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Plays

Anna Karenina

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

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

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

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

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

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

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

Banana Boys

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Evan Placey's Banana Boys is a play about the challenges of being on the school football team – and secretly gay. It was commissioned by Hampstead Theatre’s youth theatre company, heat&light, and first performed at Hampstead Theatre, London, on 9 December 2011.

The play revolves around the friendship between two sixteen-year-old boys, Calum and Cameron, who become obsessed with American girl-group, The Banana Girls.

In an introduction to the published script in Girls Like That and other plays for teenagers (Nick Hern Books, 2016), Placey writes: 'Growing up queer there weren’t many young gay role models to look up to. So instead I looked up to music divas. I’m not sure what it was, but there was something about their power, their confidence, and their absolutely being at ease in their own skin that left me in awe. And so the opportunity to create my very own group of divas, The Banana Girls, was irresistible. My favourite films as a teen were the romcoms, except the queer characters didn’t exist in them, never mind being forefront. So it was my chance to rectify the past.'

The Hampstead Theatre premiere was directed by Debra Glazer and designed by Robbie Sinnott. It was performed by members of heat&light youth theatre.

Christmas

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

With a sharp ear for the verbal rhythms of conversation, Stephens glimpses the everyday weariness beneath the chat of men down on their luck, in a pub that has fallen out of time.

It is a week before Christmas in Michael Macgraw’s tired and empty pub in London. Michael adds a shot of whisky to his tea, and waits for some customers. Slowly, the regulars trickle in: twitchy, miserable twenty-nine year old Billy Lee Russell, who has just found out who his father was, and Giuseppe Rossi, a proud and elderly Italian barber, who has charged the same price for the last five years. They are joined by a series of strangers who only stay for one drink, and by Charlie Anderson who is on a lonely pub crawl with a cello, and they talk through the long night about what went wrong.

Christmas was first performed in 2003 at the Pavilion Theatre, Brighton.

Fast

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Fin Kennedy’s play Fast is an ensemble play for teenage performers commissioned by Y Touring, an established theatre company that produces and tours plays for young people about complex, science-based issues. It explores issues around fasting, diet, food production and food security. The play was workshopped at Regent High School in Camden, London, before being performed as part of a young people’s summer school run by Y Touring on 22 August 2014.

The play is set among a group of Year 11 classmates (fifteen to sixteen years old) of mixed social backgrounds, in an unnamed state secondary school, in a medium-sized British town, near to some countryside. Cara, a sixteen-year-old student, is from a farming family, and we learn that one year previously her father had killed himself. When Cara’s school holds a twenty-four-hour fast in aid of Oxfam, Cara decides she will not eat again until Tesco’s and the other suppliers, whom she holds responsible for driving her father to suicide, are held to account.

The Y Touring premiere was directed by Dominique Poulter and Nathan Bryon and designed by The Company.

Fred and Mary’s Story (Play One from The Middlemarch Trilogy)

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Fred and Mary's Story is part of The Middlemarch Trilogy, a three-part stage adaptation by Geoffrey Beevers of George Eliot's novel Middlemarch (published 1871-2).

The Middlemarch Trilogy comprises three interconnected plays (Dorothea's Story, The Doctor's Story and Fred and Mary's Story) telling the story of Eliot's fictitious town of Middlemarch from the perspective of three different sets of characters: from county, town and countryside. They were first performed at the Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond, in 2013. Fred and Mary’s Story opened on 4 December.

In Fred and Mary’s Story, set amongst hard-working countryfolk, Fred is trying to please his parents and become a country gentleman, but his childhood sweetheart Mary will have none of it.

The Orange Tree production was directed by Geoffrey Beevers and designed by Sam Dowson. The cast was Georgina Strawson, Daisy Ashford, Christopher Ettridge, Christopher Naylor, Jamie Newall, Liz Crowther, Ben Lambert, Michael Lumsden, NiamhWalsh, David Ricardo-Pearce and Lucy Tregear.

In his introduction to the published script (Nick Hern Books, 2014), Geoffrey Beevers writes, 'I’ve always loved the challenge of huge themes in intimate spaces, where the principle must be, not: ‘What can we do with this?’ but: ‘What can we do without? How can we tell this story, as simply as possible, so the story will shine through?’ I wanted to use only her words, a few actors and a minimum of setting, and leave as much as possible to the audience’s imagination.'

Fury

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Phoebe Eclair-Powell's play Fury is a modern-day version of the Medea story, exploring issues around motherhood and class and focussing on the predicament of a young single mum in London. It was the winner of the Soho Theatre Young Writer's Award, and was first performed at Soho Theatre, London, on 5 July 2016 in a co-production by Soho Theatre and Damsel Productions.

The play's action is free-flowing, partly narrated and constantly commented on by a three-strong Chorus comprising Woman, Man and Fury (who also play additional roles in the action). Sam is struggling as a single parent in south-east London with her two young sons since Rob left her. Tom, a master's student who plays his music too loudly, rents the flat above, the one Sam cleans. If they can come to 'an arrangement', he won't report her to Social Services.

In a 'Note on the Play' in the published script, Eclair-Powell states that 'The Chorus act like every Greek chorus should – they ask us to bear witness. But this Chorus also manipulates our understanding of the story unravelling before us. They shape our idea of Sam and our sense of judgement. They are a three-headed hydra – with slight differences in allegiance. Fury is more on Sam’s side, Man is on the fence – sometimes playful, sometimes vengeful – and Woman is the least sympathetic – perhaps she has seen this all before and she’s tired of it. When the Chorus speak they take over – they infiltrate the stage and enhance the theatrical journey. They should be supported by music and underscore – they take us out of naturalism and into something far more heightened.'

The Soho Theatre production was directed by Hannah Hauer-King and designed by Anna Reid, with Sarah Ridgeway as Sam, Alex Austin as Tom, Naana Agyei-Ampadu as Woman, Daniel Kendrick as Man and Anita-Joy Uwajeh as Fury.

generations

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

debbie tucker green’s generations is a short play about a multi-generational family of black South Africans, ravaged by a disease (unnamed in the play, but strongly identified with AIDS). It was first seen as a Platform performance at the National Theatre, London, on 30 June 2005.

The play is set in the kitchen of black South African family. A family meal for three generations – from teenage daughters to grandparents – is being lovingly prepared with much story-telling and competitive banter. An onstage Choir (a stage direction states that a 'black South African choir would be great') sings. The family scene is enacted five times over. The dialogue is the same each time, but the scenes become shorter as gradually, beginning with one of the teenage daughters whose off-stage courtship provides a comic sideshow, members of the family leave the playing area, and their section of the dialogue is excised. Finally, the Choir sings the South African national anthem, 'Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika'.

The National Theatre Platform performance was directed by Sacha Wares with a cast including Jeffrey Kissoon, Golda John, Rakie Ayola, Danny Sapani, Sharlene Whyte, Nikki Amuka-Bird and Seun Shote, with members of the African Voices Choir.

The play was revived at the Young Vic, London, in March 2007, in a production directed by Sacha Wares.

Girls Like That

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Evan Placey's Girls Like That is an ensemble play exploring the pressures on young people today in the wake of advancing technology. It was specially commissioned by Birmingham Repertory Theatre, West Yorkshire Playhouse and Theatre Royal Plymouth. It was first performed by The Young REP as part of The Young Rep Festival at The Old Rep Theatre, Birmingham, on 12 July 2013; the West Yorkshire Playhouse Youth Theatre at the Courtyard Theatre, West Yorkshire Playhouse, on 18 July 2013; and by the Theatre Royal Plymouth Young Company at the Theatre Royal, Plymouth, on 14 August 2013.

When a naked photograph of schoolgirl Scarlett goes viral, rumours spread across smartphones like wildfire and her reputation becomes toxic, threatening to shatter the fragile unity of the girls she has grown up with. But how long can Scarlett remain silent? And why isn't it the same for boys? Using music and dance sequences, and featuring shifts in time to explore the evolution of feminist consciousness, the play focuses on adolescent female friendship in the present day and its fragility in the face of societal and cultural pressures.

The premiere productions were directed by Daniel Tyler (Birmingham Rep), Gemma Woffinden (West Yorkshire Playhouse) and Beth Shouler (Theatre Royal, Plymouth).

In January 2014, members of the West Yorkshire Playhouse Youth Theatre travelled to Westminster to perform an extract from the play in Parliament as part of the launch of YoungMinds Vs, a new children’s mental health campaign.

The play was revived at the Unicorn Theatre, London, on 6 November 2014 in a co-production by the Unicorn and Synergy Theatre, directed by Esther Baker and designed by Katy McPhee.

The play was awarded Best Play for Young Audiences at the 2015 Writers' Guild of Great Britain Awards.

Here We Go

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Caryl Churchill's Here We Go is a short play about death, first performed in the Lyttelton auditorium of the National Theatre, London, on 27 November 2015 (previews from 25 November).

The play is in three parts. The first part, 'Here We Go', takes place at a party after a funeral. An unspecified number of characters (the lines are not attributed to specific characters) reminisce about the dead man in abbreviated, compressed lines of dialogue. The author provides ten speeches, printed together at the end of the scene, that are intended to be inserted 'at random' into the dialogue, as many as are required for each character to have one. The speeches are spoken directly to the audience, and each contains a brief account of the circumstances and timing of the speaker's death. The second part, 'After', is a monologue in which a recently deceased man gives an account of his transition into the afterlife, and expresses his yearning to return to the world of the living to re-experience life. In the third and final part, 'Getting There', a 'very old or ill person' is helped by a carer to get dressed and undressed, repeatedly and without dialogue, 'for as long as the scene lasts'.

An author's note in the published script states that 'The number of actors can vary in different productions. Not fewer than three in the first scene and not more than eight – five or six is probably good. Age and gender can also be decided'.

The National Theatre premiere was directed by Dominic Cooke and designed by Vicki Mortimer. The cast was Madeline Appiah, Susan Engel, Patrick Godfrey, Hazel Holder, Joshua James, Amanda Lawrence, Stuart McQuarrie, Eleanor Matsuura and Alan Williams.

Holloway Jones

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Evan Placey's Holloway Jones is a play about a teenage girl in foster care. It was commissioned and produced by Synergy Theatre Project, and was first performed at the Unicorn Theatre, London, on 2 November 2011, following a tour to schools and pupil referral units. It won the 2012 Brian Way Award for Best Play for Young People.

The play is set primarily in London, between 2008 and 2012. Holloway Jones is sixteen, her Mum is in prison and she is in foster care. Despite all this, her life is on track. She has a goal and is training hard for a place in the BMX Olympic Talent Team. But when she falls for charming, generous bad boy Avery, things start to unravel fast. Suddenly she’s in too deep, involved in the kind of joint enterprise that it is very hard to walk away from.

The Synergy production was directed by Esther Baker and designed by Katy McPhee. It was performed by Danielle Vitalis (as Holloway Jones), Doreene Blackstock, Mandeep Dhillon, Holli Dempsey, Femi Wilhelm, Frank Prosper and Karl Smith.

A term that came to the fore in the twentieth century as an ideal for many of its pioneers, though its use varies; it is applied both loosely, to denote a group with shared aims formed around an outstanding figure, and more specifically, to describe a democratically organized company that creates and administers itself collectively and collaboratively. The common thread is that, instead of coming together at random for a single production, people work together over a period of time, developing an identifiable approach that is shaped by generally agreed objectives. The Meiningen Company at the end of the nineteenth century spread the idea, which was most famously taken up by the Moscow Art Theatre and later by the Berliner Ensemble. The inspiration is often a mix of the political and the aesthetic, and covers a very wide range of theatrical practice from the likes of the Group Theatre, Theatre Workshop and 7:84 to Theater du Soleil or Teatro Campesino. Ensembles have proved hard to sustain and seem to require constant regeneration and the right ideological, economic and artistic circumstances.

from Charles London, The Continuum Companion to Twentieth-Century Theatre, ed. Colin Chambers (London, 2002).