NHB Modern Plays

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Plays

2nd May 1997

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Jack Thorne's play 2nd May 1997 is a drama set over the course of the 1997 UK General Election in which the Labour Party under the leadership of Tony Blair won a landslide victory over the Conservatives. The play presents three separate personal stories from different points on the political spectrum as the scale of Labour's victory becomes clear. It was first performed at the Bush Theatre, London, on 8 September 2009 in a co-production with nabokov theatre company, in association with Watford Palace Theatre and Mercury Theatre Colchester.

The action takes place in three bedrooms over the course of the night following the election, and the morning after. In Part One, set just before midnight, Tory MP Robert prepares to attend the electoral count. With defeat looming large, he fears becoming a forgotten man, while his wife Marie counts the cost of her sacrifice to politics. In Part Two, set in the early hours of the morning, Lib Dem footsoldier Ian has brought home party-crasher Sarah from an election get-together, but they’re about to connect in a way neither of them expected. Lastly, in Part Three, teenage best friends Jake and Will wake up to a new political reality, with a new set of Cabinet ministers to memorise before their A-level Politics class. Jake dreams of Number 10 and a life in politics, while Will dreams of Jake.

In his introduction to Jack Thorne Plays: One (Nick Hern Books, 2014), Thorne writes: '2nd May 1997 was and is my attempt to write a political play without the politics. ... I wanted to tell the story of that election from all sides. I was also frustrated by my inability to write a play about anyone else but me, so doing a triptych – inspired by David Eldridge’s Under the Blue Sky – felt like an opportunity to force myself outside of my comfort zone. Three political parties, three love stories, one night.'

The Bush Theatre premiere was directed by George Perrin and designed by Hannah Clark. It was performed by James Barrett, Geoffrey Beevers, Linda Broughton, Jamie Samuel, Hugh Skinner and Phoebe Waller-Bridge. The production then embarked on a regional UK tour.

3 Sisters on Hope Street

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

3 Sisters on Hope Street is a re-imagining of Chekhov’s classic play Three Sisters, set amongst the Jewish community in wartime Liverpool and written by playwright Diane Samuels and actor/writer Tracy-Ann Oberman.

Liverpool, 1946. A year after the sudden death of their father, sisters Gertie, May and Rita Lasky share their once grand home on Hope Street with their asthmatic brother Arnold, Auntie Beil (who still keeps her packed suitcase under the spare bed) and an old family friend Dr Nate Weinberg (who claims, hand on heart, to be on the wagon). As the sisters regularly welcome GIs and pilots from the nearby American base, each continues her own search for meaning amidst the shattered remains of their city, in a rapidly changing world.

3 Sisters on Hope Street was first performed at the Everyman Theatre in Liverpool in 2008 before transferring to Hampstead Theatre in London.

3 Winters

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Tena Štivičić’s play 3 Winters follows a single Croatian family living in Zagreb throughout the vicissitudes of the nation's history between 1945 and 2011. It was first performed in the Lyttelton auditorium of the National Theatre, London, on 3 December 2014 (previews from 26 November) and went on to win the 2015 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize.

The play's action is set in and around the Kos family house in Zagreb, Croatia, in three alternating time periods: November 1945, January 1990, and November 2011 (with the exception of the first scene, which takes place in an office in Zagreb in 1945). In 1945 we see Rose, with her mother, husband and their baby daughter, Maša, moving into a partitioned house at the time of the victory of Tito’s communist partisans. By 1990, Maša and her history-teacher husband, Vlado, are occupying the same house, with their young daughters, at the very moment when Croatia and Slovenia are about to break up the dominant Yugoslavian communist regime. Finally we meet the Kos family in 2011 when Maša’s youngest daughter, Lucija, is about to marry an avaricious entrepreneur and Croatia is on the brink of joining the capitalist club of the European Union.

In an article published on the National Theatre's blog (http://national-theatre.tumblr.com/post/103126868756/tena-%C5%A1tivi%C4%8Di%C4%87-on-3-winters), Štivičić writes: 'The very first moments of inspiration for this play came from stories in my family. My mother’s, my aunt’s, my grandmother’s and even my great grandmother’s when I was very little. These women spoke in very different voices, each with a different set of tools, or in fact, lack of tools to express their circumstances and articulate the plight of their life.'

The National Theatre premiere was directed by Howard Davies and designed by Tim Hatley. It was performed by Charlotte Beaumont, Lucy Black, Susan Engel, Siobhan Finneran, Daniel Flynn, Hermione Gulliford, Jo Herbert, Alex Jordan, Gerald Kyd, James Laurenson, Jonny Magnanti, Jodie McNee, Alex Price, Adrian Rawlins, Sophie Rundle, Bebe Sanders and Josie Walker.

55 Days

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Howard Brenton's 55 Days is a historical drama set at the culmination of the English Civil War when the future, not only of the King, but of the nation itself is decided. The play was first performed at Hampstead Theatre, London, on 18 October 2012.

The play's action begins in December 1648. The Army has occupied London. Parliament votes not to put the imprisoned King on trial, so the Army moves against Westminster in the first and only military coup in English history. What follows over the next fifty-five days, as Oliver Cromwell seeks to compromise with a king who will do no such thing, is nothing less than the forging of a new nation.

The Hampstead Theatre premiere was directed by Howard Davies, with Mark Gatiss as King Charles, Douglas Henshall as Oliver Cromwell, Gerald Kyd as John Lilburne and Simon Kunz as Lord Fairfax. The production was generally well received by the critics, with The Guardian applauding its 'fervent dramatic power' and the Evening Standard noting that 'It could have been a dour history lesson. Instead it engages with the present, raising some pungent questions about the kind of democracy we have in Britain today.'

In an article describing the play's genesis (published at http://nickhernbooksblog.com/2012/10/25/howard-brenton-a-forgotten-revolution-the-historical-context-to-55-days/), Brenton wrote: 'Recently I met a Frenchman in London and we fell to talking about the high drama of the climax of the French Revolution: the struggle between Danton and Robespierre. "In this country you don’t remember you also had a revolution," he said, adding, rather waspishly, "and you don’t realise you still live with the consequences". He was right. The heroic, horrific story of our revolution, the Civil War that began in 1642 and resulted in the execution of King Charles I in 1649, is not part of our national consciousness.'

Abortive

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Caryl Churchill's Abortive is a short radio play first broadcast on BBC Radio 3 on 4 February 1971.

Roz and Colin are having a difficult time with sex, largely because of an invisible yet forbidding barrier between them. Roz became pregnant after being raped and had an abortion. Roz is not sure she made the right decision and Colin is not altogether convinced his wife was raped.

The BBC Radio 3 production was directed by John Tydeman, with Prunella Scales as Roz and Dinsdale Landen as Colin.

About A Goth

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

A short monologue play about a young man who volunteers in old people’s homes and suffers paroxysms of love and hate for its residents.

Nick is seventeen, a Goth and gay. In between volunteering at his local old people’s home where he conversely gets chatted up and abused by its residents and having to attend re-enactments of Medieval battles with his slightly barmy parents, he finds the time to hang out with best mate, Greg. But a sudden death at the home forces him to confront his fears of coming out as well as perhaps giving his pessimistic mindset a rethink. Wells is well known for his touching comic monologues that are ideal showcases for young actors.

About A Goth was first performed at Òran Mór in Glasgow in 2009.

The After-Dinner Joke

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Caryl Churchill’s The After-Dinner Joke is a satire on the charity business, written for television. It was first broadcast on BBC 1 on 14 February 1978 as part of the BBC's Play for Today series.

Told in 66 short, episodic scenes, the plot follows Selby, a young woman who quits her secretarial job in a big corporation to pursue her passion for ‘doing good’. As a charity worker, she studiously avoids becoming embroiled in political issues, only to discover during the course of the action that this is impossible.

The BBC production by directed by Colin Bucksey, with a cast including Paula Wilcox as Selby.

#aiww: The Arrest of Ai Weiwei

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Howard Brenton's #aiww: The Arrest of Ai Weiwei is about the detainment and interrogation of Chinese artist Ai Weiwei by the Chinese authorities in 2011. The play, which is based on Ai Weiwei’s own account in Barnaby Martin’s book Hanging Man (first published March 2013), was first performed at Hampstead Theatre, London, on 11 April 2013.

On 3 April 2011, as he was boarding a flight to Taipei, Ai Weiwei was arrested at Beijing Airport. Advised merely that his travel ‘could damage state security’, he was escorted to a van by officials, after which he disappeared for eighty-one days. The play depicts the story of his detention and the relationships he develops with his captors. It is a portrait of the artist in extreme conditions and also an affirmation of the centrality of art and freedom of speech in civilised society.

The Hampstead Theatre premiere was directed by James Macdonald with Benedict Wong in the title role.

One of the performances at Hampstead Theatre – the one on Friday 19 April – was live-streamed over the internet for a worldwide audience to watch for free. Ai Weiwei, in a comment posted on Hampstead Theatre's website on 10 April 2013 (accessible here: http://www.hampsteadtheatre.com/news/2013/04/aiww-the-arrest-of-ai-weiwei-to-be-live-streamed-across-the-world/), said: ‘China is a society that forbids any flow of the information and freedom of speech. This is on record, so everybody should know this. I am delighted that #aiww: The Arrest of Ai Weiwei will be livestreamed to the world. It will bring the play’s themes of art and society, freedom of speech and openness, the individual and the state to a new, broad and receptive global audience. Without freedom of speech there is no modern world – just a barbaric one. I’d like to thank my close friend Larry Warsh and Hampstead Theatre for supporting the story by allowing it to be heard on a much bigger scale – and for free, which is true to its spirit. I would really like to be there on opening night but unfortunately my passport still hasn’t been returned to me.’

Albert Speer

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

David Edgar's Albert Speer is a panoramic adaptation of Gitta Sereny’s biography of the man whose devotion to Hitler blinded him to the worst crime of the twentieth century. It was first performed in the Lyttelton auditorium of the National Theatre, London, on 25 May 2000.

Plucked from obscurity to be Hitler’s chief architect and Minister of War, Albert Speer became the second most powerful man in Nazi Germany and the closest Hitler had to a friend. Having narrowly escaped hanging at Nuremberg, Speer emerged from twenty years at Spandau gaol, as he thought, a changed man. But even as he publishes his bestselling accounts of the Third Reich, the extent of his complicity in Nazi crimes returns to haunt him – and his long-suffering family.

The National Theatre premiere was directed by Trevor Nunn and designed by Ian MacNeil, with a cast of 28 actors playing more than 65 parts, including Alex Jennings as Albert Speer and Roger Allam as Hitler.

Anna Karenina

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Helen Edmundson's adaptation of Leo Tolstoy's novel, Anna Karenina, is a meditation on the nature of love. It was first performed by Shared Experience at the Theatre Royal, Winchester, on 30 January 1992 at the start of a nationwide tour.

Married to a provincial governor, the punctilious Alexei Karenin, Anna revolts against her life of compromise when she meets the charming officer Count Vronsky. She embarks on a scandalous affair, which completely destroys her family life and brings her to the brink of destruction. Interspersed with Anna’s tragic downfall is the story of Levin, an idealistic landowner striving to find meaning in his life – a character often seen as a self-portrait of Tolstoy himself. Edmundson's adaptation illuminates the story's grand pattern: how the adulterous Anna travels towards disintegration and death, while the young landowner, Levin, travels toward maturity and a sense of wholeness.

Edmundson frames the action of Tolstoy’s novel within an imagined dialogue between Levin and Anna. She brings Anna and Levin together in the opening scene: 'This is my story,' says Anna. 'It seems it is mine too,' replies Levin, and for the remainder of the play scenes are set and emotions summarised through the imaginary exchange of their confidences. The device allows Edmundson to distil the novel down to a carefully curated selection of episodes; she is able to translate almost a thousand pages, and a cast of nearly as many, into an intimate chamber drama.

In an author's note in the published text, Edmundson explains her decision not to cut the Levin strand of the novel, as many adaptations do: 'Without Levin, Anna Karenina is a love story, extraordinary and dark, but essentially a love story. With Levin it becomes something great.'

The Shared Experience production was directed by Nancy Meckler and designed by Lucy Weller. The cast was Annabelle Apsion, Katherine Barker, Tilly Blackwood, Gregory Floy, Max Gold, Richard Hope, Nigel Lindsay and Pooky Quesnel. The production then toured to Cardiff, Oxford, Leeds, Leicester, Taunton, Salisbury, and finally to the Tricycle Theatre, London, where it opened on 10 March 1992.

The play was revived at the Arcola Theatre, London, in 2011 by The Piano Removal Company, directed by Max Webster.

Nick Hern Books is one of the UK’s leading specialist performing arts publishers, with a vast collection of plays, screenplays and theatre books in their catalogue. They also license most of their plays for amateur performance.