1911-1920

Share

Plays

Doctor Scroggy’s War

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Howard Brenton's play Doctor Scroggy's War is the story of a fictional soldier, Jack Twigg, who, after receiving an injury on the front line during the First World War, encounters the polymath and celebrated surgeon Harold Gillies, acknowledged as the father of modern plastic surgery. The play was first performed at Shakespeare’s Globe, London, on 12 September 2014, marking the centenary of the war.

The play's action centres around the invented character Jack Twigg, a ship’s chandler’s son who enlists in the London Regiment, falls in love with the upper-class Penelope Wedgewood and works as a junior intelligence officer for Sir John French during the battle of Loos in 1915. But Jack leaves the staff, determined to serve in the front line, and there receives a terrible facial injury. This, in the play’s second half, brings him into contact with Harold Gillies, a real-life pioneering plastic surgeon who developed new methods of skin-grafting to restore the faces of badly mutilated men at the Queen’s hospital, Sidcup. The play’s title derives from the roistering alter ego Gillies created to prevent his patients from succumbing to despair. Gillies tries to convince Twigg not to go back to the front, but is unable to do so and the play ends with the young soldier back on the Western Front.

In an article published in The Independent (10 September 2014), Brenton says of the play: 'What helped me in dramatising Harold Gillies were accounts of his extraordinary way of speaking. He was renowned for being difficult to understand, flinging out sentences studded with bizarre metaphors, speeding ahead of his listeners and, at times, himself. Gillies had a hyperactive sense of humour: there were practical jokes and entertainments; there was cross-dressing and illicit champagne and oysters served at night in the wards. Queens was a military hospital and rumours of "goings on" troubled authority. But Gillies, who treated more than five thousand terribly wounded men, some needing as many as 50 operations, understood that souls as well as faces had to be healed. Some of his patients never reintegrated into society but an extraordinary number did, with an insouciance that Gillies's "goings on" encouraged. I have him say about the hospital "We don't do glum here" – that was his spirit. But he was also conflicted in his work by a great fear: that the men he healed would go back to fight at the front.'

The Shakespeare's Globe premiere was directed by John Dove and designed by Michael Taylor. It was performed by Catherine Bailey (as Penelope Wedgewood), Sam Cox, Patrick Driver, Will Featherstone (as Jack Twigg), James Garnon (as Harold Gillies), Daisy Hughes, Joe Jameson, Tom Kanji, Christopher Logan, William Mannering, Holly Morgan, Rhiannon Oliver, Keith Ramsay, Paul Rider, Katy Stephens and Dickon Tyrrell.

‘I’ll Leave it to you’

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Described by Coward as an ‘amiable, innocuous and deeply unpretentious little comedy’, ’I’ll Leave It To You’ was the first of Coward’s plays to be produced, in 1920. It is the neat and energetic story of an uncle who privately promises each of his idle nieces and nephews that he will leave them his entire fortune if they make something of themselves. When he returns to London a year later, the children are no longer moping around the house and, inspired by the promise of a grand inheritance, have turned themselves into highly successful composers, writers, actors and prize-winners. But it’s difficult to pin Uncle Daniel down on how exactly he made his money, and whether he really has three years to live before succumbing to an elusive malady. Showing little sign of having been written in just three days, ’I’ll Leave It to You’ is nimble, light-hearted and quick-witted.

La Ronde

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Schnitzler’s comic masterpiece shows a spectrum of social class from prostitutes to noblemen in a series of drily observed sexual encounters. It is a cycle of ten dialogues, retaining one character from each scene into the next one, so that a prostitute picks up a solider who then seduces a housemaid who then falls into bed with her master. The cycle is completed by a return to the prostitute of the first scene. Famously, each scene features a set of dashes, denoting sexual intercourse. It is a witty, knowing examination of the rituals of seduction and shame and the hollow sounds of courtship.

La Ronde formed the basis of a famous film in 1950, but its real notoriety goes back to 1900 when it was privately printed and subsequently banned. It was not performed until 1920 in Berlin, where anti-Semitic riots broke out, resulting in the arrest and trial of the cast and director, allegedly for obscenity. The controversy continued with David Hare’s 1998 adaptation, The Blue Room.

Frank Marcus’s translation was aired on the BBC in 1982.

The Light Burns Blue

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Silva Semerciyan's The Light Burns Blue is a play inspired by the true story of the Cottingley Fairies: the case of two young cousins, Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths, who in 1917, having purportedly taken photographs of real fairies near their home in Cottingley, Yorkshire, were invited by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (the creator of Sherlock Holmes) to speak at a conference in London about their supernatural encounters.

The play 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.

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

The play's action takes place over the summer of 1917 in the village of Cottingley and in London. The scenes flash back and forth between Cottingley around the time when the photographs were taken, and the London hotel where excited supporters have gathered to hear for themselves about the supposed evidence for another world. Winifred, a sceptical reporter from a local newspaper, has disguised herself as an adolescent girl in order to infiltrate the Cottingley coterie, and is now about to expose Elsie and Frances as frauds. But as she looks at the facts, she begins to think there's more to Elsie's story than a simple hoax.

The play was first performed at the Bristol Old Vic on 15 April 2015 in a production directed by Lisa Gregan and designed by Max Johns.

Miss Appleyard's Awakening

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

When trying to gather signatures for an anti-suffrage petition, Miss Appleyard is invited into a potential signatory's house, a woman who shares Miss Appleyard’s anti-Suffrage stance. However, as their conversation continues, Miss Appleyard cannot help but notice that her hostess’s arguments are weak and contradictory. She leaves the house quite convinced of the opposite beliefs than those she had entered with.

In her introduction, Naomi Paxton writes: ‘It has humour in the text . . . and in the playing and is a great piece to introduce an audience to the arguments surrounding the suffrage debate in this period.'

Miss Appleyard’s Awakening was first performed at the Rehearsal Theatre, London, on 20 June 1911.It was published by the Actresses’ Franchise League (AFL) in 1911.

The Mother's Meeting

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

In her introduction to the play, Naomi Paxton writes: ‘While attending what she believes to be a Mothers Meeting Mrs Puckle finds herself having an unexpected reaction to what she hears. A joyful, entertaining monologue, the piece uses a working class character to expose the inconsistencies in the Anti-Suffrage arguments. Interesting because it paints a picture of Mrs Puckle’s home life and family; it also is another monologue directly spoken to the audience that allows for interaction between audienceand performer.'

The Mother’s Meeting was published by the Actresses’ Franchise League (AFL) in 1913.

audio Pygmalion

LA Theatre Works
Type: Audio

One of Shaw’s most enduring works, Pygmalion is an insightful comedy of class relations and perceptions, as played out between a Cockney flower girl and the irascible speech professor who has taken her on as a pet project. Described by critics as “a play of great vitality and charm,” Pygmalion inspired the award-winning stage and film productions of Lerner and Loewe’s musical, My Fair Lady.

An L.A. Theatre Works full-cast performance featuring Roslyn Alexander, Shannon Cochran, Denise du Maurier, Rebecca MacLean, David New, Kenneth J. Northcott, Nicholas Pennell, Nicholas Rudall, Ben Whitehouse and Laura Whyte.

Featuring: Roslyn Alexander, Shannon Cochran, Denise du Maurier, Rebecca MacLean, David New, Kenneth J. Northcott, Nicholas Pennell, Nicholas Rudall, Ben Whitehouse, Laura Whyte

An L.A. Theatre Works full-cast performance featuring Roslyn Alexander, Shannon Cochran, Denise du Maurier, Rebecca MacLean, David New, Kenneth J. Northcott, Nicholas Pennell, Nicholas Rudall, Ben Whitehouse and Laura Whyte.

Featuring: Roslyn Alexander, Shannon Cochran, Denise du Maurier, Rebecca MacLean, David New, Kenneth J. Northcott, Nicholas Pennell, Nicholas Rudall, Ben Whitehouse, Laura Whyte

An L.A. Theatre Works full-cast performance featuring Roslyn Alexander, Shannon Cochran, Denise du Maurier, Rebecca MacLean, David New, Kenneth J. Northcott, Nicholas Pennell, Nicholas Rudall, Ben Whitehouse and Laura Whyte.

Featuring: Roslyn Alexander, Shannon Cochran, Denise du Maurier, Rebecca MacLean, David New, Kenneth J. Northcott, Nicholas Pennell, Nicholas Rudall, Ben Whitehouse, Laura Whyte

Rococo

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

A masterful short comic drama from Harley Granville Barker, Rococo is a chamber piece that trains its lens on family conflict, inheritance law and objets d’arts, refracting these issues through the prism of a Rococo vase which has made its way into the possession of the family via the Emperor of Germany and a recently deceased relative.

Rococo was given four matinée performances at the Court Theatre, London, in February 1911, then was presented at the Little Theatre, London, in October 1911, in a production directed by the playwright.

Ross

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Terence Rattigan's play Ross explores the enigmatic life of T.E. Lawrence and his heroic incarnation as 'Lawrence of Arabia'. It was first presented by H.M. Tennent at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket, London, on 12 May 1960. This edition, with an introduction by Dan Rebellato, was published alongside the revival at the Chichester Festival Theatre in 2016.

The play is structured with a framing device set in 1922, when Lawrence was hiding under an assumed name as 'Aircraftman Ross' in the Royal Air Force, and is being disciplined by his Flight Lieutenant for alleged misconduct. No one seems to have become aware of his true identity, except for a man named Dickinson, who had seen Lawrence at the Paris Peace Conference of 1919 and quickly attempts to blackmail him to keep his identity secret. Lawrence, however, refuses, and Dickinson decides to reveal his identity to the Daily Mirror. The action then flashes back to mid-1916 and proceeds to tell a version of Lawrence's much-contested life story, beginning with him being given an unofficial assignment as a liaison officer to the forces of the Arab Revolt.

In his introduction to the play published in the Nick Hern Books edition (2016), Dan Rebellato writes that 'Ross was Terence Rattigan’s second most commercially successful play (after the light comedy When the Sun Shines), playing for nearly two years at the Theatre Royal Haymarket, one of London’s biggest theatres. When it closed in March 1962, it had been seen by over two-thirds of a million people. .... Unfortunately, Ross coincided with the sharp downturn in Rattigan’s reputation. Although it received some of the best and most respectful reviews of his career, the goodwill it had earned him was snuffed out two months later by Joie de Vivre, a disastrous musical adaptation of French Without Tears that was booed at the opening and closed within a week. It took twenty-five years for his reputation to recover'.

The 1960 premiere was directed by Glen Byam Shaw with Alec Guinness as Aircraftman Ross.

The 2016 production was directed by Adrian Noble and designed by William Dudley, with Joseph Fiennes as Aircraftman Ross.

R.U.R.

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

A funny and surreal story of servitude and technology, R.U.R. was legendary Czech writer Karel Čapek’s first major work for the stage.

In their introduction to the play, translators Peter Majer and Cathy Porter write that Čapek’s ‘idiosyncratic nihilism found its earliest expression in his first large-scale stage drama, R.U.R., or Reason’s Universal Robots 1921. The Robot was the invention of Karel Čapek and his brother Josef, and the play is a gloriously dystopic science-fiction fantasy about them and the brave new world of the men who mass-produce them . . . Robots multiply, are bought and sold and gradually take over every aspect of human existence. As people grow idle and stop procreating, the Robots rebel and destroy almost the entire human race . . . R.U.R. was frequently performed in Europe and America throughout the 1920s, and the outrageous comedy of its central premise, its surrealistic visual effects and experimental use of space immediately caught the popular theatrical imagination.'

R.U.R or Rosumovi Umělí Roboti, was first performed in Prague in 1921.