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.