One-act play

Share

Plays

Actor's Lament

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

'A one-act play is like a confession'. So writes Steven Berkoff in the preface to the collection of his One-Act Plays. In his introduction to the collection, Geoffrey Colman, Head of Acting at Central School of Speech and Drama writes:'It is the one-act play, however, that most profoundly and immediately amplifies Berkoff’s extraordinary literary and theatrical voice. . . In discussion, [Berkoff's] eyes quite literally light up at the mere mention of the one-act construct. With relish, he outlines the bare-knuckled immediacy of its form and fatal but inevitable blow. Perhaps the very real pleasure in reading these nineteen one-act plays by Berkoff should not be about comparing them to his other plays at all, but imagining them newly and in performance. Berkoff’s theatre continues to refuse smallness of theme and narrative, and defies those who wish to collapse the place of theatre into reality-inspired ‘true’. A reading of these pieces will require the need for a performance alertness, ‘real’ at its very threshold.'

In Actor's Lament we meet John, an actor who although 'clever, cynical and witty' is nonetheless bitter as he moulders unappreciated in his career, and his age ticks along from forty to fifty.

The After-Dinner Joke

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Caryl Churchill’s The After-Dinner Joke is a satire on the charity business, written for television. It was first broadcast on BBC 1 on 14 February 1978 as part of the BBC's Play for Today series.

Told in 66 short, episodic scenes, the plot follows Selby, a young woman who quits her secretarial job in a big corporation to pursue her passion for ‘doing good’. As a charity worker, she studiously avoids becoming embroiled in political issues, only to discover during the course of the action that this is impossible.

The BBC production by directed by Colin Bucksey, with a cast including Paula Wilcox as Selby.

Ashes to Ashes

Grove Atlantic
Type: Text

Ashes to Ashes was first presented by the Royal Court at the Ambassadors Theatre, London, in September 1996.

The Astonished Heart

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

The Astonished Heart is the story of a happily married psychiatrist who gradually sinks under the emotional pressure of falling passionately in love with his wife’s friend Leonora. Christian is tortured by jealousy and by his acute professional awareness of his obsession, gradually losing his control but not his fascinating articulacy.

The Astonished Heart is a short play from the Tonight at 8.30 cycle, conceived by Coward as an antidote to the boredom of a long run of the same script. It is a sequence of ten plays to be performed by the same cast in sets of three, alternating matinées and evenings, ranging from farce to melodrama to romantic comedy.

After touring, Tonight at 8.30 was produced at the Phoenix Theatre in London in 1936.

Ballyturk

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Enda Walsh’s Ballyturk is a play of lyrical intensity and physical comedy, in which the lives of two men unravel over the course of ninety minutes. It was first performed at the Black Box Theatre, Galway, as part of the Galway International Arts Festival on 14 July 2014 in a production by Landmark Productions and Galway International Arts Festival. The production subsequently toured to the Olympia Theatre, Dublin, Cork Opera House, and the National Theatre, London.

The play's action takes place in a 'very large room' containing furniture pushed up against the walls. Two men, simply identified as 1 and 2, pass the time in speeded-up, silent-comedy rituals and speculating about daily life in an imagined Irish town called Ballyturk. But when a third character, 3, turns up, he not only breaks up the partnership but invites one of the duo into the outer world, and inevitable extinction.

The premiere production was directed by Enda Walsh and designed by Jamie Vartan. It was performed by Cillian Murphy, Mikel Murfi, Stephen Rea, Orla Ní Ghríofa and Aisling Walsh, with the voices of Eanna Breathnach, Niall Buggy, Denise Gough and Pauline McLynn.

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.

The Bankrupt

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

David Mercer’s play is a bleakly comic study of the introspective amnesia of Ellis Cripper, who has emerged from his recent dishonourable bankruptcy into a personal crisis, with no idea of how to construct his life.

He dreams of summoning a series of historical figures, who propose a series of abstract and general answers to his existential crisis, but neither their adages nor the analyses of doctors and psychiatrists are satisfactory. The play flickers between these conjurations, and Ellis’s visit to his father, his sister and her husband, who try to offer their own structures of Ellis’s existence. But Ellis would rather talk to worms, invoke Hamlet, and write down his dreams.

The Bankrupt is a darkly effective play about a man’s struggle for significance. It was first presented by BBC Television on BBC1, in 1972.

The Basement Flat

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Rona Munro's The Basement Flat is a short play for two performers, an unsettling depiction of daily life in a disturbing world not too far in the future. It was commissioned by and first performed at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, on 13 August 2009 as part of The World is Too Much breakfast play series at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

The play is set in the basement flat of a house once owned by Fiona and Stephen, but which they have been forced to sell. They are now tenants, fearfully renting the flat from their new landlord, who used to be their tenant, and who now paces the floor above their heads. Where once he lovingly cared for the window boxes, he now plans to install a security fence and, furthermore, to bill Fiona and Stephen for it. On top of that the couple’s daughter seems to be living in the overgrown jungle of the garden and outside, although they're too frightened even to search for her.

The Traverse Theatre production was directed by Roxana Silbert, with Cora Bissett as Fiona and Matthew Pidgeon as Stephen.

The Bear (after Chekhov)

Faber and Faber
Type: Text

Elena Popova, a young and attractive widow, has immersed herself in the role of mourning for her once philandering late husband. Luka, her frail and ancient man-servant, tries in vain to snap her out of it. Then Smirnov barges in.

The Bear (after Chekhov) was first produced, with Afterplay, at the Gate Theatre, Dublin, in March 2002.

Being Norwegian

Faber and Faber
Type: Text

Sean, just out of prison, invites Lisa back to his flat for a drink. Lisa says she's Norwegian. Is Sean Norwegian too? In this dark, funny encounter two outsiders reach out to each other across the deep fjords of the heart.

'In Norway we're used to darkness in people's heads. We even prefer it. Because if there is no darkness then what in heaven's name are you thinking about? We Norwegians think people who are happy are perhaps just a little above themselves, don't you?'

Being Norwegian was first broadcast on BBC Radio Scotland in December 2003 and first performed for the stage, in a coproduction between A Play, a Pie and a Pint and Paines Plough, at Òran Mór, Glasgow, in October 2007.