Plays by Tanya Ronder

Dara

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Tanya Ronder's adaptation of Shahid Nadeem's play Dara is a domestic drama of global consequence, set in 17th-century Mughal India. It was first performed in the Lyttelton auditorium of the National Theatre, London, on 27 January 2015 (previews from 20 January).

Nadeem’s original play was first performed by Ajoka Theatre at Alhamra Arts Council, Lahore, Pakistan, in January 2010, and later in Karachi and Islamabad in Pakistan, and Amritsar, Delhi, Lucknow, Jaipur and Hyderabad in India.

The play's action begins in 1659, in Mughal India. The imperial court is a place of opulence and excess, with music, drugs, eunuchs and harems. Two brothers, Dara and Aurangzeb, whose mother’s death inspired the Taj Mahal, are heirs to this Muslim empire. Now they fight ferociously for succession. Dara, the crown prince, has the love of the people, and of his emperor father; but the younger Aurangzeb holds a different vision for India’s future. Islam inspires poetry in Dara, puritanical rigour in Aurangzeb. Can Jahanara, their beloved sister, assuage Aurangzeb’s resolve to seize the Peacock Throne and purge the empire?

In an author's note in the published script, Ronder writes: 'My brief was to take Shahid Nadeem’s play and adapt it for a National Theatre audience. We set out, myself and director Nadia Fall, to unpack the events cited in the original play, to educate ourselves, and to recreate the story in a way that didn’t put our audience at arm’s length, able to write the drama off as a story that was not theirs. The tale of Dara and Aurangzeb is one which a Pakistani or an Indian audience would have preexisting knowledge and some ownership of. A story, albeit differently told across borders, which children all over the Indian subcontinent will have heard at school or at home, (perhaps akin to our connection in Britain to Henry VIII or Elizabeth I), but that very few of us in the West know about. ... The result is a more recognisable shape of play; it has expanded to five acts, it starts before the original begins and ends several decades later. I have added in a trial scene to give Dara the voice I think we need to hear, and added various characters and storylines, all taken from or inspired by historical facts – Itbar and Afia, Murad, Mian Mir, Hira Bai and Aurangzeb’s relationship with her – and also incorporated a childhood for the brothers and sisters of this Mughal court. All in an attempt to round the story out, to make it a fairer fight between the brothers and to hopefully give our audience the psychological and emotional complexity they are used to.'

The National Theatre premiere was directed by Nadia Fall and designed by Katrina Lindsay. It was performed by Zubin Varla (as Dara), Gurjeet Singh, Scott Karim, Ronak Patani, Emilio Doorgasingh, Anjana Vasan, Sargon Yelda (as Aurangzeb), Rudi Dharmalingam, Esh Alladi, Nicholas Khan, Mariam Haque, Gary Wood, Vincent Ebrahim, Nathalie Armin, Anneika Rose, Anjli Mohindra, Liya Tassisa, Indira Joshi, Chook Sibtain, Simon Nagra, Emilio Doorgasingh, Prasanna Puwanarajah and Ranjit Krishnamma.

Fuck the Polar Bears

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Tanya Ronder's Fuck the Polar Bears is a satirical domestic comedy about aspirational consumerism and environmentalist double standards. It was first performed at the Bush Theatre, London, on 11 September 2015.

The play's action takes place in the 'central hallway/open living area of an ostentatious house in North London' belonging to Gordon and Serena, two 'down-to-earth people come to money late'. Gordon, Communications Director at a big energy company, frets about the loss of his daughter Rachel’s toy polar bear while working on schemes that will wreck the planet’s animal life. But, despite his claims that he is unaffected by stress, Gordon is troubled on several fronts. At work, he’s been offered the post of Chief Executive with a licence from the government to pursue fracking operations. At home, Serena bluntly tells him she doesn’t like their life. Meanwhile, Gordon's housepainter brother Clarence acts as a rebuke to his conscience, and domestic objects mysteriously go haywire. On top of that, the Icelandic au pair, Blundhilde, turns out to be a militant conservationist. Gordon and Serena ultimately start to wonder whether there is an alternative to their life of conspicuous consumption and discuss the future that awaits their daughter.

The Bush Theatre premiere was directed by Caroline Byrne and designed by Chiara Stephenson, with Andrew Whipp as Gordon, Susan Stanley as Serena, Salóme R. Gunnarsdóttir as Blundhilde, Jon Foster as Clarence and Bella Padden/Eléa Vicas as Rachel.

Table

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Tanya Ronder's play Table is an epic tale of belonging, identity and the things we pass on. It was the first play to be performed in The Shed, a temporary venue at the National Theatre, London, and was first performed there on 12 April 2013 (previews from 9 April).

The play's action takes place in four distinct time frames: Lichfield 1898–1946, Tanganyika 1950–1957, Herefordshire 1964–1981 and South London 2013. Its central, structuring device – a hand-crafted table, made by Staffordshire craftsman David Best to celebrate his marriage – links the multiple plot strands, as the table is handed down from generation to generation of the Best family. In Tanganyika in the 1950s, the Bests' missionary grand-daughter, Sarah, stands atop the table and voluntarily disrobes in front of the hunter who has saved her from attack by a leopard. Later, Sarah and her son Gideon join a 1960s Herefordshire commune. And in south London in 2013, the globe-trotting Gideon finally confronts the family he abandoned and now belatedly pines for.

The National Theatre premiere was directed by Rufus Norris and designed by Katrina Lindsay. It was performed by Daniel Cerqueira, Rosalie Craig, Jonathan Cullen, Paul Hilton, Penny Layden, Sarah Niles, Maggie Service, Michael Shaeffer and Sophie Wu.