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Anna Karenina (adapt. Edmundson)

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

buckets

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Adam Barnard's buckets is a play about time, its impact on our lives, and how to address the fact that it always seems to be running out. It was first performed at the Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond, on 28 May 2015.

The play comprises thirty-three interconnected scenes – some just a few lines, others mini-plays in their own right – reflecting on wide-ranging themes including sadness and happiness, illness and health, youth and experience, kissing and crying, singing and dying.

The playscript is intentionally open-ended, with unattributed lines of dialogue. According to a note on the text, the play 'can be performed by any number and composition of actors. Gender, where referenced in dialogue, can generally be switched... A new paragraph usually indicates a change of speaker. Everything’s an option'.

The premiere production was directed by Rania Jumaily and designed by James Turner. It was performed by Jon Foster, Tom Gill, Charlotte Josephine, Sarah Malin, Rona Morison and Sophie Steer, with the addition of a community ensemble.

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.

Common

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Common is a dark and disturbing journey into the carnivalesque world of early-Industrial Britain, exploring the personal and public traumas in the period of the enclosure. Written with verve and wit by Olivier Award-nominated and Writers' Guild Award-winning playwright DC Moore, it tells the story of Mary, a woman who has returned to the village of her birth after years of grifting a living on the edge of respectable London society. She is there to confront old enemies and rekindle a former love.

But there’s trouble in the air as the local Lord struggles to extend the reach of his power by reclaiming the common-land as his personal fiefdom. Will Mary be able to win over those she lost before? Or will the violence of the time seep over into even the purest of missions?
Common is an epic, funny and uncanny history play which examines the period of the enclosure, asking what does community mean and if there can ever be resolution in the intractable battle between individual desires and the common good.

Dublin by Lamplight

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Amidst the filth and fury of Dublin 1904, the theatrical event of the century is about to explode...Will the Irish National Theatre of Ireland seize its chance for glory? Fading stars, rebels, whores, and romantics irreverently expose the strange and lurid world of Dublin by Lamplight.

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.

The Ferryman

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

County Armagh, Northern Ireland, 1981. The Carney farmhouse is a hive of activity with preparations for the annual harvest. A day of hard work on the land and a traditional night of feasting and celebrations lie ahead. But this year they will be interrupted by a visitor.

Developed by Sonia Friedman Productions, The Ferryman premiered to huge acclaim at the Royal Court Theatre, London, in April 2017, before transferring to the West End. The production was directed by Sam Mendes.

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.

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).