Edward Bond


Plays by Edward Bond

At the Inland Sea

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

At The Inland Sea is a strange, searing, dream-like play, showing a child coming face to face with humanity, and all its horror and neglect.

As a boy prepares for the first day of his exams, fussed over by his mother, he meets a woman from the past, and her baby, and the soldiers with rifles who are coming to take them away. The woman tells him about the hardness of her life, and demands a story from him, which will stop the soldiers, but the boy can’t find one that will work. Following his desperate search for a story to save them, the play is a struggle of imagination and compassion, the crux of humanity.

At The Inland Sea is subtitled a play for young people; it was written for the Big Brum Theatre-in-Education company, and was toured to schools and colleges in the West Midlands in 1995.

The Balancing Act

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Could there be one thing that holds the world together: amidst all the chaos, of war, poverty, illness and ecological breakdown, could one spot anchor it all?

Viv thinks so, and cowers beneath the floorboards of a soon-to-be-demolished tower block to protect the notion. Nelson tries to convince her otherwise, but fails, then lives his life in penance. The demolition expert who demolished the tower block (and unwittingly killed Viv) believes it, and wittingly kills his wife to protect the notion too.

The Balancing Act, is a hilarious and unsettling black comedy that shows what happens when people let the world be run by superstition, obsession and confusion.


Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Bingo, subtitled Scenes of Money and Death, uses the last days of a brooding and unheroic William Shakespeare to accuse art and capitalism of vile inhumanity.

Historical evidence suggests that not long before his death Shakespeare agreed to the enclosure of common land near Stratford, which was beneficial to landowners such as Shakespeare, but disastrous for small tenants and the parish’s poor. For Bond this incident is laced with damning echoes of King Lear’s injustices, and motivates his portrayal of the writer as a bourgeois and apolitical capitalist, more occupied with his profits and rents than with the distress of those who depended on the land.

The Shakespeare of Bingo is no national treasure; fretful, impassive and guilty, he is moved to splintered eloquence by the plight of a baited bear and a hanged vagrant woman, but is too slow to see the inhumanity and cruelty of his own position.

Bingo is a thorny cry against exploitation and passivity, and an original and coldly compelling portrait of the revered writer. It was first performed in 1973 at the Northcott Theatre, Exeter.


Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Born is a tragic epic for the twenty-first century. In it Edward Bond examines violence and terror in a dehumanised world in the terse and broken language of extreme deprivation.

Peter and Donna and a baby have moved in to a new house. The removal men have broken a mug. Twenty years later, the street is being evacuated, people piled into trucks – Peter and Donna are ejected from the room, one suitcase each. They are afraid for their son Luke, but he puts on a uniform and joins the fighting, asking questions of an ailing and silent world.

Born was first staged at the Avignon Festival in 2006. It is the third play in Bond’s The Paris Pentad (originally called The Colline Tetralogy), preceded by The Crime of the Twenty-First Century and Coffee, and followed by People and Innocence.

The Bundle: or New Narrow Road to the Deep North

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

The Bundle, or New Narrow Road to the Deep North is a compelling and forceful story exploring the origins and mechanisms of moral concepts through cruel ethical dilemmas.

Like Bond’s Narrow Road to Deep North, the play begins with the discovery of an abandoned child on a riverbank. The poet Basho who is searching for enlightenment protests that he cannot take it with him, so reluctantly the ferryman adopts the child though he can barely afford to feed another person. The play first describes the boy’s upbringing within the social values of his community, before turning to revolution to dissect and rework accepted attitudes and ideologies. The Bundle weaves together lives beset with social injustices and torn by agonizing choices, with the moral force of parable and the scope and depth of epic.

The Bundle was first performed in 1978 at the Warehouse Theatre, London.


Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Chair is the third play in Edward Bond's The Chair Plays trilogy. In it, Alice is looking after Billy, a young man she took in to her home – illegally – when he was a baby.

One day, when she witnesses a soldier escorting an old woman, someone Alice believes she knows, to prison, she offers a kindness: the soldier has been waiting with his prisoner for over three hours; Alice offers him chair to sit on. This basic, human gesture explodes the secure and private world that Alice had built to protect herself and Billy.

In his introduction, Edward Bond writes: 'Billy cannot be Alice's son but she must be the prisoner's daughter. This is because in the first play the image of the dress confronts the present with the past that all people share in common. When this confrontation is repeated in Chair it is not shared; it is absolutely restricted to one person and the present . . . Saved ends in a gesture of optimism in the mending of the chair. It is not grandiose to call that an act of immanent transcendence because the chair bears human wounds. Since the play was written our situation – the third crisis – has worsened. The chair in The Chair Plays is the sign of that crisis.'

Chair was first broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on 7 April 2000. Its first staged production was seen at the Avignon Festival in July 2006.

The Children (Bond)

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

A disturbed mother sends her son, Joe, to burn down a house in an adjacent estate. Manipulating him until he agrees, she abandons him to his fate once he has completed this task. Worse still, the house was not as empty as he thought when he set it alight.

Fleeing from the law, his friends join him on a journey though an increasingly barren and often violent landscape. Despite the difficulty of their situation and the continuing fragmentation of their community, they nonetheless find the spirit and energy to be compassionate to others – particularly a tramp who cannot walk. But the question remains; how will this compassion be rewarded?

The Children was first presented by Classworks Theatre on 11 February 2000 at Manor Community College, Cambridge. The parts of the children were played by pupils from the college. It went on to tour to seventeen venues; in each new venue a different cast of young people played, with only the actors playing Mum and Man remaining constant throughout the tour.

Coffee: A Tragedy

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Coffee centres around the death of a child and asks disturbing questions about the history of the twentieth century, through an examination of what constitutes acceptable behaviour towards children in our time.

The play opens on a young man alone in a room, laying the table. A stranger enters as he leaves, and after a strange ballet, they journey to a dark forest together. There they meet the Woman and the Girl, accusatory and half crazed with hunger. When the men return to the daylight world, they don uniform and take up a position on a cliff-top with machine-guns, a Primus stove and a coffee pot. They are involved in an incident – to them it is hardly more than a gesture, but its alarming triviality captures the history of our century and presents the deepest of questions about ourselves.

Coffee was first staged in 2000 at Le Théâtre National de la Colline in Paris. It is the first play in Bond’s The Paris Pentad (originally called The Colline Tetralogy), followed by The Crime of the Twenty-First Century, Born, People and Innocence.

The Crime of the Twenty-First Century

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Elemental, stark and with a ruthless logic, The Crime of the Twenty-First Century is a play about a devastated, desperate world. A woman lives in a desert of white rubble, sustained by the only working tap in a flattened and deserted landscape. A tiny group of people come to her seeking water – an old man, a young escaped prisoner, and a furious young woman. Searching for somewhere to hide, instead they are exposed to the deepest questions of human drama.The Crime of the Twenty-First Century is a stunning play about the possibility of society and the inevitable momentum of violence. The dialogue is angular and tortured; the play is heavy with the great pain of a destructive world.

Bond’s play was first performed in 2001 at Le Théâtre National de la Colline in Paris. It is the second play in his The Paris Pentad (originally called The Colline Tetralogy), preceded by Coffee and followed by Born, People and Innocence.


Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Derek is a short farce with the significance of social commentary, telling a story of waste and exploitation.

The aristocratic Biff is the proud possessor of an Eton education, a Sandhurst polishing, and a mental age of a ten-year-old. To his disgust, some people have pointed out that because of the latter he should not be made a Member of Parliament. So Biff needs a genius desperate enough to sell his brain, and finds Derek, a floor-sweeper who has just outsmarted a safe and stolen two million pounds.

The play is a comic but sharp critique of social stratifications which allow those with a privileged background to steal the life and self of those less fortunate, and send them to die in wars they don’t understand.

Derek was first performed in 1982 at the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Youth Festival at The Other Place, Stratford Upon Avon.

Picture of Edward Bond

Edward Bond is widely regarded as the UK's greatest and most influentlial playwright. His plays include The Pope's Wedding (Royal Court Theatre, 1962), Saved (Royal Court, 1965), Early Morning (Royal Court, 1968), Lear (Royal Court, 1971), The Sea (Royal Court, 1973), The Fool (Royal Court, 1975), The Woman (National Theatre, 1978), Restoration (Royal Court, 1981) and The War Plays (RSC at the Barbican Pit, 1985).