Rona Munro

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Plays by Rona Munro

The Astronaut’s Chair

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Rona Munro's The Astronaut's Chair is a play about the race to be the first woman in space. The second of a proposed trilogy of plays about space exploration, it followed her earlier play Little Eagles (2011), about the engineer behind the Soviet space programme.

The Astronaut's Chair was commissioned by and first performed at the Drum Theatre, Plymouth, on 20 September 2012.

The play's protagonist, Renee Coburg (loosely based on pioneer woman aviator Jacqueline Cochran), is a gritty, glamorous aviator, the fastest, highest, bravest woman in the world. A self-made pilot, she battled against a poor childhood to fly planes in World War II. As America and the USSR enter the space race, she becomes determined to be the first woman to go into orbit. However, it won’t all be plain sailing as she faces stiff competition from an ambitious new rival. Jo Green is a determined, brilliant and much younger pilot with her eye on all Renee’s records. They both want to be the first woman in space but there’s only one chair at the top of the rocket.

The Drum Theatre production was directed by Simon Stokes and designed by Bob Bailey. The cast included Ingrid Lacey (as Renee Coburg), Tom Hodgkins, Jack Sandle, Eleanor Wyld and Amanda Ryan.

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.

audio Donny's Brain

LA Theatre Works
Type: Audio

The acclaimed Scottish playwright Rona Munro has created a remarkable story about a man who wakes up from a car crash with brain damage. Now, he sees the world as the person he was three years ago, when his life and loves were in a very different place. This play is part of L.A. Theatre Works’ Relativity Series featuring science-themed plays. Major funding for the Relativity Series is provided by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, to enhance public understanding of science and technology in the modern world. An L.A. Theatre Works full-cast production, starring Paul Fox, Jared Harris, Siobhán Hewlett, Moira Quirk, Sophie Winkleman. Directed by Martin Jarvis and recorded at The Invisible Studios, West Hollywood. Donny’s Brain is part of L.A. Theatre Works’ Relativity Series featuring science-themed plays. Major funding for the Relativity Series is provided by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, to enhance public understanding of science and technology in the modern world. Featuring: Paul Fox, Jared Harris, Siobhán Hewlett, Moira Quirk, Sophie Winkleman

This play is part of L.A. Theatre Works’ Relativity Series featuring science-themed plays. Major funding for the Relativity Series is provided by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, to enhance public understanding of science and technology in the modern world.

An L.A. Theatre Works full-cast production, starring Paul Fox, Jared Harris, Siobhán Hewlett, Moira Quirk, Sophie Winkleman.

Directed by Martin Jarvis and recorded at The Invisible Studios, West Hollywood.

Featuring: Paul Fox, Jared Harris, Siobhán Hewlett, Moira Quirk, Sophie Winkleman

Fugue

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Rona Munro’s play Fugue is a psychological horror story about a woman suffering a mental breakdown. It was first performed at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, on 28 April 1983.

The play's first act takes place in an isolated cottage in the Grampian Mountains in Scotland. Kay, a secretary, about 24 years old, frightened and depressed, is on holiday, getting away from it all, but is confronted there by a ghost, and also by traumatic memories of her past. In the second act, which takes place in a hospital ward a few days later, Kay is being treated by a young psychiatrist, played by the same actress as the ghost. The psychiatrist attempts to find her way in the labyrinth of Kay’s mind but encounters tragedy instead.

The Traverse Theatre premiere was directed by Les Waters and designed by Helen Turner. It was performed by Gaylie Runciman, Kath Rogers and Evelyn Langland.

Gilt

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Gilt is a collaboratively written play by Rona Munro, Stephen Greenhorn and Isabel Wright with a multi-stranded narrative exploring the effect money has on personal relationships. Commissioned by 7:84 Theatre Company, it was first performed at Paisley Arts Centre on 2 October 2003 before touring.

The play weaves together the stories of seven characters. There’s Mick, the TV presenter, searching for reconciliation; Carla, who’s looking for love; Al, in search of security; teenager Jo, who’ll try anything for a way out; Chris, out of work and in need of respect; James, who’s put his faith in Anita; and Anita, who would just like to start all over again.

The 7:84 production was directed by Zinnie Harris with a cast including Andy Gray, Kath Howden and Neil McKinven.

After the first performances at Paisley Arts Centre, the production toured to the Tron, Glasgow; the Traverse, Edinburgh; the Lemon Tree, Aberdeen; the MacRobert, Stirling; Universal Hall, Findhorn; and Soho Theatre, London, where it opened on 3 November 2003.

The Indian Boy

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Rona Munro's The Indian Boy is a play about the discovery of a ‘wild child’ in a forest and society’s attempts to understand and control him. It was commissioned by the Royal Shakespeare Company, with the brief that it should be loosely inspired by Shakespeare; Munro chose to re-imagine the life of the ‘Indian boy’ who is the main cause of the rift between the fairies Oeron and Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

The play was first performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company at The Cube, a temporary space erected in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, on 7 November 2006.

The play begins in a wooded glade at the edge of a building site, where a fifteen-year-old ‘wild’ boy is discovered by a team of builders. Peter, the property developer, wants the boy out of the way. He sends him straight to the hospital, where psychologist Julian tries to protect him. Julian’s wife, June, is desperate to understand him whilst their daughter, Sara, just wants to be close to him. Meanwhile, something wilder than the boy seems intent on escaping from the forest.

The Royal Shakespeare Company production was directed by Rebecca Gatward and designed by Liz Cooke. It was performed by Holly Aird, Claire Catchart, Christopher Fulford, Ryan Gage, David Kennedy, Ashely Madekwe, Colin Salmon, Rhik Samadder and Roderick Smith.

Iron

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Rona Munro’s Iron is a psychological drama set in a women’s prison, in which a mother and daughter try to break through the barriers of time, memory and punishment which separate them. It was first performed at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, on 26 July 2002.

The play starts with the first visit by 25-year-old Josie to her mother, Fay, who has served 15 years of a life sentence for killing Josie's father. Josie, a divorced and lonely career woman, wants to rediscover her past. Fay longs to live vicariously through her daughter without confronting the moment of her crime. The play explores their developing relationship and the contradictory nature of their needs, while also showing, through the characters of two prison guards, the way prison institutionalises people on both sides of its fences.

The Traverse Theatre premiere was directed by Roxana Silbert and designed by Anthony MacIlwaine. It was performed by Louise Ludgate, Sandy McDade, Ged McKenna and Helen Lomax.

The production transferred to the Royal Court Theatre, London, in January 2003.

Iron was awarded the 2003 John Whiting Award.

James II: Day of the Innocents

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Rona Munro's play James II: Day of the Innocents is the second in her trilogy, The James Plays, about three generations of Stewart kings who ruled Scotland in the fifteenth century. The play depicts a violent royal playground from the perspective of the child King.

The James Plays (also comprising James I: The Key Will Keep the Lock and James III: The True Mirror) were premiered on 10 August 2014 at the Festival Theatre Edinburgh, as part of the Edinburgh International Festival in a co-production between the National Theatre of Scotland, the Edinburgh International Festival and the National Theatre of Great Britain. The production opened in the Olivier auditorium of the National Theatre, London, on 10 September 2014.

In James II: Day of the Innocents, James II becomes the prize in a vicious game between Scotland’s most powerful families. Crowned when only six, abandoned by his mother and separated from his sisters, the child King is little more than a puppet. There is only one friend he can trust: William, the future Earl of Douglas. As James approaches adulthood in an ever more threatening world, he must fight to keep his tenuous grip on the crown while the nightmares of his childhood rise up once more.

In an introduction to the published script, Munro writes: 'In the delightful possibility that you are reading these plays with the view to giving them further production, here are some guidelines and warnings. All stage directions are suggestions only, you can take enormous liberties with those and emerge unscathed. Lines are very definitely not, tweak at your peril, you’ll find you’re pulling on a thread that could unravel all your plans. These texts represent a version of what was staged by the original production. Various solutions were found to represent some large moments and staging problems which are quite baldly stated in the text. As an example, we solved the problem of how to involve very small children in bloodshed and horrifying, murderous events in Day of the Innocents by using puppets. Feel free to find your own solutions.'

The premiere production was directed by Laurie Sansom and designed by Jon Bausor. The cast included Daniel Cahill as the Earl of Douglas, Ali Craig as Crichton, Blythe Duff as Isabella Stewart, Nick Elliott as John Stewart, Peter Forbes as Balvenie, Andrew Fraser as David Douglas, Sarah Higgins as Meg, Stephanie Hyam as Joan, Gordon Kennedy as Livingston, David Mara as Hume, Rona Morison as Annabella, Andrew Rothney as James II and Mark Rowley as William Douglas.

James III: The True Mirror

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Rona Munro's play James III: The True Mirror is the third in her trilogy, The James Plays, about three generations of Stewart kings who ruled Scotland in the fifteenth century. The play, like James III himself, is colourful and unpredictable, turning its attention to the women at the heart of the royal court.

The James Plays (also comprising James I: The Key Will Keep the Lock and James II: Day of the Innocents) were premiered on 10 August 2014 at the Festival Theatre Edinburgh, as part of the Edinburgh International Festival in a co-production between the National Theatre of Scotland, the Edinburgh International Festival and the National Theatre of Great Britain. The production opened in the Olivier auditorium of the National Theatre, London, on 10 September 2014.

In James III: The True Mirror, Scotland comes dangerously close to civil war. Charismatic, cultured, and obsessed with grandiose schemes that his nation can ill afford, James III is by turns loved and loathed. The country's future may be decided by his resourceful and resilient wife, Queen Margaret of Denmark. Her love and clear vision can save a fragile monarchy and rescue a struggling people.

The premiere production was directed by Laurie Sansom and designed by Jon Bausor. The cast included Daniel Cahill as Jamie, Ali Craig as Sandy, Blythe Duff as Annabella, Andrew Fraser as Ross/Tam, Sofie Gråbøl as Margaret, Gordon Kennedy as John, Rona Morison as Phemy, Andrew Rothney as Cochrane, Mark Rowley as Ramsay, Jamie Sives as James III and Fiona Wood as Daisy.

James I: The Key Will Keep the Lock

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Rona Munro's play James I: The Key Will Keep the Lock is the first in her trilogy, The James Plays, about three generations of Stewart kings who ruled Scotland in the fifteenth century. It explores the complex, colourful character of James I, poet, lover and law-maker.

The James Plays (also comprising James II: Day of the Innocents and James III: The True Mirror) were premiered on 10 August 2014 at the Festival Theatre Edinburgh, as part of the Edinburgh International Festival in a co-production between the National Theatre of Scotland, the Edinburgh International Festival and the National Theatre of Great Britain. The production opened in the Olivier auditorium of the National Theatre, London, on 10 September 2014.

Captured at the age of 13 and crowned King of Scots in an English prison, James I of Scotland is delivered home 18 years later with a ransom on his head and a new English bride. The nation he returns to is poor: the royal coffers empty and his nobles ready to tear him apart at the first sign of weakness. Determined to bring the rule of law to a land riven by warring factions, James faces terrible choices if he is to save himself, his Queen and the crown.

In an introduction to the published script, Munro writes: 'These plays are set within a period of Scottish history which is virtually unknown. I feel a certain responsibility, therefore, to alert you to the fact that some small liberties have been taken with known events in order to serve our stories. Certain characters represent amalgamations of many characters or stand for political forces within Scotland. Certain events have had their timelines altered to maximise the drama. However, as far as narrative imperatives allow, I’ve followed history and used primary sources. We cannot know the character and thoughts of these dead kings and queens and long-gone Scots. We can speculate a whole series of possibilities from the few hard facts we can rely on, the slim historical evidence of their actions. However, I feel robustly certain that whatever their thoughts and feelings might have been, human nature is exactly the same now as it was then. Only culture and circumstances have changed.'

The premiere production was directed by Laurie Sansom and designed by Jon Bausor. The cast included Cameron Barnes as Big James Stewart, Blythe Duff as Isabella Stewart, Peter Forbes as Balvenie, Sarah Higgins as Meg, Stephanie Hyam as Joan, Gordon Kennedy as Murdac Stewart, James McArdle as James I, Andrew Rothney as Walter Stewart, Mark Rowley as Alisdair Stewart and Jamie Sives as Henry V.

Picture of Rona Munro

© Colin Hattersley

Rona Munro was born in Aberdeen and has written extensively for stage, film, radio and television. Her breakthrough play Bold Girls, which depicts the life of four women during the Troubles, was produced by 7:84 Theatre Company in 1990 and won the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, the Evening Standard and Critics’ Circle Most Promising Playwright Awards and the Plays International Award.

Her other plays include The Maiden Stone (Hampstead Theatre, 1995; winner of the Peggy Ramsay Memorial Award); Iron (Traverse Theatre, 2002 and winner of the John Whiting Award); Gilt (co-written with Stephen Greenhorn and Isabel Wright, 7:84 Theatre Company, Paisley Arts Centre, 2003); The Indian Boy (RSC, 2006); Long Time Dead (Paines Plough tour, 2006); The Dirt under the Carpet (Paines Plough/Òran Mór, 2007); Pandas (Traverse Theatre, 2011); Little Eagles (RSC/Hampstead Theatre, 2011); The Astronaut’s Chair (Drum Theatre, Plymouth, 2012) and The James Plays (National Theatre of Scotland/National Theatre/Edinburgh International Festival, 2014).

Theatre adaptations include Strawberries in January, from the play by Evelyne de la Chenelière (Traverse Theatre, 2006); Watership Down, from the novel by Richard Adams (Poole Lighthouse, 2006); Mary Barton, from the novel by Elizabeth Gaskell (Royal Exchange Theatre, 2006) and a version of Lorca’s The House of Bernarda Alba (National Theatre of Scotland, 2009). Rona Munro has also written over twenty-five shows for the touring theatre company The MsFits.

Film credits include Ladybird Ladybird directed by Ken Loach (Film Four/Parallax Pictures Ltd) and Aimee and Jaguar (Senator Film Production). For television, credits include Rehab (BBC 2) and Almost Adult (Channel 4). Rona wrote five of the plays in the Stanley Baxter Playhouse series for Catherine Bailey Ltd/BBC Radio 4.