, about the killing of a black schoolboy. It was first performed at the Royal Court Jerwood Theatre Downstairs, London, on 7 March 2008.

random follows a day in the life of a black London family, with a focus on the minutiae of domestic life until their lives are shattered by a random act of violence when one of them becomes the victim of a knife crime.

The play is intended to be performed by one black actress, with lines attributed to characters including Sister, Brother, Mum, Dad, Teacher and others.

The Royal Court premiere was directed by Sacha Wares and performed by Nadine Marshall.

The play was revived for the Royal Court's Theatre Local season at Elephant and Castle Shopping Centre on 3 March 2010 in a production directed by Sacha Wares and performed by Seroca Davis.

A television adaptation for Channel 4, directed by debbie tucker green and starring Nadine Marshall alongside an expanded cast, was first broadcast on 23 August 2011. It went on to win a BAFTA for Best Single Drama.

Reader

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Ariel Dorfman’s play Reader is a thriller about a censor who discovers that the novel he is about to ban bears a close resemblance to his own life. It was first performed at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, on 28 July 1995.

Daniel Lucas is a government censor in an unnamed country in the ‘near future.’ Nicknamed the 'Pope' for his infallibility, he has been shaping all subversive literature so that it falls in line with the current political regime. Under his watchful eye, many texts have been beaten into submission to make them palatable for the oppressed masses. However, when he discovers that one of these novels bears an uncanny resemblance to his own life and hints at the terrible fate that awaits his son, Nick, he desperately tries to hunt down its author. Unable to bring himself to ban the book, he is ultimately forced to confront his past crimes.

The play's Traverse Theatre premiere was directed by Ian Brown and designed by Tim Hatley, with a cast including Clive Merrison as Daniel Lucas and Dugald Bruce-Lockhart as Nick.

Red  

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Somalia Seaton's play Red is drama exploring the internal lives of young women, and what happens when their world is shattered by grief.

The play was commissioned as part of the Platform initiative from Tonic Theatre in partnership with Nick Hern Books, aimed at addressing gender imbalance in theatre by offering a series of big-cast plays with predominantly or all-female casts, written specifically for performance by young actors.

The play's action takes place on a 'sparse and mystical' set. When schoolgirl Jay goes missing, her best friend Dee retreats into Dusk, a magical twilight world, conjuring up fragmented memories of her missing friend. Soon Dee finds herself caught between the enchanting world she’s created to hold onto the memory of her friend, and the mundane reality of suburbia, where life must simply go on.

In an Introduction to the published playtext, Somalia Seaton writes: 'With Red, I wanted to interrogate the reasons behind the catastrophic number of young people that are reported missing in the UK. Seventy young people are reported missing in London alone, every single day. I had thought that I would write a play about this... But what I was really writing was a play about grief. A play that looks at the debris left behind when someone leaves. A play that looks at how a young girl learns to cope with no longer having her closest friend by her side.' 

Red Car, Blue Car

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Jack Thorne's Red Car, Blue Car is a short play about guilt, grief and responsibility. It was written for and first performed at the Bush Theatre, London, as part of their Where’s My Seat? season, in June 2011.

The play is structured as two overlapping monologues by characters, Phil and Marie, who are linked in a way that isn't immediately apparent. What appears to be the story of a couple who met on the internet and lived happily ever after is anything but. What they are in fact recounting is their separate experience of the night Marie's boyfriend is run over by Phil's car.

In an introduction published in Jack Thorne Plays: One (Nick Hern Books, 2014), Thorne writes: 'Red Car, Blue Car came out of my time at the Bush [Theatre], the only place that’s ever felt like a theatrical home to me. If such a thing is possible. When the time came to move from the old building to the new, the great Josie Rourke [Artistic Director of the Bush Theatre] wanted to work out what the theatre could do, so she commissioned three writers to write three plays which could be staged in three different ways. To make things more complicated, she also gave us a set of props we had to include, and had luminaries of the theatre nominate stage directions which we had to include in the text. I cheated slightly by absorbing these into spoken word'.

The Bush Theatre premiere was directed by Tamara Harvey and designed by Amy Cook and Lucy Osborne, with Hugo Speer as Phil and Nina Sosanya as Marie.

Remote

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Stef Smith's Remote is a play about protest, power and protecting yourself. It was commissioned as part of the 2015 National Theatre Connections Festival and premiered by youth theatres across the UK, including a performance at the National Theatre in July 2015.

The play's action is set in a park: it 'can be set in any park. The staging can be simple or complex and is open to the interpretation of the group'. A girl called Antler has climbed a tree, hoping not to be found. She has even destroyed her mobile phone. Over the course of one autumnal evening, seven lives intertwine as they make their way through the park. Lines of dialogue in the script are often left unattributed to any particular character, but are delivered as if by a chorus, commenting on (and often narrating) the action, and also allowing for a great deal of flexibility in the casting. 'The smallest number of performers this play could be performed with is nine. There is, however, no maximum number'.

Ribbons

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

A short play from writer Elaine Murphy, which was originally staged as part of The Fairer Sex play-reading series at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin in 2009. Ribbons was subsequently given a full production in a double bill with Nancy Harris’ Love in a Glass Jar at the Abbey Theatre in 2013.

Glenda has invited her estranged son, Lewis, over for dinner. After little contact for five years, Glenda has some big news to impart to her son. However, Lewis wants answers to questions that his mother can’t explain. It seems both parent and child have been concealing their true identities – and find it hard to cope when everything starts to unravel.

Ribbons was written the year after Murphy’s smash-hit play Little Gem had premiered and cemented her status as one of Ireland’s strongest new playwrighting talents.

The River

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

The River was first performed at the Royal Court Theatre, London, on 18 October 2012. An intensely allusive, non-linear psychodrama, it was Jez Butterworth's first major play to be performed since Jerusalem (2009), which had also premiered at the Royal Court and had gone on to become a huge critical and commercial hit.

On a moonless night in August when the sea trout are ready to run, a man brings his new girlfriend to the remote family cabin where he has come for the fly-fishing since he was a boy. But she's not the only woman he has brought here – or indeed the last.

Like Jerusalem, The River was directed by Ian Rickson and designed by Ultz. The cast was led by Dominic West, an actor with star credentials from his lead performance in the HBO television series The Wire (2002–08). The production was staged in the Royal Court's smaller Upstairs venue, and tickets were released only on the day of each performance: decisions for which the Royal Court was criticised in some parts of the media. The production was nonetheless a critical success, with most critics praising the play's enigmatic, lyrical qualities and its craftsmanship.

The River received its Broadway premiere at Broadway's Circle in the Square Theatre on 16 November 2014 in a production directed by Ian Rickson, starring Hugh Jackman, Laura Donnelly and Cush Jumbo.

Room 303

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Enda Walsh's Room 303 is a short monologue inspired by the New Testament's Third Epistle of John and first produced by the Bush Theatre, London, as part of the Sixty-Six Books season on 13 October 2011. It was subsequently shown as an installation at the Galway International Arts Festival in 2014.

The play's action takes place in a 'cheap hotel room'. A stage direction states that 'a Man's voice is heard'. We learn that he is a travelling religious salesman who, confronted by the futility of his existence, has given up his vocation. All that’s left is this hotel room, his ageing body and a fat fly.

The Bush Theatre production was directed by Madani Younis and performed by Niall Buggy, who also performed the piece at the Galway International Arts Festival.

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.

Rules for Living

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Sam Holcroft's Rules for Living is a theatrically playful black comedy that explores the coping strategies we adopt in life. It was first performed in the Dorfman auditorium at the National Theatre, London, on 13 March 2015.

The play's action is set in an open-plan kitchen/living room or kitchen-conservatory where Edith and her family are gathering for lunch on Christmas Day. Edith plans everything with military precision, but her plans are destined to be thrown into disarray. Her son Matthew arrives partnered by a nervously jocular actor, Carrie, but secretly nurses a passion for his sister-in-law, Sheena. And Sheena, a compulsive drinker, is unable to contain her anger at her cynical, underachieving husband, Adam, or her concern for their psychologically damaged daughter, Emma. After the short opening scene, each subsequent scene is introduced with a 'rule' (eg 'Matthew must sit to tell a lie', 'Edith must clean to keep calm'), which is displayed to the audience for the duration of the scene. The characters adhere to these rules, even as they accumulate alarmingly (each rule, once it appears, applies throughout the rest of the play). In the play's second act, the rules are modified by a conditional element, so that each rule is activated until a specific condition is met: 'Matthew must sit and eat to tell a lie… until he gets a compliment'. Eventually, as the family gathering descends into chaos, all the rules are obscured by a title card stating that ‘ANARCHY RULES’.

The National Theatre premiere was directed by Marianne Elliott and designed by Chloe Lamford, Miles Jupp as Matthew, Maggie Service as Carrie, Claudie Blakley as Sheena, Stephen Mangan as Adam, Deborah Findlay as Edith, John Rogan as Francis and Daisy Waterstone as Emma.

Rum and Vodka

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Conor McPherson's short monologue play Rum and Vodka was first performed at University College Dublin on 27 November1992. One of McPherson's earliest stage works, it was written and performed just after he formed Fly By Night Theatre Company with fellow students, who produced the majority of his early plays.

A young, unnamed Irishman with a drink problem recounts the events of three momentous days in his life when his drab nine-to-five existence is obliterated in an escapist binge, which threatens to engulf him.

The University College premiere was performed by Stephen Walshe and directed by Conor McPherson.

The play was subsequently performed by Fly by Night Theatre Company at the City Arts Centre, Dublin, on 30 August 1994. The performer was Jason Byrne, directed by Colin O'Connor.

Run

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Stephen Laughton's Run is monologue play that traces the coming-of-age of a gay Jewish teenager. It was produced by iN BLOOM and first performed at VAULT Festival, London, on 10 February 2016. After a national tour, the play transferred to The Bunker, London, in March 2017.

The play is narrated by Yonni, a seventeen-year-old gay Jewish kid. His devoutly religious family is preparing for the weekly shabbat, but he can think only about his schoolmate, Adam, with whom he is infatuated. As the evening’s events unfold - some of them real, some of them imagined - a deeply personal story about first love and infatuation expands to interrogate the difficult intersection of religion and queerness.

The premiere production was directed by Lucy Wray and performed by Tom Ross-Williams.

Salad Day

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

An elderly couple trapped in a nursing home plot a daring escape into the sunshine.

Same

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Deborah Bruce's play Same explores the apparent gulf between the young and old, and asks if it is as wide as it feels, or whether we are fundamentally the same inside whatever age we are. It was commissioned as part of the 2014 National Theatre Connections Festival and premiered by youth theatres across the UK.

The play's action takes place in an old people’s home in a small town. When Josie, a resident in the home, dies her grandchildren gather to share their memories of her, and her fellow residents feel the effects of her death as her funeral takes place.

An author's note included in the script states that, 'Depending on the number of actors, there can be doubling between the young and old characters. Or not. The older characters were originally written to be played by teenagers with the intention that it enables the audience to see the young person inside the old.'

Scarborough  

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Fiona Evans's play Scarborough is a drama about a dangerously charged romance between a fifteen-year-old and their teacher. A one-act version of the play was first performed at Apartment, Newcastle, on 24 October 2006, and transferred to The Assembly Rooms, George Street, as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe on 3 August 2007, where it won a Fringe First Award.

The play was revived, in this expanded, two-part version, at the Royal Court Jerwood Theatre Upstairs, London, on 7 February 2008.

The play takes place in a double room in a Scarborough bed and breakfast, where a 29-year-old gym teacher and their15-year-old pupil are having an illicit weekend away. In Part One, Lauren (the teacher) and Daz (the pupil) laugh, quarrel and make love, but they don't dare go out. The play tracks the disintegration of their relationship. Then, in Part Two, the action is replayed with almost identical dialogue, but with the gender of the two characters reversed: the teacher is now Aiden, and the pupil is Beth.

The Royal Court production was directed by Deborah Bruce and designed by Jo Newberry. It was performed by Holly Atkins (as Lauren), Jack O’Connell (as Daz), Daniel Mays (as Aiden) and Rebecca Ryan (as Beth).

Scenes from the Big Picture

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Owen McCafferty's play Scenes from the Big Picture is a panoramic portrait of contemporary Belfast with a multi-stranded narrative featuring over twenty characters. The play's action, although depicted on a large dramatic canvas, explores the impact of small and apparently insignificant moments in its characters' lives. It was first performed in the Cottesloe auditorium of the National Theatre, London, on 10 April 2003.

The play takes place over the course of a hot summer’s day in an imagined area of 'present-day' Belfast. There’s a gang of four kids heading for dead-end jobs in the local meat factory, which is itself going under despite the owner’s PA’s desperate attempts to keep the place afloat. Meanwhile, an elderly couple who run the grocer’s shop are being bullied and two junkies are planning their escape. The local pub is populated by a ragtag of drunken old men, a shop steward is having trouble juggling the demands of his wife and his mistress, and two estranged brothers are speaking for the first time in years at their father’s wake. Over the course of the day, individual lives intersect, and private and public worlds collide.

The National Theatre premiere was directed by Peter Gill and designed by Alison Chitty. It was performed by Darren Healy, Elaine Cassidy, Aoife McMahon, Patrick O’Kane, John Normington, Kathy Kiera Clarke, June Watson, Frances Tomelty, Dermot Crowley, Harry Towb, Chris Corrigan, Karl Johnson, Ron Donachie, Eileen Pollock, Michelle Fairley, Ruairi Conaghan, Gerard Jordan, Packy Lee, Stuart McQuarrie, Breffni McKenna and Andy Moore.

The play won both the 2004 Meyer-Whitworth Award and the 2004 John Whiting Award.

Schreber’s Nervous Illness

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Caryl Churchill’s radio play Schreber's Nervous Illness is based on Memoirs of My Nervous Illness by former judge Daniel Paul Schreber, who spent ten years in asylums as a schizophrenic and wrote his memoirs there. The play was first broadcast on BBC Radio 3 on 25 July 1972.

The play charts the progression of Schreber’s nervous illness through his own testimony, with interjections from his psychiatrist, Dr Weber. Schreber believed that God was trying to transform him into a woman and that his mind had become a battleground between the forces of light and darkness.

The BBC Radio 3 production was directed by John Tydeman, with a cast including Kenneth Haigh as Schreber and William Fox as Weber.

Scorch

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Stacey Gregg's Scorch is a play for a solo performer, telling the story of first love though the eyes of a gender-curious teen. It was first performed at the Outburst Queer Arts Festival, Belfast, in 2015, co-produced by Prime Cut, MAC and Outburst. It was later presented in Paines Plough’s pop-up venue, Roundabout, at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, on 5 August 2016, before touring Ireland.

The play is narrated by a teenage character called Kes ('like the kid on the front of that Ken Loach film'), who, though female by birth, has a developing identification with male characters in videogames and movies. When Kes meets Jules online, and the latter believes that Kes is a boy, the two start a relationship. When Jules discovers the truth about Kes, it unleashes a whirlwind of confusion for Kes, and indeed everyone else.

An author's note in the published script states that 'Scorch was inspired by recent UK cases.' Stacey Gregg, in an interview published in The Guardian (27 September 2016), explains that 'These were [court] cases taken by women who had been deceived into thinking they were having a sexual relationship with a man, but discovered that their partner was a woman or, in one case, a trans man. The accusations were of "gender fraud", which for me is a contested term. I thought that the media coverage sensationalised these cases, and this drove me to try to communicate the questions they raised in a more complex way.'

The premiere production was directed by Emma Jordan and designed by Ciaran Bagnall. It was performed by Amy McAllister.

The play won the Irish Times Theatre Award for Best New Play and the Writers Guild of Ireland ZeBBie Award for Best Theatre Script. It also won a Fringe First Award at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Scuttlers

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Rona Munro's Scuttlers is a play about youthful disaffection, protest and violence, drawing on the history of the scuttlers, the youth gangs of nineteenth-century Manchester. It was first performed at the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester, on 5 February 2015.

The play is set in Ancoats, Manchester, in 1882, where rapid and tumultuous social change is being driven by the Industrial Revolution and its appetite for cheap labour. With a dense, newly formed urban population living amongst the constant rumbling of the mills and noxious air pollution, the frustrations and grievances of the young mill workers get channelled into street gangs, fighting over their territory with belts, fists and knives. The Bengal Street Tigers and the Prussia Street gangs are both determined to get the better of each other, and internal rivalries are equally hotly contested. The two gangs – led by the reluctant George and Joe on one side, and on the other by Sean, keen to reassert his authority as 'King of the Tigers' – are heading for a violent clash. Meanwhile, Theresa, barely more than a child herself but already known as the 'mother tiger', provides an unofficial welfare system for other young women, including the needy Margaret and young Polly, who wants to be one of the boys.

In an author's note published in the script (Nick Hern Books, 2015), Munro writes: 'Scuttlers was written in response to the street riots of 2011. ... [W]hat struck me, reading the newspaper accounts of the doings of the scuttlers from the nineteenth century, was how closely they mirrored the same papers and other commentators reporting on the 2011 riots. Whatever those nights of violence represented, it’s clear they are not just a sickness of our age: the same sickness has plagued us for well over a hundred years.'

The Royal Exchange premiere was directed by Wils Wilson and designed by Fly Davis. The cast included Rona Morison (as Theresa), Chloe Harris (as Polly), Caitriona Ennis, Tachia Newall (as Joe), Anna Krippa, Dan Parr, David Judge, Bryan Parry (as Sean), Kieran Urquhart (as George) and Duncan Ross, with an additional community ensemble.

The Seafarer

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Conor McPherson's The Seafarer is a play about a group of drinking buddies whose extended Christmas Eve card game is played for the highest stakes possible. It was first performed at the National Theatre, London, in the Cottesloe auditorium, on 28 September 2006 (previews from 20 September) - the first of McPherson's plays to be staged at the National Theatre.

It’s Christmas Eve and James 'Sharky' Harkin, an erstwhile fisherman/van driver/chauffeur now in his fifties, has returned to Dublin to look after his ageing, irascible brother, Richard, who’s recently gone blind. Two old drinking buddies, Ivan and Nicky, are also holed up at the house, hoping to play some cards. But with the arrival of Mr Lockhart, an acquaintance of Nicky's, the stakes are raised ever higher. In fact, Sharky may be playing for his very soul.

The National Theatre premiere was directed by McPherson and designed by Rae Smith, with Ron Cook as Mr Lockhart, Conleth Hill as Ivan, Karl Johnson as Sharky, Michael McElhatton as Nicky and Jim Norton as Richard.

The play received its American premiere at the Booth Theater, New York, on 31 October 2007, with the same artistic team. The cast was as follows: Conleth Hill as Ivan, Ciarán Hinds as Mr Lockhart, Sean Mahon as Nicky, David Morse as Sharky and Jim Norton as Richard.

Seagulls

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Seagulls is a short play written by Caryl Churchill in 1978, before Cloud Nine, but not performed until many years later. In her Introduction to Caryl Churchill: Shorts (Nick Hern Books, 1990), she writes that the play 'felt too much as if it was about not being able to write for me to want it done at the time'.

The play received a reading as part of a series of events alongside the premiere of Churchill's play A Number at the Royal Court Theatre, London, in 2002. A full production was mounted in 2013 at the Citizens Theatre, Glasgow, as part of a double bill with her play Far Away.

Valery is an ordinary housewife who possesses an extraordinary and unusual gift: the ability to move objects using sheer willpower. She has recently begun to make a showbiz career out of her telekinetic gift, and is on her way to Harvard to submit to testing, along with her hard-headed manager Di. But, after agreeing to meet Cliff, a long-time fan of hers, she senses that something is not right and begins to fear that her powers are waning. Is this the result of meeting Cliff? Or is it because she has become a commodity to be exploited?

Second Person Narrative

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Jemma Kennedy’s play Second Person Narrative is a play about selfhood and the decisions we make – or have imposed upon us – in constructing a life. It was commissioned by Tonic Theatre in partnership with Nick Hern Books as part of Platform, an initiative comprising a series of big-cast plays with predominantly or all-female casts, written specifically for performance by school, college and youth-theatre groups, with the aim of addressing gender imbalance and inequality in theatre.

Second Person Narrative was published on 11 June 2015, along with two other plays inaugurating the Platform series: The Light Burns Blue by Silva Semerciyan and This Changes Everything by Joel Horwood.

The protagonist of Second Person Narrative is YOU. The play begins as YOU is thrust into the world as a baby and proceeds to show episodes through her life until, finally, YOU goes through a quick official check on what her life has involved and is then set off to do it all again being reassured that ‘It’s bound to be different this time round though some of it might seem familiar…’ Although the play tracks through an entire life, every scene is set in the present day, and YOU can be played by one actor or several. The play addresses issues including media hype, consumerism and child/parent relationships.

In an introduction to the published text, Kennedy writes: 'The playwright, who spends her days trying to craft well-behaved dramatic narratives with orderly triggers, twists, crises and moral resolutions, hears the hope and anxiety in your conflicted visions of Your Own Unique Narrative™. ... She would like to write a reassuring play in which your potential is fully realised and you live happily ever after. But her play won’t behave. The writer throws her toys out of her pram and writes a series of scenes that do not make up either an a) depressingly tragic, or b) relentlessly positive narrative. YOU are in all of them. She hopes you accept the gesture as one of solidarity.'

Secret Life of Humans  

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

David Byrne's play Secret Life of Humans is a drama of ideas exploring the nature of humanity and its capacity for progress, examining the legacy of Jacob Bronowski, writer and presenter of the groundbreaking 1973 television documentary series The Ascent of Man.

The play was first performed at the Pleasance Theatre, Edinburgh, as part of the 2017 Edinburgh Festival Fringe (previews at New Diorama Theatre, London). The production returned to New Diorama on 10 April 2018, ahead of a transfer to 59E59 Theaters, Off-Broadway, on 31 May 2018.

The play's action – most of which takes place in the Bronowski family home, in the present day, over the course of a single night – is framed by a lecture being delivered by Ava, a young research scientist, to her students. When she discovers her Tinder date is Bronowski’s grandson, Jamie, who is in London to clear his grandfather’s house, she cannot wait to get inside the famous locked room in the house and uncover the secrets hidden within. The play weaves together three distinct time frames: the present; Bronowski’s wartime career working for the government on a top secret project that led to the firebombing of Dresden; and the distant past when our ancestors walked the earth.

In his Introduction to the published playtext, David Byrne writes: 'The core of [Jacob Bronowski's] story in this play is true. [His] daughter, Lisa Jardine, made the documentary My Father, the Bomb and Me, documenting her own discoveries in her father’s locked and alarmed room. In Secret Life of Humans, we’ve imagined the discovery skipped a generation, and the revelations are made over the course of a single night.'

The premiere production was directed by David Byrne and Kate Stanley. It was performed by Stella Taylor, Andrew Strafford-Baker, Richard Delaney, Olivia Hirst and Andy McLeod. 

Seven Jewish Children

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Caryl Churchill's Seven Jewish Children is a short play written in response to the volatile political situation in Gaza in January 2009. The play was first staged at the Royal Court Theatre, London, on 6 February 2009, following performances there of Marius von Mayenburg’s play The Stone.

The play consists of seven short scenes. In each scene, a group of Jewish adults discusses what to tell – and what not to tell – an unseen child to whom they are related. The lines are not attributed to characters; an opening stage direction makes it clear that 'The lines can be shared out in any way you like... The characters are different in each small scene as the time and child are different. They may be played by any number of actors.' The dialogue alludes indirectly to events in recent Jewish history, from the Holocaust and the creation of the state of Israel, to the building of the West Bank barrier and the Gaza War of 2008–09.

The Royal Court premiere was directed by Dominic Cooke and performed by Ben Caplan, Jack Chissick, David Horovitch, Daisy Lewis, Ruth Posner, Samuel Roukin, Jennie Stoller, Susannah Wise and Alexis Zegerman.

Reaction to the play was mixed. The Board of Deputies of British Jews criticised it as 'horrifically anti-Israel' and 'beyond the boundaries of reasonable political discourse', while playwright Tony Kushner and academic Alisa Solomon, both Jewish-American critics of Israeli policy, argued in The Nation that the play is dense, beautiful and elusive, and that '[a]ny play about the crisis in the Middle East that doesn't arouse anger and distress has missed the point.'

Caryl Churchill, responding to an article written by prominent novelist Howard Jacobson and published in The Independent on 18 February 2009, defended herself against the accusation of anti-semitism and argued that the play was primarily about the difficulties of explaining violence to children (The Independent, 21 February 2009).

On publication alongside the first performance, the play was immediately made available for anyone to perform royalty-free, with consent from the author’s agent, provided no admission fee is charged and a collection is taken at each performance for the charity Medical Aid for Palestinians.

Sex with a Stranger

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Stefan Golaszewski's Sex with a Stranger is a play that depicts in bleakly comic detail a casual sexual encounter between two people in their twenties, one of whom is being unfaithful to his partner. It was first performed at Trafalgar Studios, London, on 1 February 2012.

The play's action unfolds in short scenes punctuated by blackouts, with the action sometimes resuming after a blackout with little or no jump in time, while at other times returning to moments that occurred much earlier. At the start of the play we see Adam and Grace waiting at a bus stop, having met each other earlier in the evening in a club. After a brief, awkward visit to a kebab shop, they go back to her flat and have sex. Interspersed with these scenes are glimpses of what happened in the club where Adam met Grace, and of the preceding afternoon as Adam prepares for his night out, getting his girlfriend Ruth (with whom he lives) to iron his shirt for him. The second half the play focuses on Adam and Ruth's frayed relationship and the uneasy prelude to Adam's infidelity.

The premiere at Trafalgar Studios was directed by Phillip Breen and designed by Holly Pigott, with Russell Tovey as Adam, Jaime Winstone as Grace and Naomi Sheldon as Ruth.

The Shadow Factory  

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Howard Brenton's play The Shadow Factory is a historical play set in 1940 during the Battle of Britain, about the impact of German bombing raids on Southampton, where the Government's response to the destruction of the Spitfire factory sparks tensions with the local community. The play was first performed at Nuffield Southampton Theatres as the inaugural production in the new NST City venue on 7 February 2018.

The play is set in the autumn of 1940, with the action taking place in Southampton, the grounds and rooms of Hursley House, just outside the town, and in the Ministry for Aircraft Production, London. When the Supermarine Spitfire factory in the suburb of Woolston is destroyed in the Luftwaffe’s bombing raids, Lord Beaverbrook, as minister of aircraft production, is given the power to requisition local properties as 'shadow factories' in order to keep up the production of Spitfires. The drama focuses on a fictional laundry owner, Fred Dimmock, who resists the government’s draconian powers and threats of imprisonment. The play also features a community ensemble who provide a constant choric comment on the action.

In a Foreword to the published playtext, Howard Brenton writes: 'I write history plays because I’m fascinated by moments of crisis that cause great, even revolutionary change... I see 1940 as one of those moments and not for the obvious reason that we avoided defeat. People survived the Luftwaffe and knuckled down under the orders of the draconian War Ministry. Despair was far more widespread than is acknowledged but also a spirit of ‘sod the lot of them’ began to grow, undetected by the Government. In the end there would be payback. In 1945 Churchill got the shock of his life when the Labour Party won a general election with a majority of 145, then set about the most radical change in our country since the seventeenth century.'

The premiere production was directed by Samuel Hodges. It was performed by David Birrell, Catherine Cusack, Anita Dobson, Lorna Fitzgerald, Hilton McRae, Shala Nyx and Daniel York. 

The Shape of the Table

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

The Shape of the Table tracks the collapse of an Eastern Bloc government at the end of 1989. As the old regime retreats, former political prisoners join banned writers around the negotiating table...

The play is part of David Edgar's post-Cold War trilogy of plays, which also includes Pentecost and The Prisoner's Dilemma.

Witty and informative, this play is both an intensely topical account of what actually went on in the corridors of power and a timeless analysis of revolution in action. In particular the play explores not only the challenge of seizing power, but also the difficulty of relinquishing it.

Shibboleth

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Stacey Gregg's Shibboleth is a play about working-class life in Belfast, and the impact of a globalised economy on a city divided both physically and culturally. It was co-commissioned by the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, and the Goethe-Institut, and first performed during the Dublin Theatre Festival on the Peacock stage at the Abbey Theatre on 7 October 2015.

The play is set in Belfast in the present. A group of construction workers is building an extension to the Peace Wall that separates 'Themens' from 'Usens'. When Polish worker Yuri’s daughter starts having serious problems with her boyfriend, they rally round in support. But good intentions can easily go too far…

In an Afterword to the published script, Gregg writes: 'In 2008 the Abbey Theatre and the Goethe-Institut commissioned me as part of a European-wide response to the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. My subject was the interface barriers that separate communities across our region. Unlike other barriers of international conflict, this wall is generally wanted by the communities around it, restricting movement but not vital supplies, a nuisance to most, an oddity that no one feels strongly enough about to address wholeheartedly. ... Brick by brick by brick by I grew up among the bricks, the sand, the men. Boundaries and no-go zones criss-crossed the landscape of my childhood. ... The play didn’t present itself, but it knew it was a cacophony, chaos and bacon butties and men on a worksite building a wall. I called it Shibboleth, a Hebrew word for words or customs one tribe uses to mark itself apart from others.'

The Abbey Theatre premiere was directed by Hamish Pirie and designed by Paul Keogan. The cast was Piotr Baumann (as Yuri), Rhys Dunlop, Charlie Farrell, Sophie Harkness, Vincent Higgins, Andy Kellegher, Conor MacNeill, Louise Mathews, Jake O’Loughlin, Kerri Quinn and Cara Robinson.

Shining City

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Conor McPherson's Shining City is a play about two men haunted in quite different ways. It was first performed at the Royal Court Theatre, London, on 4 June 2004.

Ian has left the priesthood and is starting a new career as a therapist in Dublin. John is one of his first clients. John’s wife, Mari, has been killed in a horrible car accident, and he keeps receiving visits from her ghost. John, with Ian’s help, starts to recover. Meanwhile Ian is struggling with a dilemma of his own: his estranged fiancée, Neasa, with whom he has a baby, wants him to come home; but Ian isn't yet ready – or able – to commit to married life.

The Royal Court premiere was directed by Conor McPherson and designed by Rae Smith, with Michael McElhatton as Ian, Stanley Townsend as John, Kathy Kiera Clarke as Neasa and Tom Jordan Murphy as Laurence.

The play received its American premiere at the Biltmore Theater, New York, in a production by the Manhattan Theater Club, in May 2006. It was directed by Robert Falls with Brían F. O'Byrne as Ian, Oliver Platt as John, Martha Plimpton as Neasa and Peter Scanavino as Laurence. It was nominated for two Tony Awards, including Best Play, and the influential New York Times critic Ben Brantley described it as a 'quiet, haunting and absolutely glorious new play... Shining City is as close to perfection as contemporary playwriting gets'.

Shoot the Crow

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Owen McCafferty’s Shoot the Crow is a play about four Belfast tilers who come up with a scam to make some fast money. It was premiered by Druid Theatre Company at the Druid Lane Theatre, Galway, Ireland, on 26 February 1997.

The play takes place over the course of a single working Friday on a building site in Belfast. Four tilers are in the process of tiling a public toilet and shower area. Ding-Ding, aged 65, is the oldest, with one eye on retirement but little to show for it. Randolph is only 19 and still has hopes that this menial job might lead to a career. Petesy, 36, is the group’s alpha male. Socrates, 39, is true to his name, earnest and contemplative. Independently, Ding-Ding and Petesy hit on the idea of stealing a pallet-load of tiles to make a quick buck, but nothing goes according to plan. Randolph finds himself browbeaten into agreeing to help both, each of them entirely ignorant that the other is planning an identical scam.

Making use of distinctive Belfast speech rhythms, McCafferty explores the limitations of the manual labourer’s life, stuck on a minimum wage with no hope of moving any higher up the scale. The play also dissects the complexities of working-class male relationships in the workplace.

The Druid premiere was directed by David Parnell and designed by Paul McCavley, with David Ganley as Socrates, Anthony Brophy as Petesy, Patrick Waldron as Ding-Ding and Fergal McElherran as Randolph.

The play received its British premiere on 12 February 2003 at the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester, in a production directed by Jacob Murray and designed by Laurie Dennett, with Patrick O’Kane as Socrates, Conleth Hill as Petesy, Walter McMonagle as Ding-Ding and Paul Dinnen as Randolph.

It was revived at the Trafalgar Studios in the West End on 11 October 2005 (previews from 28 September) in a Sonia Friedman production directed by Robert Delamere and designed by Simon Higlett, with Jim Norton as Ding-Ding, James Nesbitt as Socrates, Packy Lee as Randolph and Conleth Hill as Petesy.

Shush

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Elaine Murphy’s follow-up to her international hit Little Gem once again focuses on the female experience and, in particular, the highs and lows of female friendship.

It’s Breda’s birthday, but life’s not been going according to plan of late and she’s in no mood to celebrate. Her department at work is downsizing leaving her to reapply for her own job, her husband’s just left her for another woman and she’s too frightened to get on a plane to visit her only child, Colm. However, her friends Marie, Irene, Ursula and Marie’s daughter, Clare, have gate crashed and they’ve bought cava, Bacardi and a rather disgusting ‘health’ cake. As the night wears on however, Breda’s mask of faux happiness begins to slip. Shush develops Murphy’s authentic conversational style and is an insightful glimpse into the lives of five ordinary Irish women.

Shush was commissioned by and first performed on the main stage of the Abbey Theatre (the National Theatre of Ireland) in Dublin in 2013.

Sixty Five Miles

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Matt Hartley's Sixty Five Miles is a play about family connections and escaping the past, focussing on the story of a man who, after a long period in prison, tries to reclaim his life and find the daughter he has never met. It was first produced by Hull Truck Theatre and Paines Plough, and performed at Hull Truck Theatre, Hull, on 1 February 2012.

The play's action takes place in Sheffield and Hull (two cities separated by exactly sixty five miles) and in Chesterfield, in November 2005. As the play opens, Pete has just arrived at his brother Rich’s house, having served a nine-year prison sentence that has left him entirely ignorant of the whereabouts of his ex-partner and daughter. The two brothers share an intimate connection, but struggle to bridge the years and the traumatic events that have separated them. As the play proceeds, Pete’s quest for his daughter becomes intertwined with Richard’s own search for his ex-girlfriend Lucy. The differences between the two brothers, emphasised by their surrogate father Frank's behaviour towards each of them, begin to recede as the connections between them emerge across a series of episodic scenes.

The premiere production was directed by George Perrin and designed by Amy Cook. It was performed by Craige Els (as Pete), Alan Morrissey (as Rich), Becci Gemmell, Katie West (as Lucy) and Ian Bleasdale (as Frank).

The Skriker

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Caryl Churchill’s play The Skriker blends English folktales with modern urban life and tells the story of an ancient fairy in pursuit of two young mothers. It was first performed at the National Theatre, London, in the Cottesloe auditorium, on 20 January 1994.

The play follows the Skriker, a shape-shifting fairy and death portent from the underworld, in its search for love and revenge as it pursues two young women, Josie and Lily, to London, changing its shape at every new encounter. Along with the Skriker comes Rawheadandbloodybones, the Kelpie, the Green Lady, Black Dog and more, until the whole country is swarming with enticing and angry creatures that have burst from the underworld.

Churchill has the Skriker speak in English when conversing with Josie and Lily, but her native tongue is a dizzying mixture of fragmented poetry and wordplay.

The National Theatre premiere was directed by Les Waters and designed by Annie Smart with music by Judith Weir and movement by Ian Spink. The cast included Kathryn Hunter as the Skriker, Sandy McDade as Josie and Jacqueline Defferary as Lily.

The Skriker received its American premiere at New York’s Public Theater in 1996.

It was revived at the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester, as part of the Manchester International Festival in July 2015 in a production directed by Sarah Frankcom and starring Maxine Peake in the title role.

small hours

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

small hours is a collaborative theatre piece created by playwrights Lucy Kirkwood and Ed Hime with theatre director Katie Mitchell. It explores, in a direct and immersive way, the claustrophobic world of a new mother struggling to cope on her own. It was first performed in the Michael Frayn Studio Theatre (downstairs) at the Hampstead Theatre, London, on 11 January 2011.

The play is written for a single female performer. An unnamed woman spends the night in a flat while her baby sleeps fitfully in the next room. The woman's husband is away and she cannot sleep. She talks on the phone. She watches TV. She hoovers. She dances to loud music. The neighbours bang on the walls and she is reduced to silence. Then her baby wakes. She leaves the room and soon the baby is crying no more. She returns. The show ends.

In her introduction to Lucy Kirkwood Plays: One (Nick Hern Books, 2016), Lucy Kirkwood writes: 'small hours was entirely inspired by a request from Katie Mitchell to write a one-woman show for downstairs at the Hampstead Theatre, with Franz Xaver Kroetz’s Request Programme as a reference. Ed Hime and I wrote it in Brussels, taking it in turns to type. ... [S]o many people at the time seemed bewildered by the idea of playwrights writing stage directions, not just dialogue. Here is the proof.'

The Hampstead Theatre premiere was directed by Katie Mitchell and designed by Alex Eales. It was performed by Sandy McDade.

The Small Things

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Enda Walsh's The Small Things is a play about enforced silence that explores language and humanity’s need for words. It was first performed by Paines Plough as part of the ‘This Other England’ season at the Menier Chocolate Factory, London, on 28 January 2005.

The play is a two-hander, with two characters – known only as Man and Woman – occupying the stage, although they are separated by a deep valley. They talk about the small things – parquet floor zigzagging down corridors, the memory of your mother’s breasts, brown sauce and soggy chips. But these minutiae disguise a bigger story of brutality and unfaltering loyalty which emerges horrifically through the chit chat.

The Paines Plough production was directed by Vicky Featherstone and designed by Neil Warmington. It was performed by Valerie Lilley and Bernard Gallagher.

In his foreword to the collection Enda Walsh Plays: One (Nick Hern Books, 2011), Walsh writes: 'The Small Things was a play written about the relationship of my dead father with my still alive mother. It’s a tightly spun machine of a play that searches out silences. It has this ceaseless rhythm to it which I must have been conscious about when writing. It feels like it was written in one sitting. Of mine it’s still my favourite.'

Smelling a Rat

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Smelling a Rat is a black comedy drama from playwright and filmmaker Mike Leigh, which he memorably described as an ‘anti-farce’.

Rex Weasel, owner of the Vermination Pest Control Company, has returned home from holiday unexpectedly and without his wife. Hoping to lay low, his plans are rudely interrupted when one of his employees, Vic Maggot and his wife, Charmaine, drop in to check on the apartment. They’re not even supposed to be there as Vic is filling in for another of Rex’s employees. To complicate matters further, the Weasels’ estranged son, Rocky shows up with his girlfriend, Melanie-Jane. With various members of the cast constantly taking refuge in the Weasels’ large walk-in wardrobes, the play sets up the audience’s expectations for a knockabout farce but confounds them by focusing instead on the banality of everyday conversation. Similarly, Leigh avoids tying up the loose ends preferring to leave open-ended questions about the mystery of Rex’s missing wife and the truth behind the discord between him and his son.

Smelling a Rat was first performed at Hampstead Theatre in London in 1988 and starred one of Leigh’s regular collaborators, actor Timothy Spall in the role of Vic Maggot.

So Here We Are

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Luke Norris's So Here We Are is a play about young lives cut short and a portrait of childhood friendships under strain in adult life. It won a Judges Award at the 2013 Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting. It was first performed at the 2015 HighTide Festival, Aldeburgh, on 10 September 2015. The production transferred to the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester, on 24 September 2015.

The play's action is in two parts. In Part One, four friends in their twenties – Smudge, Pugh, Pidge and Dan – sit on a sea wall in Southend, Essex, lamenting the death of their mutual friend, Frankie. In Part Two, the action flashes back to the day of Frankie's death: it is Frankie's birthday and, as well as a romantic dinner with Kirsty, the girlfriend he is expected to marry, he will visit each of his old friends, one by one.

The HighTide premiere was directed by Steven Atkinson and designed by Lily Arnold, with Jade Anouka as Kirsty, Daniel Kendrick as Frankie, Sam Melvin as Pidge, Ciarán Owens as Dan, Dorian Jerome Simpson as Smudge and Mark Weinman as Pugh.

The Solid Life of Sugar Water

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Jack Thorne's The Solid Life of Sugar Water is an intimate, tender play about a couple grieving for their stillborn child. It was first performed at The Drum, Theatre Royal Plymouth, on 8 June 2015 before transferring to the Pleasance Dome, Edinburgh, as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, in a Graeae/Theatre Royal Plymouth co-production.

The play's action is jointly narrated in direct address to the audience by its two characters, Phil (age 31) and Alice (age 29). They recall how they met in the queue at the Post Office, and how Phil's parcel fell apart. Phil thinks Alice is gorgeous and finds her deafness “exotic”. Soon they are a couple and then they are trying for a baby. But when their daughter is stillborn, grief makes their relationship come apart. The play shows, in graphic sexual detail, how, when words fail them, they use their bodies to reconnect.

The premiere production was directed by Amit Sharma and designed by Lily Arnold, with Genevieve Barr as Alice and Arthur Hughes as Phil.

So Long Life

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

One of Peter Nichols’ most recently staged plays, So Long Life depicts a family Sunday through the eyes of its ageing matriarch.

Bristol, 1995. It is Alice’s 85th birthday. An occasion for celebration. But like many family gatherings, it is also an occasion for parading long-held resentments, as her children attempt to persuade her to relinquish her independence and move to a home. However, Alice has no such plans. As the battles rage over her head, Alice’s consciousness drifts, time shifts, and past and present merge. The play casts a glance back across the 20th century through the lives of six wayward individuals. The result is a bittersweet comedy about the problem of ageing that exposes the painful truths of family life.

So Long Life was first performed at the Tobacco Factory in Bristol in 2000 having been broadcast as a radio play on BBC Radio 4 earlier in the year.

Spacewang

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

A short monologue in which a teenage girl roams the streets of Withernsea in search of aliens.

Nora may seem your stereotypical fourteen-year-old girl: playing truancy and nicking vodka to neck behind the wheelie bins, but looks can be deceiving. Today is a special day for Nora and her homemade alien radar kit. She’s sure all the signs are pointing to a possible contact, tonight, and she wants to make sure she doesn’t miss it. Though Wells’ monologue has many comedic highlights, it is also tinged with melancholy too as the audience slowly realises who Nora is really trying to reach.

Spacewang was first performed at Hull Truck Theatre in 2011.

Speaking in Tongues

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Andrew Bovell's Speaking in Tongues is a play about marital infidelity, with multiple narratives and a mystery at its core. It was first performed on 6 August 1996 in a production by Griffin Theatre Company at The Stables, Sydney, Australia. It was later adapted by Bovell into the screenplay for the feature film Lantana (2001).

Comprising three parts, the play begins with two married couples (Pete and Jane, and Leon and Sonja) embarking on one-night stands: Pete with Sonja, and Leon with Jane. Although Leon and Jane carry through with the infidelity where Pete and Sonja don't, both couples echo each other's dialogue. When the characters are reunited with their spouses, Jane has an unnerving story to tell about seeing a bloodied neighbour hurling a woman's shoe into a rubbish dump. The ramifications of this are explored in the next part, although this part features four new characters: Sarah, Valerie (Sarah's therapist), Neil (Sarah's ex-boyfriend) and Nick (Jane and Pete's neighbour). In the final part, when the narrative mystery is resolved, Leon, Sarah and Valerie return, and are joined by John (Valerie's husband).

The script states that 'Each part has been written for four actors: two men and two women'. It is common in production for the entire play to be performed by just four actors (playing nine characters), reinforcing the play's structural echoes and symmetries.

The Griffin Theatre Company premiere was directed by Ros Horin and designed by Liane Wilcher, with Elaine Hudson as Jane/Valerie, Glenda Linscott as Sonja/Sarah, Geoff Morrell as Pete/Neil/John and Marshall Napier as Leon/Nick.

The play was first performed in the UK at Hampstead Theatre, London, on 8 June 2000 in a production directed by Mark Clements and designed by Niki Turner, with Juliet Prew as Jane/Valerie, Katherine Rogers as Sonja/Sarah, Nigel Le Vaillant as Pete/Neil/John and Jonathan Guy Lewis as Leon/Nick.

It was revived at the Duke of York’s Theatre in the West End on 28 September 2009 (previews from 18 September), in a production directed by Toby Frow and designed by Ben Stones, with Lucy Cohu as Sonja/Valerie, Kerry Fox as Jane/Sarah, Ian Hart as Pete/Neil/John and John Simm as Leon/Nick.

Spinning

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Deirdre Kinahan's play Spinning is a contemporary tragedy set in small-town Ireland. It was first produced by Fishamble: The New Play Company in Smock Alley Theatre, as part of Dublin Theatre Festival, on 3 October 2014.

The play is set in a small seaside town in Ireland in 2014. In the opening scene, set in a cafe, Conor (aged 42) is excoriated by a despondent woman, Susan (aged 44), for killing her daughter, Annie. Over three unfolding timelines the play details the events that led to the death of the teenager four years previously. The tale emerges of Conor’s unhappy marriage to Jen, their subsequent squabbling over their young daughter, and the estranged husband’s flight with the girl to a small seaside town. There he meets Annie, a lively but insecure teen pining for the father she never knew, and they form a fateful bond.

The Fishamble production was directed by Jim Culleton and designed by Sabine Dargent. The cast was Karl Shiels, Fiona Bell, Janet Moran and Caitriona Ennis.

Stacy

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Jack Thorne's Stacy is a sexually explicit confessional monologue for one male performer and a slide projector. It was first performed at the Arcola Theatre, London, on 6 February 2007.

The play is performed by an actor operating a slide projector, displaying images as specified in the playscript. The actor plays Rob, an 'ordinary-looking' 26 year old. Rob works in a call-centre – a job for which he claims he is vastly overqualified – and lives in Croydon with his brother. Following an unexpected sexual encounter with his best friend Stacy the night before, he has turned up at her house hoping to continue where they left off. But when Stacy’s flatmate Shona arrives first, he makes a terrible decision that will change the course of his life forever.

In his introduction to Jack Thorne Plays: One (Nick Hern Books, 2014), Thorne writes of Stacy: 'I think it’s probably about loneliness more than anything else. It was written concurrently with When You Cure Me but over a much longer period of time. I was living in Croydon with my brother while I was writing it, still ill, still unsure how to be, and I had decided I didn’t really need friends. I mean, any friends. It was an odd decision that made me slightly odd. Not that I’m capable of those acts that Rob does in the play, but that feeling of utter hopelessness and hatred to all others, I think is one I recognise from that time.'

The Arcola Theatre premiere was directed by Hamish Pirie and designed by Beck Rainford. It was performed by Arthur Darvill.

The play was revived in October 2007 at the Trafalgar Studios in the West End in a production again directed by Hamish Pirie, and performed by Ralf Little. It was performed in a double bill with Thorne's play Fanny and Faggot.

Stanley

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.

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.

St Nicholas

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Conor McPherson's St Nicholas is a monologue play written while McPherson was attached to the Bush Theatre, London, under the Pearson Television Theatre Writers’ Scheme. It was first performed at the Bush Theatre on 19 February 1997.

A cynical and jaded theatre critic in his late fifties falls for a beautiful young actress. In pursuing her, he meets a group of modern-day vampires who offer him eternal life – his part of the bargain is to feed their bloodlust.

The Bush Theatre premiere was performed by veteran stage and film actor Brian Cox in a production directed by Conor McPherson.

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.