Simon Stephens

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Plays by Simon Stephens

Bluebird

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Bluebird is a sensitive and melancholy play, composed of brief conversations and lifelong sorrow.

Taxi driver Jimmy hears about other people’s lives, just for a few moments. In the time it takes to drive them where they want to go, Jimmy hears about walking the streets, lost daughters and changing the lightbulbs by the tube tracks. He is asked whether he believes in ghosts, in love, in the human spirit. And as he drives through the night, the play gets closer to the core of his silences, to the tragedy of his own life, and to where he goes when there’s no one in the back seat of his cab.

Bluebird was first performed in 1998 at the Royal Court Theatre Upstairs, London.

Christmas

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

With a sharp ear for the verbal rhythms of conversation, Stephens glimpses the everyday weariness beneath the chat of men down on their luck, in a pub that has fallen out of time.

It is a week before Christmas in Michael Macgraw’s tired and empty pub in London. Michael adds a shot of whisky to his tea, and waits for some customers. Slowly, the regulars trickle in: twitchy, miserable twenty-nine year old Billy Lee Russell, who has just found out who his father was, and Giuseppe Rossi, a proud and elderly Italian barber, who has charged the same price for the last five years. They are joined by a series of strangers who only stay for one drink, and by Charlie Anderson who is on a lonely pub crawl with a cello, and they talk through the long night about what went wrong.

Christmas was first performed in 2003 at the Pavilion Theatre, Brighton.

Country Music

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Country Music is a dramatic play about love, crime and possibly redemption, with a purity of structure that gives it great emotional force.

The play dips in and out of the life of Jamie Carris over twenty years, showing him meeting with his girlfriend, his half-brother and his daughter. It is also the story of his crime – his flight, his time in prison and his attempt to find his way in the world once he is released. Jamie commits a crime, an act of vengeance which is the terrible pivot of the play’s action, but Stephens focuses not on his violence but on his relationships and his humanity.

Stephens was inspired to write the play after leading theatre workshops in prisons, and his delicacy and empathy are visible in this simple and immensely powerful play.

Country Music premiered at the Royal Court Theatre in 2004.

Harper Regan

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Harper Regan suddenly walks away from her husband, her daughter and her job to go and see her dying father, a journey of disconnection and realism.

When she finds out her father has gone into a hypoglycaemic coma, Harper’s odd boss won’t give her the time off. So she leaves her home in peripheral Uxbridge for Stockport to see her father, then travels on to Manchester to see her mother, and to confront the toxic secret in the middle of her marriage. The narrative is episodic, as Harper meets several men – by a canal, in a pub, in a hotel room by arrangement. It is an odyssey that strains towards knowledge but finds acceptance is more important, and acknowledges the dark and secret heart of family life.

Harper Regan is a close and affecting play, an examination of the moralities of sex and death. It was first performed at the National Theatre, London, in 2008.

Herons

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Herons is a sensitive and mournful play about urban disaffection and brutality, a deeply affecting examination of vulnerability and violence. Flashes of occasional poetry and reverence temper the bleakness of Stephens’s play; it is a sympathetic portrayal of damaged and fragmented lives.

The play is set around Limehouse Cut and the Lee River in East London, by a sluggish and almost-lifeless canal, where fourteen-year-old Billy fishes every day. As he waits patiently for the two or three tiny tench he usually catches, the miserable history of his life and the canal slowly emerges. A year earlier, Billy’s crumpled father witnessed a violent murder and testified in court; now the perpetrator’s brother Scott is taking his revenge on Billy. As Scott and his gang increase their campaign of bullying to a terrible crescendo, the play’s atmosphere of submerged menace becomes horribly real.

Herons premiered at the Royal Court Theatre, London, in 2001.

Morning

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

The end of summer. Two friends about to go their separate ways. But they will always share one moment. A moment that changed them forever.

Morning is a dark coming-of-age play by acclaimed playwright Simon Stephens, devised through a workshop involving actors from the Young Company at the Lyric Hammersmith and the Junges Theater Basel. It premiered at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, in a production by the Lyric Hammersmith on 1 August 2012.

Motortown

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Written during the London bombings of 2005, Motortown is a fierce, violent and controversial response to the anti-war movement – and to the Iraq war itself.

Danny returns from Basra to an England that is foreign to him, the play’s episodic structure leading him through a bleak and bitter portrait of the country he fought to save. His brother tells him that his ex-girlfriend doesn’t want to see him after being frightened by the letters he wrote home. Danny visits her only to find she is now with someone else, sending him on a journey through his once hometown, a place of questionable morals and men selling guns, anti-war protesters and middle class swingers.

Chaotic and complex, powerful and provocative, Motortown portrays a volatile and morally insecure world. The play premiered in 2006 at the Royal Court Theatre, London.

One Minute

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

A child goes missing, vanishes into thin air, leaving a tender, fragmentary play about the inarticulacy of grief.

One Minute follows several connected characters through their struggles with Daisy Schults’s disappearance: the two policemen investigating the disappearance; Daisy’s mother Anne; and Marie Louise, a woman who glimpsed Daisy after she had been separated from her mother. Robert is new to the police force, and his enthusiasm for the case is keener than that of his cynical colleague Gary. Mary Louise begins a strange friendship with a woman who knows Gary from the café where she works. Anne’s life has stopped: she wants to know when ‘missing’ becomes ‘presumed dead’.

One Minute is a disquieting portrait of the lives that are united in the single moment it takes for a child to disappear. The play premiered in 2003 at the Crucible Studio, Sheffield.

On the Shore of the Wide World

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Set over the course of nine months, On the Shore of the Wide World is an epic play about love, family, Roy Keane and the size of the galaxy.

The play spans three generations of a suffering family. Eighteen-year-old Alex is preparing to introduce his girlfriend Sarah to his parents. His younger brother Christopher is immediately and completely smitten with her. Their parents, Alice and Peter, are unnerved by how quickly Alex has grown up. Peter’s father Charlie is mastering card tricks and keeping his smoking a secret from his long-suffering wife Ellen. Something is about to happen that will change all their lives irrevocably, as the honest scenes of domestic family life melt to reveal a sad picture of disconnection, fragile relationships and missed moments.

On the Shore of the Wide World premiered in 2005 at the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester.

Pornography

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

One week in July 2005. Live 8. G8. London 2012 Olympic bid. 7/7.

Britain feels like the centre of the world. World-changing politics, gigantic charity concerts, the chance to host the Olympics; everything’s happening, and everyone’s talking about it. In schools, offices, streets, shops, parks and homes – there’s a buzz in the air, a sense of anticipation. The world’s eyes are focused on Britain and you can feel the energy and possibilities. But in less than an hour in central London, everything will change.

Pornography is the stark and shattering play by Simon Stephens that captures Britain as it crashes from the euphoria and promise of the 2012 Olympic announcement into the devastation of 7/7. Each monologue or playlet focuses on a different individual, walking in their shoes in the run-up to the tragedy.

The play was first presented in 2007 at Hanover, Germany; the UK premiere was in 2008 as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Picture of Simon Stephens

Simon Stephens began his theatrical career in the literary department of the Royal Court Theatre, where he ran its Young Writers' Programme.

His plays for theatre include Bluebird (Royal Court Theatre, London, 1998, directed by Gordon Anderson); Herons (Royal Court Theatre, 2001); Port (Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester, 2002); One Minute (Crucible Theatre, Sheffield, 2003 and Bush Theatre, London, 2004); Christmas (Bush Theatre, 2004); Country Music (Royal Court Theatre Upstairs, 2004); On the Shore of the Wide World (Royal Exchange Theatre and National Theatre, London, 2005); Motortown (Royal Court Theatre Downstairs, 2006); Pornography (Deutsches Schauspielhaus, Hanover, 2007; Edinburgh Festival/Birmingham Rep, 2008 and Tricycle Theatre, London, 2009); Harper Regan (National Theatre, 2008); Sea Wall (Bush Theatre, 2008/Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, 2009); Heaven (Traverse Theatre, 2009); Punk Rock (Lyric Hammersmith, London, and Royal Exchange Theatre, 2009); The Trial ofhe Trial of Ubu Ubu (Essen Schauspielhaus/Toneelgroep Amsterdam, 2010); A Thousand Stars Explode in the Sky (co-written with David Eldridge and Robert Holman; Lyric Hammersmith, London, 2010); Marine Parade (co-written with Mark Eitzel; Brighton International Festival, 2010); T5 (Traverse Theatre, 2010); and Wastwater (Royal Court Theatre Downstairs, 2011).

His radio plays include Five Letters Home to Elizabeth (BBC Radio 4, 2001) and Digging (BBC Radio 4, 2003). His screenwriting includes an adaptation of Motortown for Film4 (2009); the two-part serial Dive (with Dominic Savage) for Granada/BBC (2009); and a short film adaptation of Pornography for Channel 4's 'Coming Up' series (2009). Awards include the Pearson Award for Best New Play, 2001, for Port; Olivier Award for Best New Play for On the Shore of the Wide World, 2005; and for Motortown German critics in Theater Heute's annual poll voted him Best Foreign Playwright, 2007. His adaptation of Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time won the 2015 Tony Award for Best Play.