NHB Modern Plays

Share

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.

Anne Boleyn

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Howard Brenton's Anne Boleyn is a dramatisation of the life and legacy of the notorious second wife of Henry VIII. It was first performed at Shakespeare's Globe, London, on 24 July 2010.

King James I, rummaging through the dead Queen Elizabeth’s possessions upon coming to the throne in 1603, finds alarming evidence that Elizabeth's mother, Anne Boleyn, was a religious conspirator in love with Henry VIII but also with the most dangerous ideas of her day. Anne comes alive for him as a brilliant but reckless young woman confident in her sexuality, whose marriage and death transformed England forever. The potent love between Anne and Henry is so alive and electric that it cannot be contained in the stultifying social mores of the time, but is viewed with alarm by those at Court who fear the threat it poses to their position and influence.

The premiere at Shakespeare's Globe was directed by John Dove, with Miranda Raison as Anne Boleyn, James Garnon as King James and Anthony Howell as King Henry. It was well received by the critics, with the Daily Mail (not generally favourable to Left-leaning playwrights) commenting 'It takes a big, generous spirit to fill the Globe, and in this Brenton follows Shakespeare – not just with asides and soliloquies, but with a large colourful canvas.' The play was named Best New Play at the Whatsonstage.com Awards in 2011.

Anne Boleyn was revived at the Globe in 2011 and toured regionally in 2012 in a joint production between Shakespeare’s Globe and English Touring Theatre.

Antigone (trans. McCafferty)

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Owen McCafferty's version of Sophocles’ Antigone is a muscular take on the ancient Greek tragedy that offers a reflection on the nature of power, democracy and human rights. It was first performed by Prime Cut Productions at the Waterfront Studio Hall, Belfast, in October 2008 as part of the Ulster Bank Belfast Festival.

The play takes place in a huge hall within the palace of Creon, the new ruler of Thebes. The palace is in ruins after battle and, although the war has ended, with peace comes conflict. Antigone’s brother Polyneices lies on the battlefield where he fell, his burial outlawed by Creon. Antigone is determined to overrule him and attempts to persuade her sister, Ismene, to join her in rebellion against the king, but to no avail. When Creon discovers that Antigone has disobeyed him and buried her brother, she is captured, a decision that triggers a catastrophic chain reaction resulting in the double suicide of his son Haemon and wife Eurydice.

Sophocles’ tragedy has a powerful resonance in post-conflict Northern Ireland and this version is set entirely within the walls of a palace destroyed by war. Written in his distinctive style, McCafferty highlights the human frailties of these mythic characters by drawing attention to the family saga element of the story.

The Prime Cut Productions premiere was directed by Owen McCafferty and designed by Lorna Ritchie. It was performed by Walter McMonagle, Katy Ducker (as Antigone), Rosie McClelland, Ian McElhinney, Conor MacNeill, Paul Mallon, Harry Towb, Eoin McCafferty, Tom Loane, Chris Corrigan, Julia Dearden, Cat Barter, Barry Etherson and Matt Faris.

Apologia

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Alexi Kaye Campbell's second play, Apologia presents a disastrous family reunion as the occasion for a critical look at what has happened to 60s idealists and their children. It was first performed at the Bush Theatre, London, on 17 June 2009.

Kristin Miller is an eminent and successful art historian in her sixties. As a young mother she followed her politics and vocation, storming Parisian barricades and moving to Florence. Now she has written a book about her life – a book that fails to mention her two children, Peter and Simon. So when her sons and their partners, Trudi and Claire, gather at Kristin's cottage in the countryside to celebrate her birthday, she finds herself ambushed by their very different versions of the past. Over the course of the evening, everyone must confront the cost of Kristin’s commitment to her passions.

The Bush Theatre premiere was directed by Josie Rourke with Paolo Dionisotti as Kristin, Tom Beard as Peter, John Light as Simon, Sarah Goldberg as Trudi, Nina Sosanya as Claire and Philip Voss as Hugh, an old friend of Kristin's.

The play was well received by the critics, with several remarking on how it built on the promise of Campbell's previous play, The Pride. Charles Spencer in The Daily Telegraph wrote that Campbell was 'fast emerging as a dramatist of rare distinction', while Henry Hitchings in The Evening Standard concluded that the play 'confirms his standing as a fresh and sensitive voice'.

Arabian Nights

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Dominic Cooke's Arabian Nights is an inventive retelling of the classic tales. It was first performed at the Young Vic, London, on 16 November 1998.

It is wedding night in the palace of King Shahrayar. By morning, the new Queen Shahrazad is to be put to death like all the young brides before her. But she has one gift that could save her – the gift of storytelling. With her mischievous imagination, the young Queen spins her dazzling array of tales and characters, bringing them to life before the king: Ali Baba, Es-Sindibad the Sailor, Princess Parizade, adventurers in strange and magical worlds populated by giant beasts, talking birds, devilish ghouls and crafty thieves.

The six stories from the original collections featured in this version are: The Story of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, The Story of the Little Beggar, The Story of Es-Sindibad the Sailor, How Abu Hassan Broke Wind, The Story of the Wife Who Wouldn’t Eat and The Story of the Envious Sisters. The framing story of Queen Shahrazad is retained throughout.

The Young Vic premiere was directed by Dominic Cooke. The play was revived, in a revised version, by the Royal Shakespeare Company at The Courtyard Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, on 5 December 2009, also directed by Dominic Cooke, designed by Georgia McGuinness and with music by Gary Yershon.

Arlington

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Enda Walsh's play Arlington (subtitled 'A Love Story') is a story of love and oppression set in a dystopian world of entrapment, isolation and surveillance. It was first performed at Leisureland, Salthill, Galway, on 11 July 2016, as part of the 2016 Galway International Arts Festival.

The play is set in a 'realistic waiting room – of no fixed time or place'. Isla, a young woman, is trapped here, waiting for her number to be called on a prominent LED number display screen. Her only human contact is with a Young Man who sits in an adjacent control room operating the cameras that keep her under constant surveillance and listening to the stories she invents about the outside world. Both characters are victims of a tyrannical system, as is the Young Woman who, in a long, wordless, central section, dances her way to her own death. The play, however, concludes on a note that suggests that the human spirit can withstand oppression.

The Galway premiere was directed by Walsh with choreography by Emma Martin, music by Teho Teardo and designs by Jamie Vartan. It was performed by Charlie Murphy as Isla, Hugh O’Conor as the Young Man and Oona Doherty as the Young Woman, with additional voicework by Eanna Breathnach, Olwen Fouéré, Helen Norton and Stephen Rea.

Arthur & George

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

David Edgar's Arthur & George is a stage play based on Julian Barnes’ Booker Prize-nominated novel of the same name (first published in 2005), itself based on a real-life case in which Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (the creator of fictional detective Sherlock Holmes) found himself playing detective. The play takes the form of a detective thriller that raises questions about guilt and innocence, identity, nationality and race. It was first performed at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre on 19 March 2010 in a coproduction with Nottingham Playhouse.

In 1903, Birmingham solicitor George Edalji was found guilty of a series of brutal attacks on farm animals, known as the Great Wyrley Outrages. He was sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment with hard labour. Desperate to prove his innocence, he recruited Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of the world famous detective Sherlock Holmes, to help solve his mysterious case and win him a pardon.

Edgar restructures Barnes's story. He starts with a meeting between Conan Doyle and Edalji that took place after the latter's prison sentence had been commuted, although his conviction remained intact. Through flashbacks, we learn the details of the case: how Edalji, his Parsee-born vicar father and his Scottish mother had been subjected to a campaign of sustained intimidation. We also learn how the sober, industrious Edalji had been accused of being part of the Great Wyrley gang that brutalised local cattle, and of being the source of the poison-pen letters to his own family. Conan Doyle determines to clear Edalji's name and, assuming the mantle of Sherlock Holmes, uncover the true culprits.

The Birmingham Repertory Theatre production was directed by Rachel Kavanaugh and designed by Ruari Murchison, with Adrian Lukis as Arthur and Chris Nayak as George. Other members of the cast were Richard Attlee, William Beck, Simon Coates, Daniel Crowder, Kirsty Hoiles and Anneika Rose.

The production subsequently transferred to Nottingham Playhouse, with performances there from 22 April 2010.

The Aspidistra Code

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Mark O’Rowe’s The Aspidistra Code, the first play he wrote, is a sinister but comic drama of honour and violence. It was selected by Ireland's National Association of Youth Drama as one of the winners of the Stage IT! Young Playwright’s Project, an initiative founded to encourage playwrights between the ages of eighteen and thirty. The play was first presented as a rehearsed reading at the Peacock Theatre, Dublin, on 2 December 1995, directed by Gerard Stembridge

The play is set in an 'average-sized living room' belonging to Brendan and Sonia, who are in debt. They fear the arrival of the Drongo, a violent and unpredictable loan shark. But Brendan’s brother Joe has hired protection in the person of Crazy Horse. As it turns out, Crazy Horse and the Drongo are old mates and the crisis seems to have been averted. That is until the Drongo’s code of honour is called into question, precipitating a bloody showdown.

In his foreword to Mark O'Rowe Plays: One (Nick Hern Books, 2011), O'Rowe describes the play as 'a light, funny piece, probably most easily categorised as a kitchen-sink-crime-comedy-drama'.

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 Authorised Kate Bane

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Ella Hickson’s The Authorised Kate Bane is a play about families and how we're defined by shared family memories, both real and invented. It was first performed at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, on 12 October 2012 in a production by Grid Iron Theatre Company.

Kate Bane, a 30-year-old playwright, returns home to her parents' house in Kelso, Scotland, for a winter weekend to introduce her new boyfriend, Albin. As the snow falls, she finds herself searching with increasing desperation for the truth about her family’s past. Are her memories fact, or are they continually shifting acts of imagination? Unable to pin down the truth, she attempts to write a version of the family mythology that might ensure her own future happiness.

The playtext indicates four different settings: Kate’s flat in London, where she is writing a play; the imagined Bane family home in Kelso, where the action of Kate's play takes place; Kate's memory; and edited versions of the play as Kate rewrites it.

The premiere production was directed by Ben Harrison and designed by Becky Minto. The cast was Nicky Elliott, Jenny Hulse, Anne Kidd and Sean Scanlan.

The production transferred to the Tron Theatre, Glasgow, with performances from 30 October 2012.

Bad Weather

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Robert Holman's Bad Weather is a play exploring the nature of violence and the possibility of redemption. It was first performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company at The Other Place, Stratford-upon-Avon, on 22 April 1998.

The play begins on a grim housing estate in Middlesbrough, North Yorkshire. There’s been a fight at a local Chinese restaurant. A man is badly injured. Two young men are involved, Luke and Jamie. Despite the fact that both boys are guilty of the attack, loudmouth Luke manages to get off whilst Jamie, unwilling to grass up his best mate, is sent to prison. To complicate matters, Jamie’s girlfriend (and Luke’s sister) Rhona is carrying his child. The court case takes its toll on Jamie’s French mother, Kay, whose stress is aggravated when her former nanny, Agnès, turns up unannounced having been estranged for twenty years. However, her appearance may just offer a means of escape for everyone involved and transform the storm in which they are trapped into a far brighter outlook.

As Colin Chambers writes in an introduction to the published script, 'Much of Holman's work has been seen to startling effect in small theatres because, as in Bad Weather, he reveals the larger picture beyond through small and often domestic detail, driven by sharp observation of life rather than a particular ideology and by a deceptive economy of style that is spare and steely, yet compassionate and emotionally powerful.'

The Royal Shakespeare Company premiere was directed by Steven Pimlott and designed by Ashley Martin-Davis. The cast was Emma Handy, Paul Popplewell, Ryan Pope, Susan Brown, Barry Stanton and Susan Engel.

Ballyturk

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Enda Walsh’s Ballyturk is a play of lyrical intensity and physical comedy, in which the lives of two men unravel over the course of ninety minutes. It was first performed at the Black Box Theatre, Galway, as part of the Galway International Arts Festival on 14 July 2014 in a production by Landmark Productions and Galway International Arts Festival. The production subsequently toured to the Olympia Theatre, Dublin, Cork Opera House, and the National Theatre, London.

The play's action takes place in a 'very large room' containing furniture pushed up against the walls. Two men, simply identified as 1 and 2, pass the time in speeded-up, silent-comedy rituals and speculating about daily life in an imagined Irish town called Ballyturk. But when a third character, 3, turns up, he not only breaks up the partnership but invites one of the duo into the outer world, and inevitable extinction.

The premiere production was directed by Enda Walsh and designed by Jamie Vartan. It was performed by Cillian Murphy, Mikel Murfi, Stephen Rea, Orla Ní Ghríofa and Aisling Walsh, with the voices of Eanna Breathnach, Niall Buggy, Denise Gough and Pauline McLynn.

Banana Boys

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Evan Placey's Banana Boys is a play about the challenges of being on the school football team – and secretly gay. It was commissioned by Hampstead Theatre’s youth theatre company, heat&light, and first performed at Hampstead Theatre, London, on 9 December 2011.

The play revolves around the friendship between two sixteen-year-old boys, Calum and Cameron, who become obsessed with American girl-group, The Banana Girls.

In an introduction to the published script in Girls Like That and other plays for teenagers (Nick Hern Books, 2016), Placey writes: 'Growing up queer there weren’t many young gay role models to look up to. So instead I looked up to music divas. I’m not sure what it was, but there was something about their power, their confidence, and their absolutely being at ease in their own skin that left me in awe. And so the opportunity to create my very own group of divas, The Banana Girls, was irresistible. My favourite films as a teen were the romcoms, except the queer characters didn’t exist in them, never mind being forefront. So it was my chance to rectify the past.'

The Hampstead Theatre premiere was directed by Debra Glazer and designed by Robbie Sinnott. It was performed by members of heat&light youth theatre.

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.

Beauty and the Beast

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Lucy Kirkwood's delightful version of the classic fairytale, first seen in a production devised and directed by Katie Mitchell at the National Theatre for Christmas 2010.

The theft of a single rose has monstrous consequences for Beauty and her father. Because this is no ordinary rose... and this is no ordinary fairytale. Narrated by a pair of mischievous fairies, a very helpful Rabbit, and a Thoughtsnatcher machine, this timeless story is sure to surprise, delight and enchant.

A wild and twisted tale, full of exciting and intriguing challenges for drama groups wishing to stage their own production.

Bedbound

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Enda Walsh's play bedbound is a two-hander about a father/daughter relationship gone horribly wrong. It was first performed at The New Theatre, Dublin, as part of the Dublin Theatre Festival 2000. It received its UK premiere at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, during the 2001 Edinburgh Festival Fringe, and was revived at the Royal Court Theatre Upstairs, London, on 10 January 2002.

The play's action takes place on a small child's bed inside a plasterboard box that occupies the centre of the stage. At the beginning of the play, one wall of the box – the one that faces the audience – crashes to the ground, revealing Daughter and Dad, both of them on the bed. He talks frantically about his extraordinary past in furniture sales; she talks no less compulsively about anything at all, to fill the terrifying silence in her head. Trapped in their own claustrophobic story, these two tortured creatures attempt to reach some kind of redemption.

The premiere production at The New Theatre in Dublin was directed by Enda Walsh and designed by Fiona Cunningham. It was performed by Peter Gowan and Norma Sheahan. The production was revived at the Traverse Theatre and then at the Royal Court Theatre Upstairs with Liam Carney playing Dad.

In his foreword to the collection Enda Walsh Plays: One (Nick Hern Books, 2011), Walsh writes: 'bedbound was my first effort away from Pat [Kiernan, director, Corcadorca Theatre Company] and towards myself. It’s essentially about the relationship between me and my dad. It’s wild but also very honest. A love letter to my sick dad at the time.'

Before It Rains

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Katherine Chandler's Before it Rains is a play about parenthood, protection and provocation set on a proud, forgotten Cardiff estate. It was first performed at Bristol Old Vic, on 10 September 2012.

The play's action mostly takes place on a council state allotment. Gloria is a single mum who enjoys sitting in her deckchair drinking her troubles away while her son Michael (a man with high-functioning Asperger syndrome) digs the soil and makes sure everything is in order. Carl, a newcomer to the area, is a charismatic, articulate wild boy whose approach is invariably heralded by the sound of the ball he is always bouncing. Carl lives with a psychopathic older brother and a violent, drug-addled father, and when he takes the gentle Michael under his wing, it is the start of a great deal of trouble.

The Bristol Old Vic premiere was directed by Róisín McBrinn and designed by Alyson Cummins, with Craig Gazey as Michael, Lisa Palfrey as Gloria and Harry Ferrier as Carl.

Be My Baby

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Amanda Whittington’s debut play Be My Baby sheds light on teenage pregnancy in 60s Britain. Featuring an all-female cast the play has proved incredibly popular with schools and drama groups across the UK and is currently a set text for GCSE English Literature.

Set in a Mother and Baby Home in 1964 in the north of England, the play follows the fortunes of Mary Adams, aged 19, unmarried and seven months pregnant. Forcibly sent there by a mother intent on keeping up appearances, Mary – along with the other girls in the home – has to cope both with the shame and the dawning realisation that she will have to give the baby up for adoption whether she likes it or not. Despite this, and an overbearing matron, the girls’ youthful effervescence keeps breaking through, as they sing along to the girl-group songs of the period.

Commissioned by Soho Theatre, the play started out as a story of a grown woman meeting her adopted child. However, as Whittington began to research she came across the story of Britain’s Mother and Baby Homes. These homes were a well-kept secret that nonetheless blighted the lives of thousands of young women to whom Whittington has given a voice in this play.

Be My Baby was first performed by the Soho Theatre Company at the Pleasance Theatre in London in 1998. Since its initial production, the play has been revived many times including at the Soho Theatre, Salisbury Playhouse, Oldham Coliseum, New Vic Theatre and Hull Truck Theatre.

Berlin Bertie

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

An intimate and at times savagely funny psychological study of two sisters, one of who has made her home in East Berlin and one who has stayed on in their native London.

Fleeing from an encounter that has destroyed her marriage, Rosa Brine leaves Berlin in the wake of the downing of the Wall and seeks shelter with her sister Alice. But the sinister figure of 'Berlin Bertie' follows and finds her. A turbulent Easter weekend of explosive confrontations ends in an oddly comic kind of salvation.

Bird

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Katherine Chandler's Bird is a play about two girls making the precarious transition from the care home they have shared to independent adult life. It was the winner of a Judges' Award in the 2013 Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting, and was first performed in a co-production by Sherman Cymru and the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester, at the Sherman Theatre, Cardiff, on 17 May 2016, before transferring to the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester, on 8 June 2016.

The play's action begins with Ava (age 15) and Tash (age 13) standing on a cliff, looking out at the flocking birds and thinking about their future. They have been living in a care home for three years, sharing a room. Soon, Ava will turn 16 and will have to leave the care home. She wants to return home to her mother, Claire, who wasn’t much older than Ava is now when she gave birth. But Claire hasn’t had any contact with her daughter for years and doesn’t want Ava back in the family home. While Ava’s social worker tries to find her temporary accommodation, Ava teeters on the edge and discovers the world through the teenaged Dan and the creepy, middle-aged taxi-driver Lee, who plies her with vodka and gifts.

The premiere production was directed by Rachel O’Riordan and designed by Kenny Miller, with Georgia Henshaw as Ava, Siwan Morris as Claire, Connor Allen as Dan, Guy Rhys as Lee and Rosie Sheehy as Tash.

The Birds

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Conor McPherson's The Birds is a loose adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s 1952 short story. It was first performed at the Gate Theatre, Dublin, on 29 September 2009.

Mysterious flocks of birds have begun to attack at high tide, driving strangers Nat and Diane to take refuge in an isolated, abandoned house by the sea. They quickly form a bond as they attempt to survive in their new circumstances. But with no electricity and a scarcity of food, the tension is palpable and hope is waning. The sudden arrival of a mysterious young woman, Julia, ruffles feathers in the house and quickly threatens to destroy their so-called sanctuary.

The Gate Theatre premiere was directed by Conor McPherson and designed by Rae Smith, with Ciarán Hinds as Nat, Sinead Cusack as Diane, Denise Gough as Julia and Owen Roe as Tierney.

The play received its American premiere at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis on 25 February 2012. The production was directed by Henry Wishcamper with J.C. Cutler as Nat, Summer Hagen as Julia, Angela Timberman as Diane and Stephen Yoakam as Tierney.

Bliss

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Bliss is Caryl Churchill's translation of French-Canadian writer Olivier Choinière's play Felicité, exploring modern society’s obsessions with celebrity and its impact on private lives. It was first performed in this translation at the Royal Court Jerwood Theatre Upstairs, London, on 28 March 2008.

A Wal-Mart cashier and her fellow workers flick through celebrity gossip magazines and talk about Céline, a local girl who is now a famous singer (the character is strongly identified with real-life singer Céline Dion). But when they come across some ominous headlines about the star, they begin prying into the potential reasons behind her recent shrinking from the spotlight. At the same time they tell the story of Isabelle, Céline’s biggest fan,who, after being abused and tortured by her own family, has come to work at Wal-Mart.

The Royal Court premiere was directed by Joe Hill-Gibbins and designed by Jeremy Herbert, and performed by Brid Brennan, Hayley Carmichael, Neil Dudgeon and Justin Salinger.

Blood and Ice

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Liz Lochhead's earliest play, Blood and Ice is a psychodrama that tells the story of Frankenstein’s creation and weaves a web of connections between Mary Shelley’s own tragic life and that of her literary monster. It was first performed at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August 1982. It was later revived, in a revised version, by David McVicar at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 1988, and subsequently toured by McVicar's company, Pen Name. It was again revived, in the version that was ultimately published, at the Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh, on 24 October 2003.

The play unfolds as a series of flashbacks from the perspective of Mary Shelley in later life, disillusioned, let down by her friends, and struggling to understand her own creation, Frankenstein, or why she wrote it in the first place. It focuses on the summer of 1816, when eighteen-year-old Mary and her husband Percy Bysshe Shelley are joined at a house party on the shores of Lake Geneva by Mary’s half-sister Claire and the infamous Lord Byron. They take part in a challenge to see who can write the most horrifying story. Little do they know that Mary’s contribution is to become one of the most celebrated novels of all time, nor how her life, already burdened with the death of her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, is to be so full of tragedy.

Liz Lochhead, in a 2009 Introduction to the published text, writes 'It’s exactly thirty years since I first took down from a library shelf Muriel Spark’s Child of Light, her wonderful biography of Mary Shelley, and, shortly after, began my own pursuit. Could I make a play…? Naively, I was, at the time, quite blithely unaware that I wasn’t the first, and certainly wouldn’t be the last, to be fired by the dramatic possibilities of this moment in history, that iconic stormy summer of 1816 by the shores of the lake and beneath the high Alps.'

The 2003 Royal Lyceum production was directed by Graham McLaren and performed by Lucianne McEvoy, Phil Matthews, Alex Hassel, Susan Coyle and Michele Rodley.

Bloody Wimmin

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Lucy Kirkwood’s Bloody Wimmin is a short play written for the Tricycle Theatre’s Women, Power and Politics season, staged at the Tricycle, London, in June–July 2010. The play examines the impact of the 1980s Greenham Common protests and the fight for nuclear disarmament. It was first performed at the Tricycle on 4 June 2010, in rep with short plays by Marie Jones, Moira Buffini and Rebecca Lenkiewicz.

It’s 1984 and the peace camp at Greenham Common is in full swing. Mother-to-be Helen is torn between her commitment to the cause of nuclear disarmament and her expectant husband back home. Twenty-five years later and her now adult son, James, is an environmental activist, railing against what he perceives as sexual exploitation in the way the media is covering their protests.

The Tricycle Theatre production was directed by Indhu Rubasingham with a cast including Niamh Cusack, Stella Gonet and Kika Markham.

Blue Heart

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Caryl Churchill's Blue Heart consists of two related short plays, Heart's Desire and Blue Kettle, both examining strained family – and especially filial – relationships. It was first performed at Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds, on 14 August 1997 in a touring co-production by Out of Joint and the Royal Court Theatre.

In Heart’s Desire, Brian and his wife Alice, together with Brian's sister Maisie, are waiting for the arrival of their daughter Susy, who is returning home after some years spent in Australia. A simple domestic scenario is replayed over and over with widely differing developments – some heartbreaking, some wildly comical or surreal.

In Blue Kettle, a middle-aged man, Derek, and his girlfriend, Enid, are involved in a con trick, making a series of elderly women believe that Derek is the son they once gave up for adoption. But as the situation develops, the play's dialogue undergoes a radical distortion with characters using the words 'blue' and 'kettle', apparently at random, and to an extent that grows increasingly disruptive.

The Out of Joint/Royal Court touring production was directed by Max Stafford-Clark and designed by Julian McGowan, with a cast including Gabrielle Blunt, Jacqueline Defferary, Karina Fernandez, Barnard Gallagher, Valerie Lilley, Mary Macleod, Eve Pearce, Jason Watkins and Anna Wing. Following the performances at Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds, it opened at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, on 19 August 1997, and at the Royal Court Theatre Downstairs (at the Duke of York's) on 17 September.

Blue Stockings

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Blue Stockings follows the story of four young women fighting for education and self-determination against the larger backdrop of women’s suffrage written by director and writer, Jessica Swale.

1896. Girton College, Cambridge, the first college in Britain to admit women. The Girton girls study ferociously and match their male peers grade for grade. Yet, when the men graduate, the women leave with nothing but the stigma of being a ‘blue stocking’ – an unnatural, educated woman. They are denied degrees and go home unqualified and unmarriageable.

In Swale’s play, Tess Moffat and her fellow first years are determined to win the right to graduate. But little do they anticipate the hurdles in their way: the distractions of love, the cruelty of the class divide or the strength of the opposition, who will do anything to stop them. The play follows them over one tumultuous academic year, in their fight to change the future of education.

Blue Stockings premiered at Shakespeare’s Globe in London in 2013.

born bad

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

debbie tucker green's born bad is an intensely theatrical play about a vicious family dispute. It was first performed at Hampstead Theatre on 29 April 2003.

Dawta wants the family to talk. Furious, she calls out each member of her family, demanding they join in her outrage or, at the very least, recognise it. Some long-ago horror has occurred, and she demands information from her sisters, her mother and her brother. Meanwhile, the perpetrator – Dad – stays nearly silent.

The Hampstead Theatre premiere was directed by Kathy Burke and designed by Jonathan Fensom, with Jenny Jules as Dawta, Sharlene Whyte as Sister 1, Nadine Marshall as Sister 2, Alibe Parsons as Mum, Nicholas Pinnock as Brother and Ewart James Walters as Dad.

The play won debbie tucker green the Olivier Award for Most Promising Newcomer in 2004 and was shortlisted for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize.

Boys

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Ella Hickson's play Boys is about a group of young men making the tricky transition from university to adult life. It was first performed at the HighTide Festival, Halesworth, Suffolk, on 3 May 2012, before transferring to the Nuffield Theatre, Southampton, and Soho Theatre, London.

The play is set in the kitchen of a student flat in Edinburgh over an unusually hot summer. The class of 2011 are about to graduate and Benny, Mack, Timp and Cam are due out of their flat. Hedonistic Timp has been stuck in a dead-end job for as long as he can remember whilst Cam is struggling with the pressures of a nascent classical music career. Benny is just trying to make sure everyone is alright, much to the chagrin of cynical Mack. Stepping into a world that doesn’t want them, these boys start to wonder if there’s any point in getting any older. Before all that, though, they’re going to have one hell of a party.

The premiere production was directed by Robert Icke and designed by Chloe Lamford. The cast was Samuel Edward Cook, Danny Kirrane, Lorn Macdonald, Tom Mothersdale, Alison O’Donnell and Eve Ponsonby.

Bracken Moor

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Alexi Kaye Campbell's Bracken Moor is a boldly theatrical tale of two families haunted by grief, set against the economic troubles of the 1930s. It was first performed at the Tricycle Theatre, London, on 6 June 2013 in a co-production between the Tricycle and Shared Experience.

The play's action takes place in the Yorkshire house of Harold Pritchard, a ruthlessly pragmatic mine owner, in the winter of 1937. Harold and his wife Elizabeth are playing host to their old London friends, Geoffrey and Vanessa Avery, whom they haven't seen for ten years. The reason for the long gap is that Elizabeth withdrew from life after the death of her 12-year-old son, Edgar, who fell down a disused mine shaft. All the old memories come to the surface when the Averys' 22-year-old son, Terence, appears to be possessed by the spirit of the dead boy, with whom he enjoyed an intense relationship.

The Tricycle Theatre premiere was directed by Polly Teale, artistic director of Shared Experience, with a cast including Daniel Flynn as Harold Pritchard, Helen Schlesinger as Elizabeth Pritchard, Joseph Timms as Terence, Simon Shepherd as Geoffrey Avery and Sarah Woodward as Vanessa Avery.

A Breakfast of Eels

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Robert Holman's play A Breakfast of Eels is a two-hander about two young men trying to find their way in the world after the death of the man they thought of as their father. It was first performed at the Print Room at the Coronet, London, on 20 March 2015.

The play is set in the present day in Highgate, London, and in Northumberland. When the play opens, the two characters, Penrose (aged 21) and Francis (aged 35), are preparing for the funeral of Penrose’s father. They both refer to the deceased man as 'Daddy', but it becomes clear that he was not Francis's father. Penrose seems emotionally immature and fey, while Francis appears more confident, even protective of Penrose, insisting that Penrose dress properly for the funeral. As the play develops, Penrose tries to gift the ancestral manor he's inherited to Francis, together with a small fortune in cash. They banter, battle, and bond over the course of five Acts, and both are changed, not necessarily in ways they understand.

The Print Room premiere was directed by Robert Hastie and designed by Ben Stones, with Andrew Sheridan as Francis and Matthew Tennyson as Penrose.

In an introduction to the published script, Holman explains that he wrote the play specifically for Andrew Sheridan and Matthew Tennyson to perform (both had appeared in previous plays of his: Sheridan in Holes in the Skin and Jonah and Otto, Tennyson in the 2012 revival of Making Noise Quietly). Holman goes on to describe how each of them contributed to the play: 'When Making Noise Quietly was over, Tennyson and I went for a walk along the Thames. I said how, now and again, I’d had a go at writing parts for actors and would he be interested if I was to write a play for him, and that at some point I would need the name of his character. The only thing I knew for certain was that I wanted the play to be set in London (Tennyson is a Londoner) and would he show me his favourite part of London? ... We must have walked ten miles that afternoon in the drizzle without an umbrella. He said he would show me Highgate Cemetery, and a few days later said "Penrose". Penrose is a character I never would have written had Tennyson not said what he did.'

Bull

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Mike Bartlett's Bull is a play about vicious office politics. It was first performed at the Crucible Studio Theatre, Sheffield, on 6 February 2013, before transferring to 59E59 Theaters, New York, as part of the Brits Off Broadway season on 25 April 2013.

The play is intended to be performed with 'a minimum of scenery, props and furniture, in order to keep the focus on the drama of the scene'. Three youngish business people – Tony, Isobel and Thomas – are waiting to hear which of them will lose his or her job. As they await the arrival of their boss, Carter, to deliver the verdict, the three of them debate each other’s chances of survival. For alpha male Tony and calculating Isobel, it’s clear that Thomas is getting the chop. And in the struggle for survival, no blow is too low.

The play was seen by some critics as a companion piece to Bartlett’s earlier play Cock (Royal Court Theatre, 2009), which unpicks a love triangle with the same unflinching honesty.

The premiere production was directed by Clare Lizzimore and designed by Soutra Gilmour, with Adam James as Tony, Adrian Lukis as Carter, Eleanor Matsuura as Isobel and Sam Troughton as Thomas. In New York, the part of Carter was played by Neil Stuke.

Bull won Best New Play at the UK Theatre Awards in 2013.

The production was revived at the Young Vic, London, on 8 January 2015. It went on to win the Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in an Affiliate Theatre in 2015.

Bully Boy

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Sandi Toksvig's Bully Boy is a play that tackles the challenging moral issues of contemporary military occupation and its effect on the mental health of serving soldiers. It was first performed at the Nuffield Theatre, Southampton, on 13 May 2011 (previews from 10 May). It was revived in a new production first performed at the Royal & Derngate, Northampton, on 24 August 2012, before transferring to the St James Theatre, London, on 18 September 2012, where it was the new West End theatre's inaugural production.

The play is written for two performers. Falklands War veteran Major Oscar Hadley, now confined to a wheelchair, is sent to a combat zone to probe allegations of severe misconduct by Eddie Clark, a young squaddie from Burnley and part of a self-styled ‘Bully Boy’ unit of the British Army. Eddie is accused of throwing an eight-year-old boy down a well during a military raid in the Middle East. As the interrogation develops, Oscar begins to discover that ‘truth’ in a modern insurgency can be a point of view rather than a fact.

In an Introduction to the published script, Toksvig writes: 'For someone who thinks of themselves as a pacifist I have written a lot about war lately. Perhaps it is not so surprising. We are all subjected to images of conflict every day as one faction or another shoots it out in Syria or Iraq or Afghanistan or Sudan or any number of other distant places which come home to us through the television. ... I began to read about the effect of war on the individual. In particular, Dave Grossman’s book On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society, which had a huge effect on me. ... When Patrick Sandford, artistic director of the Nuffield Theatre in Southampton, said he wanted to commission a play from me it was as if Bully Boy poured out of my head.'

The Nuffield Theatre premiere was directed by Patrick Sandford, with Anthony Andrews as Oscar and Joshua Miles as Eddie.

The revival at the Royal & Derngate and in the West End was directed by Patrick Sandford and David Gilmore, and designed by Simon Higlett. The cast was the same.

Bunny

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Jack Thorne's Bunny is a coming-of-age drama for a solo female performer that tackles teenage sexuality, racism and gang culture. It was first produced by nabokov and Escalator East to Edinburgh in association with Watford Palace Theatre and Mercury Theatre, Colchester, at Underbelly Cowgate at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, on 5 August 2010.

The play's action is narrated by eighteen-year-old Katie, an ordinary girl from Luton who plays clarinet in the orchestra and is applying for a place at university. When her boyfriend Abe, a black 24 year old, gets involved in a violent street altercation following a perceived racial slight, the situation escalates alarmingly. Katie finds herself in a car riding across the city as Abe and his mates Jake and Asif attempt a revenge attack. Amidst the baying for blood and the longing for love and excitement, Katie is forced to decide her future.

In his introduction to Jack Thorne Plays: One (Nick Hern Books, 2014), Thorne writes: 'Bunny is my love note to Luton [where he lived for a number of years]. ... My local Post Office was run by a Pakistani gentleman, and twice I was standing in the queue behind two different young kids, looking quite confused about life, wearing English Defence League tops. The strange thing is, both were polite to the Pakistani shopkeeper, and he was polite back. I wanted to tell a story about that racial complication. How it’s not about race per se, but something much more intricate than that.'

The premiere production was directed by Joe Murphy and designed by Hannah Clark. It was performed by Rosie Wyatt, and featured projected line drawings by Jenny Turner (reproduced in the playtext). The production won a Fringe First Award and subsequently toured the UK from June 2011 before a run at Soho Theatre, London, in October 2011.

Burying Your Brother in the Pavement

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Jack Thorne's Burying Your Brother in the Pavement is a play that tackles the story of a teenage boy grieving for his dead brother with emotional honesty and imaginative flair. Written specifically for young people, it was commissioned as part of the 2008 National Theatre Connections Festival and premiered by youth theatres across the UK, including a performance at the National Theatre in July 2008.

The play revolves around Tom, 'an ordinary-looking teenager in his early teens'. He is first encountered hiding in the attic to escape the traumatic funeral wake for his brother, Luke, which is taking place in the house below. Luke died on the streets of the dingy, crime-ridden Tunstall Estate, his neck slashed by a broken bottle. The world outside, reflected through Tom's vivid imagination, is colourful and surreal: he is the second coming of Christ; his teacher, Mr Wilkins, has sex with a blow-up doll; people break out unexpectedly into music-hall routines. Tom hatches a plan to bury his brother under the pavement where he died, and camps out there, meeting a succession of characters: planning officials, tramps, undertakers, police officers, sisters, mothers, estate agents, ghosts, pavement elephants, sky dragons and a boy called Tight who wants to sell him a Travelcard. It transpires that Luke had sneaked off to the Tunstall Estate because he was secretly gay and had a crush on a poor boy there. In a further twist, Tom discovers that his brother's death wasn’t in fact a street crime but suicide born of shame. As the ghost of his dead brother says, “I felt crushed, so I crushed myself.”

In a production note accompanying the text, Thorne states: 'The most important thing is that this play is kept scruffy – nothing is beautiful – everything is quick and swiftly accomplished. This should look like a piece of theatre achieved on the bounce and stuffed full of life.'

Chatroom

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Enda Walsh's Chatroom is a play about manipulation, cyberbullying and adolescent insecurity. It was first performed as part of the 2005 National Theatre Connections season, an annual festival of new plays for youth theatres and schools. It received its first professional production in the Cottesloe auditorium of the National Theatre, London, on 10 March 2006.

The play's action takes place in a staged representation of the virtual space of an internet chatroom. A group of bored and restless teenagers – William, Jack, Eva, Emily and Laura – spend their time deconstructing children’s literature and the messages in modern pop music. But when a new member, Jim, joins to share his depression and thoughts of suicide, the conversation takes a dark turn. The group is torn between those who want to help and those who see this as a chance to create a martyr for the teenage population.

The National Theatre premiere was directed by Anna Mackmin and designed by Jonathan Fensom. It was performed by Matt Smith, Javone Prince, Matti Houghton, Andrea Riseborough, Andrew Garfield and Naomi Bentley.

A feature film version was released in 2010, directed by Hideo Nakata from a screenplay by Enda Walsh.

Chicken Shop

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Anna Jordan's play Chicken Shop is a dark coming-of-age story centring around a sixteen-year-old boy and his attempts to prove his masculinity. The play was first performed at Park Theatre, London, on 2 September 2014. Jordan had already won the 2013 Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting with her play Yen, although that play was yet to receive its premiere (it was premiered at the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester, in 2015).

In Chicken Shop, sixteen-year-old Hendrix has a growing resentment for his mother, Hilary (43), and her constant preaching on the virtues of an organic lifestyle. He also has a troubled relationship with his mother's 27-year-old girlfriend Katie (Australian, 'sparky, stunning, hyper-sexual'), who winds him up relentlessly. But most of all he's sick of the bullies at school, who think if his mum is gay then he must be too. In a desperate attempt to prove his masculinity, Hendrix visits the brothel above the local fried-chicken shop, where he meets Luminita (24, Moldovan), who Hendrix naively believes is trying to earn money to go to university, when in reality she has been trafficked and is in thrall to the thuggish Leko (38, Albanian). As the secret friendship between Hendrix and Luminita grows in snatched moments, his eyes are gradually opened to the reality of Luminita's world.

The Park Theatre premiere was directed by Jemma Gross and designed by Florence Hazard, with Angela Bull as Hilary, Jesse Rutherford as Hendrix, Millie Reeves as Katie, John Last as Leko and Lucy Roslyn as Luminita.

Chimerica

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

A powerful play about international relations and the shifting balance of power between East and West, Lucy Kirkwood's Chimerica is both a political examination and an engaging personal drama.

Tiananmen Square, 1989. As tanks roll through Beijing and soldiers hammer on his hotel door, Joe – a young American photojournalist – captures a piece of history with his camera: the moment when a lone man steps in front of the tanks.

New York, 2012. Joe is covering the presidential election, marred by debate over cheap labour and the outsourcing of American jobs to Chinese factories. When a cryptic message left in a Beijing newspaper suggests that the so-called 'tank man' is still alive and living in America, Joe is driven to discover the truth about the unknown hero he photographed.

The play asks urgent questions about the emergence of China as a global superpower, the impact and legacy of authoritarian government, and the decline of Western supremacy. It also explores the personal price paid by those who pursue the truth, whatever the cost.

Chimerica premiered at the Almeida Theatre in London in 2013 in a co-production with theatre company Headlong. It was an immediate critical success, receiving a clutch of five-star reviews. It subsequently transferred to the Harold Pinter Theatre in the West End in June 2013 and was awarded the Evening Standard, Critics' Circle and Olivier Awards for Best New Play as well as the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize.

Ciphers

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Dawn King's play Ciphers is a thriller about spies, double agents, and the opaqueness of the human soul. It was first produced by Out of Joint, the Bush Theatre and Exeter Northcott Theatre, and first performed at Exeter Northcott Theatre on 16 October 2013 before touring the UK.

Justine is a British Intelligence Officer. She is pursuing Kareem, a youth worker, whom she believes may have information on a suspected terrorist living in the UK. But when Justine is found dead in mysterious circumstances, her sister Kerry sets out to find out what happened and stumbles into a world of secrets and subterfuge that make her question who Justine really was.

The play's exploration of the fluidity of personal identity is heightened by the use of doubling in production, particularly the doubling of Justine and Kerry, who the script stipulates should be played by the same actor.

The premiere production was directed by Blanche McIntyre and designed by James Perkins. It was performed by Bruce Alexander, Ronny Jhutti, Gráinne Keenan and Shereen Martin. The production subsequently toured to Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham; Tobacco Factory Theatre, Bristol; Oxford Playhouse; Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh; Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry; Bush Theatre, London and Salisbury Playhouse.

The Clearing

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Helen Edmundson’s The Clearing is an original play about the effects of Oliver Cromwell’s military campaign in Ireland. It was first performed at the Bush Theatre, London, in November 1993.

The play is set in Ireland in 1652. Oliver Cromwell has passed the Act for the Settlement of Ireland, decreeing that all Catholic landowners must relocate to the province of Connaught, a blighted and barren land in the west of the country. Madeleine, an Irish woman married to an English man, Robert Preston, has just given birth to their first child, but their joy is short-lived. Their union becomes the focus of an ever-rising resentment within their small farming community. As the English parliament under Cromwell’s command mount their ‘to Hell or Connaught’ policy, the Prestons’ happy world is torn apart.

The Bush Theatre premiere was directed by Lynne Parker, with Adrian Rawlins as Robert Preston and Susan Lynch as Madeleine. The play went on to win a Time Out Theatre Award and the John Whiting Award.

The play was revived by Shared Experience in 2002 on a tour starting in Birmingham on 7 March and including a month-long engagement from 23 April to 25 May at London's Tricycle Theatre. The production was directed by Polly Teale and designed by Angela Davies. The cast was Amelda Brown, Pip Donaghy, Aislin McGuckin, Mairead McKinley and Joseph Millson.

Closing Time

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Owen McCafferty's Closing Time is a tender portrait of love, dignity and emotional damage set in a Belfast pub. It was first performed at the National Theatre, London, on 9 September 2002. Performances took place in the Lyttelton Loft as part of the National Theatre’s Transformation Season.

The play is set in a 'grubby pub/hotel' owned by feisty but fading Vera and her permanently half-drunk husband Ronnie. The pub provides a sanctuary from the outside world for those who live or drink there. Images on the large-screen television (which is always on, but with its sound muted) tell of Belfast’s ‘transformation’ after years of sectarian violence. But as the drinks flow and night closes in, the reality of life sinks in and everybody’s ability to cope with each other and themselves is eroded.

The National Theatre premiere was directed by James Kerr and designed by Rae Smith. It was performed by Pam Ferris, Patrick O’Kane, Jim Norton, Lalor Roddy and Kieran Ahern.

Clybourne Park

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Bruce Norris's Clybourne Park is an acerbic satire tracing the fault line between race and property through the changing ownership of a property in Clybourne Street, central Chicago. It is also a witty riff on Lorraine Hansberry’s seminal 1959 drama A Raisin in the Sun, the first play by a black female playwright to run on Broadway.

Clybourne Park was first performed at Playwrights Horizons, New York City, on 21 February 2010.

The play is set in the interior of 'a modest three-bedroom bungalow, 406 Clybourne Street, in the near north-west of central Chicago'. In the opening act, set in 1959, Russ and Bev are moving out after a family tragedy. Their son committed suicide in the house, after going off the rails during the Korean War, and they are desperate to get out. They are selling the place for a knock-down price, which means that a black family will be moving in, much to the disquiet of neighbourhood resident Karl, who pops round to tell Bev and Russ – in front of the black maid Francine – that they are undermining property values. In the second act, set in 2009, the same property is being bought by Lindsey and Steve, a young white couple who want to build a new house on the same plot, but face hostility from the all-black residents' committee who are concerned that white newcomers will erase the cultural significance of the area.

Part of the power of Clybourne Park derives from how the events in the play intersect with those in Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun. In the earlier play, the black Youngers plan to move into a white neighborhood when a character named Karl Lindner, a representative of the community association, offers to buy them out. In the first act of Clybourne Park, the same Karl Lindner tries to persuade the house’s white owners not to sell to a black family – the Youngers, it is assumed – out of fear of what that would do to the property values and the culture of the neighbourhood.

The Playwrights Horizons production was directed by Pam MacKinnon. It was performed by Frank Wood, Christina Kirk, Crystal A. Dickinson, Brendan Griffin, Damon Gupton, Jeremy Shamos and Annie Parisse. The production transferred to Broadway the following year.

The play received its European premiere at the Royal Court Jerwood Theatre Downstairs, London, on 2 September 2010 (previews from 26 August), directed by Dominic Cooke and designed by Robert Innes Hopkins. It was performed by Steffan Rhodri, Sophie Thompson, Lorna Brown, Sam Spruell, Lucian Msamati, Martin Freeman, Sarah Goldberg and Michael Goldsmith.

This production received its West End premiere at the Wyndham’s Theatre, London, on 8 February 2011 (previews from 28 January), with some changes to the cast.

The play received numerous awards, including the London Evening Standard Award for Best Play, the Critics Circle Award for Best New Play, the Olivier Award for Best New Play, the Tony Award for Best Play and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

Cockroach

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Sam Holcroft's play Cockroach depicts a world infected by violence, exploring Darwin's theory of evolution and the apparent male propensity for war. It was first performed at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, on 23 October 2008, in a co-production with the National Theatre of Scotland.

The play is set in a classroom in a seemingly normal modern-day comprehensive school. While Beth, the teacher, instructs the unruly pupils in the principles of natural selection, the boys are being called up to fight in some unspecified conflict that rages on in the world outside. Beth believes that only education will set her pupils free, but, despite her best efforts, the tide of conflict is soon lapping at the school gates. One by one, pupils and teacher are pulled under as their hopes and dreams float away from them. In a central recurring image, the girls clean the torn and bloodied uniforms of dead soldiers.

The premiere production was directed by Vicky Featherstone and designed by Naomi Wilkinson. It was performed by Frances Ashman, Ryan Fletcher, Meg Fraser (as Beth), Laura McMonagle, Helen Mallon and Owen Whitelaw.

Cold Comfort

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Owen McCafferty’s short play Cold Comfort is a monologue about a man returning to his native Belfast for his father's funeral. It was first performed by Prime Cut Productions Theatre Company at the Old Museum Arts Centre in Belfast in May 2005.

The play is performed on an empty stage 'but for three simple wooden chairs and a coffin'. Kevin Toner is a washed-up, hard-drinking bricklayer who has returned to Belfast after years of living in Kilburn, London. He has come to attend his father’s funeral. Alone onstage with the coffin bearing his father’s remains, his trusty whisky always to hand, he begins one last conversation with his ‘da’ as he takes an often painful trip down memory lane. A chair is transformed into his mother as he plagues her with questions as to why she left the family home, and another becomes his estranged wife, Theresa, with whom he shared a drink problem. As Kevin slowly grows more inebriated, a portrait emerges of a man grown haggard and bitter from his lonely existence, and from a family tragedy for which he shares the guilt.

The Prime Cut premiere was directed by Owen McCafferty and designed by David Craig. It was performed by Patrick O'Kane.

Come On Over

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Conor McPherson's Come On Over is a short play for two characters that was first performed at the Gate Theatre, Dublin, on 27 September 2001.

Matthew, a Jesuit priest sent to investigate a ‘miracle’ in his hometown, re-encounters Margaret, the woman who loved him thirty years before.

The Gate Theatre premiere was directed by Conor McPherson with Jim Norton as Matthew and Dearbhla Molloy as Margaret.

Coming Clean

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Coming Clean, Kevin Elyot’s first professionally produced play, looks at the breakdown of a gay couple’s relationship and examines complex questions of fidelity and love. It was first performed at the Bush Theatre, London, on 3 November 1982.

The play is set in a flat in Kentish Town, north London, in 1982. Struggling writer Tony and his partner of five years, Greg, seem to have the perfect relationship. Committed and in love, they are both open to one-night stands as long as they don’t impinge on the relationship. But Tony is starting to yearn for something deeper, something more like monogamy. When he finds out that Greg has been having a full-blown affair with their cleaner, Robert, their differing attitudes towards love and commitment become clear.

In his foreword to Kevin Elyot: Four Plays (Nick Hern Books, 2004), Elyot writes 'From 1976 to 1984 I'd acted in several productions at the Bush Theatre, and Simon Stokes, one of the artistic directors, had casually suggested I try my hand at a play. I presented them with a script entitled Cosy, which was passed on to their literary manager Sebastian Born. He responded favourably and, largely through his support, it finally opened on 3 November 1982 under the title Coming Clean. Cosy had fallen out of favour – a pity, as I'd always liked the pun on the opera which plays such an important part. I came up with the present title as a necessary compromise after what had proved to be quite a bumpy ride from acceptance to premiere.'

The Bush Theatre premiere was directed by David Hayman and designed by Saul Radomsky. The cast was Eamon Boland, C.J. Allen, Philip Donaghy, Ian McCurrach and Clive Mantle.

Coming Clean won the Samuel Beckett Award for writers showing particular promise in the field of the performing arts.

Consensual

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Evan Placey's Consensual is a play about a pupil-teacher relationship that has overstepped the mark. It was first performed by the National Youth Theatre of Great Britain at Ambassadors Theatre, London, on 18 September 2015.

The play's action revolves around a British secondary school, with an ensemble group of students maintaining an insistent presence throughout the first half. Diane is a teacher and Head of Year 11, charged with implementing the new ‘Healthy Relationships’ curriculum. Seven years ago, as a 22-year-old teaching assistant, she made a mistake: she got too close to one of her unhappy 15-year-old pupils, Freddie. Now she is a fully-qualified teacher and heavily pregnant, and Freddie has turned up. Lost and unhappy, he's intent on pressing charges. Though we see both of their stories, in the first half we're never sure the truth of what happened. While Diane tries to teach a bunch of teenagers SRE – the new educational buzzword for Sex and Relationships Education – her world unravels in the background. Freddie, meanwhile, is undermined and ridiculed by his brother for going to the police. At the time, he crowed about his conquest. Unsettlingly, who is right and who is wrong is not clear cut.

The National Youth Theatre production was directed by Pia Furtado and designed by Cecilia Carey. The cast was Lauren Lyle, Oscar Porter-Brentford, Grace Surey, Megan Parkinson, Conor Neaves, Cole Edwards, Oliver West, Luke Pierre, Gavi Singh Chera, Jason Imlach, Oliver West, Andrew Hanratty, Francene Turner, Melissa Taylor, Alice Feetham, Paris Iris Campbell and Ellise Chappell.

The Contingency Plan

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

A double bill of plays from the frontline of climate change - an epic portrait of an England of the near future, in the grip of unprecedented and catastrophic floods.

On the Beach is set in an England in the grip of unprecedented flooding, glaciologist Will Paxton returns from months in Antarctica to tell his parents that he will take up a role within Government. Thirty years ago, his father silenced his own radical thinking on climate change. Yet behind the reunion with his father lies years of secrecy and bitterness. As the truth surfaces, the family is torn apart, and Will’s parents must face the rising tide alone. The dialectic between Will and his father is explored with an urgent intensity which reflects the state of national emergency in which England finds itself. Waters blends the personal with the political turning this large-scale play into a compelling human drama.

In Resilience, England faces an uncertain future as catastrophic flooding on an unprecedented scale is predicted to hit its battered shores. The Tory Government that has just come to power wants radical answers to the imminent floods. Their newly appointed expert Will Paxton (who features prominently in the first part of the double bill, On the Beach) posits an extreme scenario. He declares England, potentially from coastline to capital, to be in total peril. Tory Minister for Climate Change, Chris is blind to the realities being placed before him, much to the chagrin of Will and his colleague, Colin, the Government’s Scientific Advisor. Resilience shows that Will’s fight to implement a proper policy, built from scientific research, derives in part from the old familial wounds aired in On the Beach.

Resilience and On the Beach premiered as a double bill at the Bush Theatre in London in 2009.

Impressive in scale and chilling as a prediction of our immediate future, the two plays are complementary but can also stand alone.

Coram Boy

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Helen Edmundson's stage adaptation of Jamila Gavin's Whitbread Award-winning children's novel, Coram Boy (published in 2000), is a Dickensian tale of philanthropy, foundling children, and families both divided and, ultimately, reunited. It was first performed, with music composed by Adrian Sutton, in the Olivier auditorium of the National Theatre, London, on 15 November 2005 (previews from 2 November).

In 18th-century Gloucestershire, the evil Otis Gardner preys on unmarried mothers, promising to take their babies (and their money) to Thomas Coram's hospital for foundling children. Instead, he buries the babies and pockets the loot. But Otis's downfall is set in train when his half-witted son Meshak falls in love with a young girl, Melissa, and rescues the unwanted son she has had with a disgraced aristocrat. The child is brought up in Coram's hospital, and proves to have inherited the startling musical gifts of his father – gifts that ultimately bring about his father's redemption and a heartbreaking family reunion.

The National Theatre premiere was directed by Melly Still and designed by Ti Green and Melly Still. It was performed by Jack Tarlton, Justine Mitchell, Nicholas Tizzard, Abby Ford, Anna Madeley, Paul Ritter, Ruth Gemmell, Inika Leigh Wright, Adam Shipway, Rebecca Johnson, Kelly Williams, Eve Matheson, Katherine Manners, Sophie Bould, William Scott-Masson, Bertie Carvel, Sharon Maharaj, Akiya Henry, Chetna Pandya and Stuart McLoughlin.

It was revived at the National Theatre from November 2006 to February 2007.

The play opened on Broadway at the Imperial Theater on 2 May 2007, with previews from 16 April 2007, directed by Melly Still.

Cressida

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

A comedy drama set in the world of 17th century London theatre; Cressida was the first original work by Nicholas Wright to be produced in twelve years since Mrs Klein in 1988.

John Shank is an actor, talent scout and trainer of boy players in the seedily glamorous backstage world of London theatre in the 1630s. Up to his eyes in debt, Shank’s only hope of escaping destitution is an unpromising 14-year-old called Stephen Hammerton, who he hopes to train up and sell off at a good price. The play is a humorous investigation into the fate of these young actors who became virtually unemployable after their voices broke. It also examines themes of rebirth and decay, as each of the adult characters in Cressida was once a boy player himself only too aware of the brevity of their career. This nostalgia is tempered by the looming threat of the Civil War and the hostility of the Puritan movement, who actually succeeded in closing the theatres in 1642. They remained shut for eighteen years but were reopened in 1660 to coincide with the restoration of the monarchy in the shape of Charles II.

Cressida was produced by the Almeida Theatre at the Albery Theatre, now known as the Noël Coward Theatre, in the West End in 2000 in a production directed by Nicholas Hytner and starring Michael Gambon as Shank.

Crestfall

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

In Mark O'Rowe's play Crestfall, three women recount their lives in a brutally patriarchal and unforgiving town where they are used, abused and manipulated by those around them. It was first performed at the Gate Theatre, Dublin, on 20 May 2003 (previews from 15 May).

The play comprises three monologues, delivered in turn by three female characters. Olive Day sleeps around with any man she can find, though she never charges. Married to the volatile Jungle, she also has a secret lovechild with the local pimp, Inchy Bassey. Alison Ellis is married to the Bru but struggles to connect with him and tires of her lonely existence. Thirdly, drug-addled prostitute Tilly, forced into a botched abortion by Inchy because of his situation with Olive, decides to let the town know the truth about their secret child, leading to a devastating and bloody finale.

The Gate Theatre production was directed by Garry Hynes and designed by Francis O’Connor, with Aisling O’Sullivan as Olive Day, Marie Mullen as Alison Ellis and Eileen Walsh as Tilly McQuarrie.

The play received its UK premiere at Theatre503, London, on 27 November 2007 in a production directed by Róisín McBrinn and designed by Paul Wills. The cast was Pauline Hutton, Niamh Cusack and Orla Fitzgerald.

In his foreword to Mark O'Rowe Plays: One (Nick Hern Books, 2011), O'Rowe explains his original conception of the play: 'Both Howie the Rookie and Made in China were written for exclusively male casts, so I now decided, out of perversity, I suppose, or for the sake of symmetry, or maybe just to nourish the feminine side of my poetic soul, that I would write a play for a cast which was exclusively female, though it would retain the extremity and darkness and vulgarity and violence (I know, I know; all these masculine qualities), of the earlier work.'

O'Rowe revised the play in preparation for its publication in 2011, making changes 'mostly the language, which I found too spare, too humourless, and almost wilfully contradictory in its lack of flow or rhythm.' He also cut one scene – 'a scene of (almost) bestiality' – which, according to the author, had been received with particular 'horror or outrage' by the audience at the Gate, though his decision to cut the scene was based on the need to resolve 'a minor narrative issue that its existence exposed'. 'The result,' he writes in his foreword, 'is a better play (in my opinion, and once again, what value does that have?), though how much better, I can’t really say. A little better, anyway. Maybe. Or not much worse, in any case.'

The Crocodile

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Tom Basden's The Crocodile is a satirical play based on an 1865 short story of the same name by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. The play is about a struggling actor (a civil servant in Dostoyevsky's story) who begins to receive the recognition he feels he deserves only after being swallowed whole by a crocodile at the zoo. It was commissioned by Manchester International Festival and first performed as part of the Festival, in a co-production with The Invisible Dot, on 13 July 2015 at the Pavilion Theatre, Manchester.

The play is set in a zoo in St Petersburg in 1865. Ivan Matveich, a jobbing actor in his thirties, is visiting the zoo one afternoon with his best friend, Zack, who attempts to persuade Ivan to abandon the stage for some more worthwhile pursuit. When Ivan is swallowed whole by a crocodile, he at first cries out (from inside the crocodile) for someone to slice the beast open and rescue him... but, when he discovers that his new situation brings him instant celebrity, he comes to see it as smart career move, and sets out to exploit it to the full.

The Manchester International Festival premiere was directed by Ned Bennett and designed by Fly Davis, with Simon Bird as Zack, Ciarán Owens as Ivan, Emma Sidi as Anya and Marek Larwood as Mr Popov etc.

Cruising

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Alecky Blythe's Cruising is a verbatim-theatre comedy about pensioners going in search of love. It was first performed at the Bush Theatre, London, in a co-production between the theatre and Recorded Delivery on 7 June 2006.

The play was created and performed using the verbatim-theatre techniques developed by Blythe with her company Recorded Delivery, and first seen in her previous fringe show, Come Out Eli (Arcola Theatre, 2003). The play is composed entirely from recorded interviews, edited and replicated on stage with meticulous verisimilitude.

Maureen is a pensioner in search of passion. After 33 blind dates, 12 cruises and one broken heart, she is still determined to find Mr Right. On the other hand, her best friend Margaret has had no shortage of suitors. Jim, Jack and Geoff were all in the running, but it’s Geoff from Shrewsbury who gets her to the altar. But Maureen has her doubts. Is Margaret just on the rebound and, more importantly, what will happen to her pension?

The Bush Theatre premiere was directed by Matthew Dunster and designed by Anna Bliss Scully. The cast was Jason Barnett, Alecky Blythe, Ian Dunn, Miranda Hart (playing Maureen) and Claire Lichie.

The Custom of the Country

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

An adaptation of John Fletcher and Philip Massinger’s bawdy 17th century comedy set in 1890s Johannesburg.

Missionary Paul Du Boys is engaged to local girl, Tendai. However, an ancient custom dictates that the Chief of her village is permitted to sleep with the bride on her wedding night. In order to escape his clutches, they elope and settle in a village hundreds of miles from her home. During a violent raid on their new quarters they lose sight of one another and Tendai falls into the hands of Scottish agent Dr Jameson who brings her to a house of ill repute, run by the promiscuous Daisy. Meanwhile, Jameson’s brother Roger, a gentleman of leisure and a previous lover of Daisy’s, finds himself on the receiving end of some psychotic jealousy from young Willem, another lover of Daisy’s, who Roger shoots in self-defence. Running for cover, he finds safety in the arms of Willem’s unsuspecting mother, Henrietta, the owner of a huge gold mine, which Jameson has been needling her to sell. When Paul comes looking for his beloved wife, Daisy instantly falls in love with him setting the stage for a romantic battle of wills.

The Custom of the Country premiered at the Barbican Pit in London in 1983.

The Dance of Death (Conor McPherson)

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Conor McPherson's adaptation of August Strindberg’s 1900 play The Dance of Death, about a titanic battle of wills between a husband and wife, was first performed at the Trafalgar Studios, London, on 13 December 2012.

On an isolated island, military captain Edgar and his wife Alice live a bitter life, their marriage soured by hatred. When the possibility of redemption and escape arrives for Alice in the shape of their former comrade Kurt, it seems that Edgar is prepared to use his very last breath to make their lives a living hell.

The premiere at Trafalgar Studios was part of the Donmar Trafalgar season designed to showcase the work of graduates from the theatre’s Resident Assistant Director scheme. The production was directed by Titus Halder and designed by Richard Kent, with Indira Varma as Alice, Kevin R. McNally as the Captain (Edgar) and Daniel Lapaine as Kurt.

The play was first performed in the US at Writers Theatre, Glencoe, Chicago, on 1 April 2014 in a production directed by Henry Wishcamper.

Dancing Bears

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Sam Holcroft's short play Dancing Bears examines the twisted loyalties and violence of teenage gangs. It was first performed as part of Clean Break's Charged season, a collection of plays about the lives of women in the criminal justice system, at Soho Theatre, London, on 10 November 2010. Cockroach was revived at the Soho Theatre in March 2011.

The play is performed on 'a bed of hot coals', with the characters constantly performing a 'firewalk'. It begins with the unlikeable Dean coercing his friend’s sister, Charity, into having sex with him before abandoning her when she becomes pregnant. As a consequence she, Babymother and Razor Kay form a girl gang with the aim of standing up to the men who have injured and discarded them. But their mistreatment has left them with no means of communication beyond violence, or the threat of violence. Soon there’s a court hearing pending and the girls’ relationships with each other descend into violence.

In an article for the Nick Hern Books blog (http://nickhernbooksblog.com/2011/03/25/spotlightoncharged/), Holcroft wrote: 'I began researching several months before putting pen to paper. You don’t have to dig deep to find many extraordinary stories of suffering, triumph and gut-twisting injustice. Clean Break put me in touch with women who had experience of gang culture and they kindly shared their stories with me. I also attended the 2010 Nacro Youth Justice Conference and spoke with social workers, police, teachers and health professionals who helped to shed light on the psychology behind gang-related behaviour. And slowly but surely a structure began to emerge. ... It seemed that all-female gangs often evolved as offshoots from mixed-gender gangs. Girls were choosing to set up on their own to avoid the misogyny, violence and lower social status afforded them in mixed-gender gangs. But, sadly, sooner or later these new all-female gangs would begin to mirror the hierarchies of the mixed-gender gangs they’d left behind. And these hierarchies would be daily reinforced by threats and violence against girls at the bottom of the chain from girls higher up. So it seemed impossible to write a play without both male and female characters in order to explore this mirroring of behaviour. Clean Break has a policy of working with only women and so all characters in the play, whether male or female, are played by women. But I soon realised that this would work in favour of the drama. Boys could morph into girls before our eyes: their machismo give way to femininity; their hunched shoulders drop; they would arch their backs – like a ripple effect, a stage of boys would become a stage of girls. However as we continue to watch, unintentionally, they would begin to mimic the boys they were fleeing from, and this time instead of knives they would wield guns.'

The Soho Theatre premiere was directed by Tessa Walker and designed by Soutra Gilmour. It was performed by Emmanuella Cole, Danielle Vitalis, Ony Uhiara and Samantha Pearl.

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.

Daughters of the Revolution

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

David Edgar's Daughters of the Revolution is one part of a two-play cycle under the collective title Continental Divide, set against the background of a bitterly fought American governor’s election in an unspecified Pacific-coast state. Daughters of the Revolution centres on characters in the Democrat camp, while the other part, Mothers Against, examines the election from the Republican perspective.

Across the two plays, Edgar explores what has happened to the revolutionary fervour that took hold of both the Right and the Left in the 1960s, and how it has been carried over into the politics of the twenty-first century.

Both plays were jointly commissioned and produced by Berkeley Repertory Theatre and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Daughters of the Revolution was first performed in the Angus Bowmer Theatre, Ashland, Oregon, as part of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival on 1 March 2003 before transferring to Berkeley Repertory Theatre, with performances from 6 November 2003.

Daughters of the Revolution is an expansive epic theatre play about the diaspora of 1960s student radicals. Michael Bern is a Community College professor about to land a big promotion due to his connections with the Democratic candidate for governor, Rebecca McKeene. As a birthday present his partner, Abby, has tracked down his old FBI file relating to his days as a political activist in the 1970s. This leads him on a mission to find the informer who betrayed his revolutionary cell in 1972. Along the way he meets an ex-Black Panther, an old Marxist turned fervent right-winger, and discovers that his old friend Rebecca may have a dirty little political secret of her own.

The premiere at Oregon Shakespeare Festival was directed by Tony Taccone and designed by William Bloodgood, with a cast including Terry Layman as Michael Bern.

The play received its UK premiere at Birmingham Repertory Theatre on 6 March 2004, with the original American cast directed by Tony Taccone. It subsequently played at the Barbican, London, as part of their BITE Festival, with performances from 20 March 2004.

The Day I Stood Still

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Kevin Elyot's The Day I Stood Still is a comedy drama about the heartbreak of unrequited love and the power of memories. It was first performed in the Cottesloe auditorium of the National Theatre, London, on 22 January 1998.

The play is set in a North London mansion block. Horace, Jerry and Judy were teenagers in the 60s, into drink, drugs, Hendrix and each other. Thirty years later, Judy unexpectedly drops in to see Horace with her new French boyfriend and we learn that Jerry has died, leaving behind his and Judy's four-year-old son, Jimi. It seems Horace is unable to escape the deep love he has always harboured for Jerry, even after his death, until one night he receives a visit from a now grown-up Jimi looking for comfort in the midst of his own romantic turmoil.

The National Theatre premiere was directed by Ian Rickson and designed by Mark Thompson. The cast was Adrian Scarborough, Callum Dixon, Catherine Russell, Daisy Beaumont, Geoffrey Church, Jake Wood, Joseph Swash and Oliver Milburn.

Days of Wine and Roses

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Owen McCafferty's Days of Wine and Roses is a free adaptation of JP Miller's screenplay of the same name for a 1962 film directed by Blake Edwards. (Miller adapted the screenplay from his earlier teleplay for a 1958 episode of US television drama anthology series Playhouse 90, also called Days of Wine and Roses.)

McCafferty's version is a two-hander about a young couple from Belfast trying to make a new start in 1960s London, but succumbing to alcoholism. It was first performed at the Donmar Warehouse, London, on 17 February 2005.

The play's action takes place between 1962 and 1970. In the opening scene, Donal meets Mona in the departure lounge at Belfast Airport. Both are leaving to start a new life in London, but when teetotal Mona takes a sip from Donal's hipflask, their fates are sealed. As they marry and have a son, their London lives prosper. But, gradually, drink turns from a source of celebration into a ruinous nightly drug. And, while Donal shows the will to survive, Mona is on a doomed, downward spiral.

The title was taken by JP Miller from an 1896 poem 'Vitae Summa Brevis Spem Nos Vetat Incohare Longam' by Ernest Dowson, which contains the line 'They are not long, the days of wine and roses'.

The Donmar premiere was directed by Peter Gill and designed by Alison Chitty, with Anne-Marie Duff as Mona and Peter McDonald as Donal.

Death and the Maiden

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Ariel Dorfman's Death and the Maiden is a psychological thriller about a woman who, in a country newly released from dictatorship, seeks revenge on the man she believes to have been her torturer. Translated by Dorfman from his original version in Spanish, La Muerte y la Doncella, the play was first performed as a reading at the Institute for Contemporary Art in London on 30 November 1990, before receiving its world premiere at the Royal Court Theatre Upstairs on 4 July 1991. It was later turned into a feature film directed by Roman Polanski and starring Sigourney Weaver and Ben Kingsley.

The play is set in a beach house in a country that, according to a note in the script, is 'probably Chile but could be any country that has given itself a democratic government just after a long period of dictatorship'. Years have passed since political prisoner, Paulina Salas, suffered at the hands of her captor: a man whose face she never saw, but whom she can still recall with terrifying clarity. Tonight, by chance, a stranger, Roberto Miranda, arrives at the secluded beach house she shares with her husband Gerardo Escobar, a human rights lawyer and member of the Commission set up to investigate the terrible crimes perpetrated under the dictatorship. Paulina is convinced the stranger was her tormentor and believes he must now be held to account.

The play's first performances took place soon after Chile's return to democracy following the end of General Augusto Pinochet's dictatorship. In an Afterword to the published edition of the play, Dorfman explains that, although he'd had the idea for the play some 'eight or nine years' before, 'It was not until Chile returned to democracy in 1990 and I myself therefore returned to resettle there with my family after seventeen years of exile, that I finally understood how the story had to be told'.

The first reading at the ICA in London was directed by Peter James, with Penelope Wilton as Paulina, Michael Maloney as Gerardo and Jonathan Hyde as Roberto.

A workshop production was staged in Santiago, Chile, on 10 March 1991directed by Ana Reeves, with Maria Elena Duvauchelle as Paulina, Hugo Medina as Gerardo and Tito Bustamente as Roberto.

The world premiere at the Royal Court Upstairs on 4 July 1991 was directed by Lindsay Posner with Juliet Stevenson as Paulina, Bill Paterson as Gerardo and Michael Byrne as Roberto. The production moved to the Main Stage at the Royal Court on 31 October 1991, with the same cast and director.

The play then transferred on 11 February 1992 with the same cast to the Duke of York's Theatre in the West End.

The American Broadway premiere opened at the Brooks Atkinson Theater on 17 March 1992 directed by Mike Nichols, with Glenn Close as Paulina, Richard Dreyfuss as Gerardo and Gene Hackman as Roberto.

A feature film version followed in 1994, directed by Roman Polanski with a screenplay by Rafael Yglesias and Ariel Dorfman, starring Sigourney Weaver as Paulina, Ben Kingsley as Roberto and Stuart Wilson as Gerardo.

Deborah’s Daughter

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Pam Gems' play Deborah’s Daughter explores the fragile relationship between the West and the developing world seen through the prism of a mother/daughter relationship. It was first performed at the Library Theatre, Manchester on 3 March 1994.

Deborah Pedersen has been recently widowed. Her husband was an enormously powerful oil tycoon to whom Deborah was devoted. She even sacrificed her burgeoning career as a scientist to enable his ambitions. Now she is left to pick up the pieces after his death in an unnamed North African country with strong business ties to Pedersen Oil. The trouble is, she is largely unacquainted with the country and its people. Along with her precocious and privileged daughter, Stephanie, and her short-tempered mother, Rhoda, the women find themselves caught up in a violent coup. When Deborah becomes romantically involved with Hassan, an army Colonel with a poetic streak, her life begins to unravel.

The Library Theatre production was directed by Sue Dunderdale and designed by Shimon Castiel. The cast was Anna Carteret, Jane Freeman, Mia Fothergill, Raad Rawi, Peter Yapp, Philip Darling, Nasser Memarzia and Royce Hounsell.

Delirium

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

A radical re-interpretation of Dostoyevsky’s seminal novel The Brothers Karamazov, Delirium is the result of a collaboration between Enda Walsh and acclaimed theatre company, theatre O. It was first performed on 9 April 2008 on tour prior to playing at the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, and the Barbican, London.

The play loosely follows the plot of Dostoyevsky's novel: at its heart is a bitter rivalry between the tyrannical Fyodor and his eldest son Mitya over money and the affections of a young woman, Grushenka. This is complicated by another love triangle, in which Mitya’s fiancée Katerina is loved by his resentful, intellectual brother Ivan. Observing these tensions, and attempting to introduce benign Christian virtues, is the youngest brother Alyosha. Meanwhile the sinister manservant Smerdyakov looks on from the sidelines, filming the action.

In their Prologue to the published text (Nick Hern Books, 2008), Joseph Alford and Carolina Valdés, Co-Artistic Directors of theatre O, write that 'Delirium explores a world without morals, depicting the human condition in a harsh and uncompromising way. The determined brothers of the title, and their despicable father, are each driven by an individual mix of passion, intellect, faith and frustration. Feuds over women and money ensue and bad blood runs deep, as beliefs and spitefulness ignite a frenzy of emotion so strong it is impossible to contain.'

The theatre O production was directed by Joseph Alford and designed by James Humphrey. It was performed by Joseph Alford, Denis Quilligan, Julie Bower, Dominic Burdess, Carolina Valdés, Nick Lee and Lucien MacDougall.

Deposit

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Matt Hartley's Deposit is a play that explores the problems facing young people in London who want to buy their own property, focussing on two couples in their late 20s who together take a radical step in order to save for a deposit. It was first performed at Hampstead Theatre Downstairs, London, on 12 March 2015.

The play's action takes place in a 'very, very small' one-bedroom attic flat in a terraced house in Herne Hill, London, over a period of nearly twelve months between September 2014 and August 2015. Rachel and Ben are looking to buy their first property, and so are their friends Melanie and Sam, but with rising rent prices, taxes to pay, student loans still outstanding and pensions to think about, the prospect of putting down a deposit seems ever-distant. So they decide to live together for a year in a rental property, sharing both costs and space in a cramped one-bedroom attic flat. But soon cracks in the paper-thin walls begin to appear, and as their increasingly limited living space gradually encroaches on household relations, the couples are faced with a choice between preserving their friendship, their relationships, or their dream of buying their own property.

The Hampstead Theatre premiere was directed by Lisa Spirling and directed by Polly Sullivan, with Ben Addis as Ben, Akiya Henry as Rachel, Jack Monaghan as Sam and Laura Morgan as Melanie.

The Desert Air

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

A fast-paced wartime comedy set in Cairo and inspired by ex-Secret Intelligence Service Officer Basil Davidson’s book Special Operations Europe: Scenes from the Anti-Nazi War, first published in 1980.

Cairo, 1942. Pompous and domineering Colonel Gore, known affectionately as ‘The Hippo’, is bending army rules whereby if he is found to be in command of three officers of the same rank as his own he shall be promoted. Therefore, all he needs is three newly minted Brigadiers and he’ll become General. However, the word on the wireless is that the campaign to fight the Nazis in Yugoslavia has been overrun by a highly effective partisan group run by an enigmatic leader called Tito. The problem is that the British have been sending aid to General Mihailovic, who doesn’t seem to be firing on all, or any cylinders, and may even be colluding with the Nazis. Hippo decides to send them weapons to help their cause, but without the support of his immediate superiors, he’s going to have to do it the hard way.

The Desert Air was first performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company at the Other Place in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1984.

dirty butterfly

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

debbie tucker green's debut play, dirty butterfly is about voyeurism, power and guilt. It was first performed at Soho Theatre on 26 February 2003.

Listening through their thin walls, Amelia and Jason are drawn into the dark and compelling world of their mutual neighbour, Jo. Something very nasty is going on next door, and Jason and Amelia know it, but do nothing.

Stage directions state that the audience 'should surround the actors' and that, prior to the play's Epilogue, 'the characters are always onstage'.

The premiere at Soho Theatre was directed by Rufus Norris and designed by Katrina Lindsay, with Sharon Duncan-Brewster as Amelia, Jo McInnes as Jo and Mark Theodore as Jason.

The critics were quick to herald the arrival of a distinctive new talent in British playwriting, with The Independent on Sunday describing the play as 'startlingly assured', while Lyn Gardner in The Guardian observed that 'There is a sly, controlled power in this writing... . And now I cannot get it out of my head'.

Disco Pigs

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Enda Walsh's breakthrough play Disco Pigs is a fast and formally inventive portrait of two teenage Irish misfits. It was first performed by Corcadorca Theatre Company at the Triskel Arts Centre, Cork, in September 1996, and subsequently at the 1996 Dublin Theatre Festival. It received its UK premiere at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, on 7 August 1997, before transferring to the Bush Theatre, London, in September 1997, and then on international tour.

The play is written for two performers. Pig (male) and Runt (female) are two 17-year-olds who share everything including a birthday, communicate in a distinctive private language, and occupy an intensely imaginative world of their own. They seem to be completely inseparable, but as adulthood beckons them, Pig cannot let go of Runt and the fragile world they have built.

The Corcadorca production was directed by Pat Kiernan and designed by Aedin Cosgrove, with Cillian Murphy as Pig and Eileen Walsh as Runt.

The production won the Best Fringe Production Award at the 1996 Dublin Theatre Festival. It went on to win the Stewart Parker Prize for the best Irish debut play and the George Devine Award in 1997.

A feature film version directed by Kirsten Sheridan was released in 2001 with a screenplay by Enda Walsh, and with Cillian Murphy and Elaine Cassidy reprising their roles as Pig and Runt.

In his foreword to the collection Enda Walsh Plays: One (Nick Hern Books, 2011), Walsh writes: 'Disco Pigs is a jumble of things. A failed relationship I had with a twin, my relationship with the Cork dialect as a Dublin man, the explosive nightlife of the city at that time and our company’s participation in that nightlife. The play wrote itself in two weeks, was hugely naive but had a language that surprised me and somehow captured something about the city.'

The Distance

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Deborah Bruce's The Distance is a play about the emotional fallout when a woman walks out on her husband and children. It was first performed at the Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond, on 8 October 2014.

At the beginning of the play, 40-year-old Bea is staying with a group of old friends in Sussex, having abandoned her family in Australia. Her friends' attempts to comfort her only add to her sense of confusion. Kate insists that she and Bea fly straight back to Melbourne to claim custody of the children, while Alex is chiefly concerned that her own teenage son might be caught up in the London riots of 2011. What nobody seems to notice is that Bea is guiltily relieved to be rid of her family and doesn’t even want to talk to them via Skype. As the truth leaks out, things threaten to slide into chaos.

The Orange Tree Theatre premiere was directed by Charlotte Gwinner and designed by Signe Beckmann. It was performed by Helen Baxendale (as Lou), Emma Beattie, Daniel Hawksford, Timothy Knightley, Clare Lawrence Moody, Bill Milner and Oliver Ryan.

The play was a finalist for the 2012-13 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize and premiered at the Orange Tree Theatre, London, in October 2014. It was revived at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield, in 2015.

Doctor Scroggy’s War

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Howard Brenton's play Doctor Scroggy's War is the story of a fictional soldier, Jack Twigg, who, after receiving an injury on the front line during the First World War, encounters the polymath and celebrated surgeon Harold Gillies, acknowledged as the father of modern plastic surgery. The play was first performed at Shakespeare’s Globe, London, on 12 September 2014, marking the centenary of the war.

The play's action centres around the invented character Jack Twigg, a ship’s chandler’s son who enlists in the London Regiment, falls in love with the upper-class Penelope Wedgewood and works as a junior intelligence officer for Sir John French during the battle of Loos in 1915. But Jack leaves the staff, determined to serve in the front line, and there receives a terrible facial injury. This, in the play’s second half, brings him into contact with Harold Gillies, a real-life pioneering plastic surgeon who developed new methods of skin-grafting to restore the faces of badly mutilated men at the Queen’s hospital, Sidcup. The play’s title derives from the roistering alter ego Gillies created to prevent his patients from succumbing to despair. Gillies tries to convince Twigg not to go back to the front, but is unable to do so and the play ends with the young soldier back on the Western Front.

In an article published in The Independent (10 September 2014), Brenton says of the play: 'What helped me in dramatising Harold Gillies were accounts of his extraordinary way of speaking. He was renowned for being difficult to understand, flinging out sentences studded with bizarre metaphors, speeding ahead of his listeners and, at times, himself. Gillies had a hyperactive sense of humour: there were practical jokes and entertainments; there was cross-dressing and illicit champagne and oysters served at night in the wards. Queens was a military hospital and rumours of "goings on" troubled authority. But Gillies, who treated more than five thousand terribly wounded men, some needing as many as 50 operations, understood that souls as well as faces had to be healed. Some of his patients never reintegrated into society but an extraordinary number did, with an insouciance that Gillies's "goings on" encouraged. I have him say about the hospital "We don't do glum here" – that was his spirit. But he was also conflicted in his work by a great fear: that the men he healed would go back to fight at the front.'

The Shakespeare's Globe premiere was directed by John Dove and designed by Michael Taylor. It was performed by Catherine Bailey (as Penelope Wedgewood), Sam Cox, Patrick Driver, Will Featherstone (as Jack Twigg), James Garnon (as Harold Gillies), Daisy Hughes, Joe Jameson, Tom Kanji, Christopher Logan, William Mannering, Holly Morgan, Rhiannon Oliver, Keith Ramsay, Paul Rider, Katy Stephens and Dickon Tyrrell.

The Doctor’s Story (Play Three from The Middlemarch Trilogy)

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

The Doctor's Story is part of The Middlemarch Trilogy, a three-part stage adaptation by Geoffrey Beevers of George Eliot's novel Middlemarch (published 1871-2).

The Middlemarch Trilogy comprises three interconnected plays (Dorothea's Story, The Doctor's Story and Fred and Mary's Story) telling the story of Eliot's fictitious town of Middlemarch from the perspective of three different sets of characters: from county, town and countryside. They were first performed at the Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond, in 2013. The Doctor’s Story opened on 13 November.

In The Doctor’s Story, set in the town of Middlemarch itself, where everyone wants to know each other’s business, idealistic Dr Lydgate arrives in Middlemarch determined to achieve great things. He catches the eye of the Mayor’s beautiful, self-centred daughter Rosamond but is torn between ambition and loyalty as he is drawn into an alliance with a corrupt banker.

The Orange Tree production was directed by Geoffrey Beevers and designed by Sam Dowson. The cast was Georgina Strawson, Daisy Ashford, Christopher Ettridge, Christopher Naylor, Jamie Newall, Liz Crowther, Ben Lambert, Michael Lumsden, NiamhWalsh, David Ricardo-Pearce and Lucy Tregear.

In his introduction to the published script (Nick Hern Books, 2014), Geoffrey Beevers writes, 'I’ve always loved the challenge of huge themes in intimate spaces, where the principle must be, not: ‘What can we do with this?’ but: ‘What can we do without? How can we tell this story, as simply as possible, so the story will shine through?’ I wanted to use only her words, a few actors and a minimum of setting, and leave as much as possible to the audience’s imagination.'

The Domino Effect

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Fin Kennedy’s The Domino Effect is an ensemble play for teenage performers developed by Kennedy with his long-term collaborators, Mulberry School for Girls in Shadwell, East London. Incorporating dance and physical theatre sequences, the play revolves around a central character who is mute, and explores ideas about fate, self-determination and the law of unintended consequences. It was first performed by Mulberry Theatre Company at the 2014 Edinburgh Festival Fringe on 4 August 2014.

The play is set in the East End of London. Amina Rahman is fifteen and never speaks – a silent protest against a world in which bad things always seem to happen to good people. Instead, she retreats into fantasy. But when her mother walks out, Amina is left to fend for herself. It takes an ancient set of dominoes, and a mysterious antiques dealer, for Amina to discover her power. The antiques dealer teaches her how small actions lead to big effects, and how to master the law of unintended consequences.

In an introduction accompanying the published text, Fin Kennedy writes: 'The Domino Effect was conceived in summer 2013, while on a short break in France in which I watched again one of my favourite films, Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Amélie. Hang on, I thought. This is a Mulberry story. Set in the inner city, with a teenage girl at its heart, Amélie is about an introvert with an overactive imagination, which starts to spill out into the real world, until even she isn’t sure what is and isn’t real. I often met young women like this in Mulberry, and it seemed a good opportunity to develop a play looking at the interior worlds of these more introverted students (who are also not always the easiest students to engage in Drama). I started to wonder, what would an East London version of Amélie look like?'

The Mulberry School production was directed by Shona Davidson and designed by Barbara Fuchs.

Dorothea's Story (Play Two from The Middlemarch Trilogy)

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Dorothea's Story is part of The Middlemarch Trilogy, a three-part stage adaptation by Geoffrey Beevers of George Eliot's novel Middlemarch (published 1871-2).

The Middlemarch Trilogy comprises three interconnected plays (Dorothea's Story, The Doctor's Story and Fred and Mary's Story) telling the story of Eliot's fictitious town of Middlemarch from the perspective of three different sets of characters: from county, town and countryside. They were first performed at the Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond, in 2013. Dorothea’s Story opened on 23 October.

In Dorothea’s Story, set among the big houses of the local aristocracy of Middlemarch, young, intelligent Dorothea is so enamoured of the pedantic Reverend Casaubon that she marries him, much to everyone’s disbelief. But her friendship with Casaubon’s young cousin Will Ladislaw arouses suspicions in her new husband, who will do anything to thwart their mutual affection.

The Orange Tree production was directed by Geoffrey Beevers and designed by Sam Dowson. The cast was Georgina Strawson, Daisy Ashford, Christopher Ettridge, Christopher Naylor, Jamie Newall, Liz Crowther, Ben Lambert, Michael Lumsden, NiamhWalsh, David Ricardo-Pearce and Lucy Tregear.

In his introduction to the published script (Nick Hern Books, 2014), Geoffrey Beevers writes, 'I’ve always loved the challenge of huge themes in intimate spaces, where the principle must be, not: ‘What can we do with this?’ but: ‘What can we do without? How can we tell this story, as simply as possible, so the story will shine through?’ I wanted to use only her words, a few actors and a minimum of setting, and leave as much as possible to the audience’s imagination.'

Dracula (adapt. Lochhead)

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Liz Lochhead's Dracula is a stage adaptation of Bram Stoker’s hugely influential novel. It was first performed at the Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh, on 13 March 1985.

Jonathan Harker, engaged to Mina Westerman, has come from England to Count Dracula’s crumbling mansion in the Carpathian Mountains to provide legal aid in a real estate transaction. Dracula has bought a castle next to an asylum in England and plans to travel over to take up his new residence. While at first impressed by Dracula’s inviting manner, Jonathan soon becomes unnerved by the sinister goings-on within the castle, including a terrifying encounter with three vampire brides. Meanwhile, back in England, strange things are also afoot. Asylum inmate Renfield is raving about ‘not letting him in’ and Mina’s sister Lucy is growing paler by the day. Dr Seward, in love with Lucy and fearful for her life, calls in his rival Van Helsing to help solve the mystery of her illness. It seems Dracula is on his way.

In her 2009 Introduction to the published text, Lochhead writes 'Rereading it now, my version – and I haven’t for years – I see what a strong debt the whole atmosphere of it owes to my other reading at the time. My appetites have always found deeply satisfying the work of Isak Dinesen (real name: Karen Blixen, the Danish baroness, author of Out of Africa), whose Seven Gothic Tales and, especially, her Winter’s Tales are so pervaded by loneliness and longing. And an aching luminous loveliness and "bottomless wisdom". She’s like an even more deeply visionary and romantic Hans Christian Andersen – for grown-ups, though.

'I also by then had read, and reread – it’s so gorgeous — The Bloody Chamber, by the great and original Angela Carter, whose equally delicious but deliberately more ornate and baroquely romantic tales were also soul food for the feminine imagination.'

The Royal Lyceum premiere was directed by Hugh Hodgart and designed by Gregory Smith. It was performed by Patricia Ross, Irene McDougall, Tamara Kennedy, Vari Sylvester, Laurie Ventrie, Robin Sneller, John McGlynn, Sean McCarthy and Tam Dean Burn.

Drawing the Line

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Howard Brenton's Drawing the Line is a historical drama about the partition of India in August 1947, an act that was to have huge ramifications for the modern world. It highlights the extraordinarily contingent and chaotic political circumstances that lay behind such a momentous historical act. It was first performed at Hampstead Theatre, London, on 3 December 2013.

The play opens in London in 1947. Summoned by the Prime Minister from the court where he is presiding judge, Cyril Radcliffe is given an unlikely mission. He is to travel to India, a country he has never visited, and, with limited survey information, no expert support and no knowledge of cartography, he is to draw the border which will divide the Indian sub-continent into two new Sovereign Dominions. To make matters even more challenging, he has only six weeks to complete the task. Wholly unsuited to his role, Radcliffe is unprepared for the dangerous whirlpool of political intrigue and passion into which he is plunged – untold consequences may even result from the illicit liaison between the Leader of the Congress Party and the Viceroy’s wife. As he begins to break under the pressure he comes to realise that he holds in his hands the fate of millions of people.

The play's premiere at Hampstead Theatre was directed by Howard Davies with Tom Beard as Cyril Radcliffe, Silas Carson as Nehru, Andrew Havill as Mountbatten and Abigail Cruttenden as Antonia Radcliffe.

The performance on Saturday 11 January 2014 was live-streamed to a worldwide audience for free by the theatre in association with The Guardian.

The Dream Collector

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Fin Kennedy’s The Dream Collector is an ensemble play for teenage performers, the fifth developed by Kennedy with his long-term collaborators, Mulberry School for Girls in Shadwell, East London – but this time also involving students from a second local school, St Paul’s Way Trust School in Bow.

It was first performed by Mulberry Theatre Company, as the inaugural production at the Mulberry and Bigland Green Centre, in November 2013, with a parallel premiere production performed at St Paul’s Way Trust School in December 2013.

The play follows a school group who go on a Media Studies trip to an isolated country house which once belonged to a movie pioneer, Charles Somna. Upon arriving, they discover that Somna was responsible for much more than the creation of mere movies – as the inventor of the Somnagraph he had built the world’s first machine for screening your dreams. Once they step through the movie screen and enter the Dreamworld, each of the young friends meets their dream double, the sinister Neverborn.

In an author's note published with the script, Kennedy writes: 'The play has been written for sixteen young actors aged fourteen to sixteen. One group is a ‘Real World’ twenty-first-century group of school students from East London. These eight all have names and individual identities. The other is an ensemble cast of eight who inhabit the ‘Dream World’. They are known as the Neverborn. Their world is like a black-and-white film, and is stylised and movement-based. They bring to life the other cast’s dreams, and share lines as a chorus. Each Real World cast member has a Neverborn who shadows them, and plays them in their dream sequence. This means there needs to be a minimum of eight Neverborn, but there could be more if a larger cast is available.'

The Mulberry Theatre Company production was directed by Shona Davidson and designed by Barbara Fuchs and Afsana Begum. The St Paul’s Way Trust School production was directed by Kelly Jasor.

Drunk Enough to Say I Love You?

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Caryl Churchill’s Drunk Enough to Say I Love You? is a play that examines US foreign policy and international power politics since the mid-twentieth century through the lens of a gay relationship. It was first performed at the Royal Court Jerwood Theatre Downstairs, London, on 10 November 2006.

Guy has left his wife and children for fifty years of love and adventure with Sam. But fifty years is a long time, and although Sam is desperate to be loved, Guy gradually becomes disillusioned.

In the play, Sam (played by a man) is closely identified with America and US foreign policy. Guy (also played by a man) is a more human figure, a man initially in thrall to Sam/America (the character was called 'Jack' in the original version performed at the Royal Court, but Churchill subsequently changed the character's name to Guy, perhaps to deflect any specific associations between the character and Britain). Their dialogue is elliptical and fragmented. In the opening exchange, Sam bullishly asks 'who doesn't want to be loved?'; by the end of the play, however, he is imploring the now-disenchanted Guy to 'love me love me, you have to love me'.

The Royal Court premiere was directed by James Macdonald and designed by Eugene Lee, with Ty Burrell as Sam and Stephen Dillane as Jack (the character later renamed Guy).

The play had its US premiere at the Public Theater, New York, in March 2008, again directed by James Macdonald, with Samuel West as Guy and Scott Cohen as Sam.

The Drunks

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Nina Raine adapted this satirical play for the RSC as part of their four-year celebration of Russian Theatre. Its original authors, Russian brothers Mikhail and Vyacheslav Durnenkov, have written over thirty plays, both individually and together, and have had their work produced throughout the world.

A provincial town is in search of a hero. A shell-shocked soldier downs vodka on his return from the frontline in Chechnya. As Ilya arrives home from the hell of war, he finds himself beaten up and thrown off a train for being drunk. When he finally makes it home, he discovers his wife has cuckolded him with a new man and is informed of their son’s death. The mayor, the police chief and editor of the local newspaper immediately descend upon him eager to capitalise on his tragic story. Ilya discovers himself locked into an extraordinary power struggle that threatens to tear the town apart. The play owes something of a debt to the work of Nikolai Gogol in its exploration of small-town politics and the avarice of human beings.

The Drunks was first performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company at the Courtyard Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon in 2009.

Dublin Carol

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Conor McPherson's Dublin Carol is a play about an ageing alcoholic who is forced to confront the failures of his past. It was first performed at the Royal Court Theatre Downstairs, London, on 7 January 2000.

It’s Christmas Eve and Dublin undertaker John Plunkett is sharing memories of funerals over the years and dispensing advice to his young assistant, Mark. But the arrival of his estranged grown-up daughter, Mary, shows him the time has come to face up to his own disastrous past in order to overcome his fear of the future.

The Royal Court premiere was the first production in the newly rebuilt theatre on Sloane Square. It was directed by Ian Rickson and designed by Rae Smith, with Brian Cox as John, Andrew Scott as Mark and Bronagh Gallagher as Mary.

The play was produced in Chicago by Steppenwolf Theatre Company in November 2008 in a production directed by Amy Morton.

It was revived by the Donmar Warehouse in their West End season at the Trafalgar Studios in December 2011, in a production directed by Abbey Wright.

East is East

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Ayub Khan Din’s debut play East is East is a comedy about an Anglo-Pakistani family living in multiracial Salford in the 1970s. It was first performed at Birmingham Repertory Studio Theatre on 8 October 1996 in a co-production by Tamasha Theatre Company, the Royal Court Theatre Company and Birmingham Repertory Company, before transferring to the Royal Court, London. It was later adapted into a feature film, with a screenplay by the author, that became one of the most successful British films ever made.

Pakistani chip-shop owner George Khan – 'Genghis' to his kids – is determined to give his six children (Abdul, Tariq, Maneer, Saleem, Meenah and Sajit) a strict Muslim upbringing against the unforgiving backdrop of 1970s Salford. Household tensions reach breaking point as their long-suffering English mother, Ella, gets caught in the crossfire – her loyalty divided between her marriage and the free will of her children.

The premiere production was directed by Kristine Landon-Smith and designed by Sue Mayes, with Nasser Memarzia as George Khan and Linda Bassett as Ella. The production transferred to the Royal Court, London, where it opened in the Theatre Upstairs on 19 November 1996, then in the Theatre Downstairs from 26 March 1997.

East is East won the John Whiting Award in 1996 and was nominated for the Olivier Award for Best New Comedy in 1998.

The feature film adaptation, released in 1999, was directed by Damien O'Donnell and starred Om Puri as George Khan and Linda Bassett as Ella.

The play was revived in a new version at the Trafalgar Studios, London, in October 2014 in a production directed by Sam Yates and designed by Tom Scutt, with Ayub Khan Din as George Khan and Jane Horrocks as Ella.

Ecstasy

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Mike Leigh’s play is a paean to loneliness and longing that paints a portrait of a group of old friends catching up on a Friday night.

1979. The winter of discontent is over and Margaret Thatcher’s regime is about to transform the country. Stuck in her cramped Kilburn bedsit, Jean is trying to live some sort of life, trapped in a cycle of hopeless dalliances with violent men and continually drowning her sorrows. After an unexpected home invasion by the furious wife of her latest lover, she is persuaded by friend Dawn to throw a little get-together that evening for old times’ sake. Joining them is Dawn’s Irish husband, Mick and their old pal, Len for a drunken celebration of their mutual affection, filled with memories and songs from their youth. It is only after the fun has died down that Jean reveals the full extent of her aching melancholy.

Ecstasy was first performed at the Hampstead Theatre in London in 1979 with a cast that included Julie Walters, Stephen Rea and Jim Broadbent – all of them virtual unknowns at the time. In an unprecedented move, Mike Leigh returned to the play twenty-two years later when it was revived at the same venue in 2011. The revival transferred to the West End later that year and garnered excellent reviews.

Edgar & Annabel

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Sam Holcroft's short play Edgar & Annabel is an Orwellian dystopian fable about a group of freedom fighters attempting to stand up to a repressive regime, while being continuously subjected to surveillance. It was first performed in a double bill with The Swan by D.C. Moore as part of the Double Feature season of paired short plays at the Paintframe, a specially converted space at the National Theatre, London, on 18 July 2011.

The play begins in Edgar and Annabel's kitchen, where dinner is being prepared. But the young couple who live here are only playing the roles of Edgar and Annabel: they are in fact Nick and Marianne, two members of the resistance movement plotting revolution. Since the house is bugged by a computer capable of analysing sounds and speech-patterns, they must play Edgar and Annabel, sticking to the script to ensure continuity and imperceptibility. The play explores the complex relationship that undercover agents, and actors, have with their allotted roles. In a key scene that uses motifs of high farce, the two dissidents prepare a bomb, while the sound they make is drowned out by four other dissidents singing karaoke.

The National Theatre premiere was directed by Lyndsey Turner and designed by Soutra Gilmour. It was performed by Trystan Gravelle, Kirsty Bushell, Damian O’Hare, Karina Fernandez, Tom Basden, Richard Goulding and Phoebe Fox.

Educating Agnes

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Liz Lochhead's Educating Agnes is a Scots-inflected adaptation of Molière’s classic comedy The School for Wives (L’Ecole des Femmes). It was first performed by Theatre Babel at Citizens’ Theatre, Glasgow, on 25 April 2008. Educating Agnes follows Lochhead's earlier adaptations of Molière’s Tartuffe (Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh,1986) and The Misanthrope (as Miseryguts, Royal Lyceum, 2002).

In her introduction to the published edition, Lochhead writes 'The play [is] about an old man of forty-two [Arnolphe] who is so obsessed with the infidelity and treachery of womankind he decides the solution is to marry a young, young girl [Agnes] – his ward, a child innocent to the point of ignorance – and, all the worse for him, falls in love with her. ...

'Molière’s comedy is profound, universal and eternal. What he reveals here about the power-relationships between old men and young girls – about unhealthy obsession, about youth, sweetness and innocence versus middle-aged male self-deception, terror of sex and misogyny – are, of course, all equally pertinent today. Beyond all that though, it is – as are both of those other masterpieces of his I have come to know and love so well – finally about the comical, appalling suffering which love, especially inappropriate love, causes us human beings.'

The Theatre Babel premiere at Citizens' Theatre was directed by Graham McLaren and designed by Graham McLaren and Robin Peoples. It was performed by Kevin McMonagle, Anneika Rose, John Kielty, Sean Scanlan, Lewis Howden and Maureen Car. The production then embarked on a national tour.

The play was revived in 2011 at the Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh.

Eight

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Ella Hickson's Eight is a play comprising eight monologues which together offer a state-of-the-nation group portrait of a generation growing up amidst a consumerist boom. It was first performed at Bedlam Theatre, Edinburgh, during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, on 2 August 2008.

The eight different characters in the play (there is a ninth, Buttons, included in the published script) range in age from seventeen to their early thirties. Each of them, as Hickson writes in an introduction to the published script, is the product of 'a world in which the central value system is based on an ethic of commercial, aesthetic and sexual excess'. Millie is a jolly-hockey-sticks prostitute mourning the loss of the good old British class system. Miles is a survivor of the 7 July London Tube bombings. Danny is an ex-squaddie who makes friends in morgues. Teenager Jude finds himself attracted to an alluring older woman. André’s boyfriend has just committed suicide. Bobby is struggling to make ends meet for her two young children. Mona is trying to keep her secrets safe from prying eyes. Astrid is cheating on her boyfriend. Buttons is being released from jail tomorrow, having served ten years.

The premiere production was directed by Ella Hickson and designed by David Lookin. The cast was Henry Peters as Danny, Simon Ginty as Jude, Michael Whitham as André, Holly McLay as Bobby, Alice Bonifacio as Mona, Solomon Mousley as Miles, Ishbel McFarlane as Millie and Gwendolen von Einsiedel as Astrid.

In each performance of this production, only four of the monologues were performed, selected by the audience. As Hickson describes in her introduction, 'When I directed the first production of the play, I offered the audience short character descriptions of all eight characters before the play began. I then asked them to vote for the four characters whom they wanted to see. As the audience entered the auditorium, all eight characters were lined up across the front of the stage – but only the four characters with the highest number of votes would perform. The other four characters would remain onstage, reminding the audience that in each choice we make we are also choosing to leave something behind.' Hickson also gives her rationale for staging the production in this way: 'One of the central characteristics of the commercial world that Eight explores is ‘choice culture’. From channel-surfing to Catch-Up TV and X-Factor voting – we are a choosy bunch, we get what we want when we want it. Eight reflects this in its set-up.'

The play was awarded a Fringe First Award and the Carol Tambor ‘Best of Edinburgh’ Award.

The production transferred to Performance Space 122, New York, as part of the COIL Festival, on 6 January 2009, and Trafalgar Studios, London, on 6 July 2009.

The Encounter

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

The Encounter is a play by international theatre company Complicite and its artistic director Simon McBurney, inspired by the novel Amazon Beaming by Petru Popescu. It was first performed at the Edinburgh International Festival on 8 August 2015, and received its London premiere at the Barbican in February 2016 before embarking on a world tour.

The play is performed by a single actor working with sound technicians to create a range of voices and aural effects conveyed to the audience via headphones. It tells the story of National Geographic photographer Loren McIntyre, who, in 1969, found himself lost among the people of the remote Javari Valley in Brazil. It was an encounter that was to change his life, as he began to explore, through the indigenous culture in which he was immersed, the limits of human consciousness. The play traces McIntyre’s journey and experiences through a constantly shifting sound world created live on stage in front of the audience.

A 'Note on the Text' in the published script explains that 'During the introduction the audience are asked to put on a set of headphones, which they then wear for the duration of the performance. Everything they hear is through these headphones. The actor uses a range of microphones that can be modified to create the voice of Loren McIntyre and other characters. The actor also creates a variety of live foley sound effects onstage, and uses loop pedals to create exterior soundscapes and the interior worlds of the characters. The performer also plays some sound and audio recordings live through their mobile phone, iPod, and various speakers. All sounds created or played onstage are picked up and relayed to the audience’s headphones through a variety of onstage microphones, one of which is binaural. Other sound is played and mixed live by two operators who in part improvise in reaction to the performer onstage.'

The Complicite production was directed and performed by Simon McBurney, co-directed by Kirsty Housley and designed by Michael Levine, with sound design by Gareth Fry with Pete Malkin.

Escaped Alone

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Caryl Churchill's Escaped Alone is a play that combines neighbourly chit-chat with visions of apocalyptic horror. It was first performed in the Royal Court Jerwood Theatre Downstairs, London, on 21 January 2016.

The play's action takes place in Sally's backyard over a series of summer afternoons. Three friends – Sally, Vi and Lena – are chatting when another woman, Mrs Jarrett, less well known to them, appears at the open door in the fence and joins them. All four women are 'at least seventy'. Their relaxed, gossipy conversations – played continuously although, according to a note in the text, they actually take place over 'a number of afternoons' – are represented in a distinctively compressed, allusive style. The play is divided into eight numbered sections; in each section the conversation is suspended while Mrs Jarrett delivers a monologue describing an evolving apocalyptic scenario in horrific and frequently surreal terms. In addition, in the second half of the play, each of the other characters delivers a short soliloquy or aside, laying bare their own particular psychological troubles: Sally's phobia of cats; Lena's crippling depression; Vi's intense dislike of kitchens, having killed her husband in her own kitchen several years before. In section 6, in a departure from the established pattern, they all sing a song (the actual song is unspecified in the script; in the premiere production it was 'Da Doo Ron Ron', a song made popular by American girl group The Crystals).

The Royal Court premiere was directed by James Macdonald and designed by Miriam Buether, with Linda Bassett as Mrs Jarrett, Deborah Findlay as Sally, Kika Markham as Lena and June Watson as Vi.

Eternal Love

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Eternal Love tells the story of the passionate 12th-century love affair between Abelard and Héloïse. It explores the war of ideas that resulted from the ensuing scandal, and examines the complex relationship between logic and religion, humanism and fundamentalism, faith and power. The play was first performed under the title In Extremis at Shakespeare’s Globe, London, on 27 August 2006.

A new spirit of philosophical and religious enquiry is growing in the 12th century. In its vanguard is the brilliant Peter Abelard, a man of great learning, independence of mind and sensuality. He starts a war of ideas with the powerful Abbot and Pope-maker Bernard of Clairvaux, the arch-priest of mysticism and austerity. But when Abelard embarks on a passionate affair with his equally brilliant but disastrously connected student Héloïse, his enemies suddenly have the ideal pretext to destroy him.

The play's 2006 premiere at Shakespeare's Globe was directed by John Dove, with Oliver Boot as Abelard, Sally Bretton as Héloïse, and Jack Laskey as Bernard of Clairvaux. It was well received by the critics and was revived by the Globe in 2007 (first performance on 15 May).

It was later revived by English Touring Theatre in 2014 under the revised title, Eternal Love, and first performed on 6 February at Cambridge Arts Theatre before touring the UK. It was again directed by John Dove, with David Sturzaker as Abelard, Jo Herbert as Héloïse, and Sam Crane as Bernard of Clairvaux.

Every One

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Jo Clifford's Every One is a modern-day reimagining of the 15th-century morality play Everyman, exploring the meaning of death and bereavement at a deeply personal level. It was first performed at the Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh, on 19 March 2010. It was revived in a new production (with some minor textual changes) by Chris Goode & Company at the Battersea Arts Centre, London, on 2 March 2016.

The play unfolds as its principal characters – Mary, her husband Joe, her children Mazz and Kevin, and her Mother – speak in direct address to the audience, recounting (and at times re-enacting) their experience of Mary's sudden, unexpected stroke and subsequent death, together with the emotional devastation that ensued, and their gradual coming to terms with their loss.

In a note accompanying the published script, 'Before You Start to Read', Clifford states that the play 'came from the death of my wife, Susie, in February 2005', and from undergoing a subsequent heart-bypass operation. 'I became aware of how incompetent our culture is when it comes to the universal fact of death.'

The Royal Lyceum premiere was directed by Mark Thomson and designed by Francis O’Connor, with Kathryn Howden as Mary, Jonathan Hackett as Joe, Jenny Hulse as Mazz, Kyle McPhail as Kevin, Tina Gray as Mother and Liam Brennan as Man.

The 2016 Battersea Arts Centre production was directed by Chris Goode and designed by Naomi Dawson, with Angela Clerkin as Mary, Michael Fenton Stevens as Joe, Nicola Weston as Mazz, Nick Finegan as Kevin, Eileen Nicholas as Mother and Nigel Barrett as Man.

The Faith Machine

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

The Faith Machine, Alexi Kaye Campbell's third play after The Pride and Apologia, is about the conflict between faith and the free market in the modern world. It was first performed at the Royal Court Theatre, London, in the Jerwood Theatre Downstairs on 25 August 2011.

The play begins in New York in September 2001. Sophie, an idealistic Englishwoman, presents her American lover, Tom, with a moral choice: she will dump him unless he abandons a massive advertising account he has secured with a pharmaceutical company that has used Ugandan children as a laboratory experiment. The play then jumps back to 1998: Tom and Sophie are visiting her father, Edward, on the Greek island of Patmos where another moral drama is being played out. Edward, an Anglican bishop, is under pressure from a Kenyan cleric not to quit the church over its inflexible attitude to homosexuality. The plot continues to jump forward and back in time as we witness Edward’s declining health and the path of Sophie and Tom’s turbulent relationship.

The Royal Court premiere was directed by Jamie Lloyd and designed by Mark Thompson, with Hayley Atwell as Sophie, Ian McDiarmid as Edward and Kyle Soller as Tom.

Critical reception to the play was mixed. Michael Billington in The Guardian admired its 'expansive ambition and largeness of spirit', although he found it 'occasionally meanders'. Charles Spencer in The Daily Telegraph remarked that the play is 'blessed with a palpable generosity of spirit and many moments of sly humour', though concluded that 'Campbell is a better dramatist when he keeps his canvas smaller'.

Fanny and Faggot

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Jack Thorne's play Fanny and Faggot presents two distinct moments in the life of Mary Bell, the eleven-year-old Newcastle girl who was convicted of the manslaughter of two toddlers in 1968. It was first performed at the Finborough Theatre, London, on 30 January 2007. (A version of the first part of the play, Two Little Boys, was staged at the Lift venue at the Pleasance as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in August 2004).

The play is in two parts, which 'can be performed together or separately'. Part One: Two Little Boys is presented as an exercise in theatrical game playing, with two actors identified primarily with Mary Bell and with her friend Norma Bell (no relation, also involved but ultimately found not guilty of the crimes) playing childish games that gradually reveal the facts of the case. The two actresses step in and out of several other roles including judges, parents and abusers. Part Two: Superstar takes place ten years later in 1978. Mary and a friend from the open prison where she is serving her sentence abscond for the weekend to Blackpool, where they meet two young soldiers on leave from Northern Ireland.

The Finborough Theatre premiere was directed by Stephen Keyworth and designed by Georgia Lowe. It was performed by Sophie Fletcher, Elicia Daly, Diana May, Christopher Daley and Simon Darwen.

Far Away

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Caryl Churchill's Far Away is a play that looks at conflict and its unsettling effect on our lives, and on our humanity. It was first performed at the Royal Court Jerwood Theatre Upstairs, London, on 24 November 2000.

The play is in three short parts. In the first, a young girl called Joan can't sleep; she tells her aunt Harper that she has seen her uncle hitting people with an iron bar. In the second part, several years later, Joan has become a hat maker; she has a developing friendship with another hat maker, Todd. Towards the end of this section there is a procession of prisoners wearing hats, on their way to their execution. In the final section, several years later again, Joan and Todd are taking refuge at Harper's house, and the whole world – including birds, animals and insects – now appears to be at war.

The Royal Court premiere was directed by Stephen Daldry and designed by Ian MacNeil, with Annabelle Seymour-Julen as Young Joan, Linda Bassett as Harper, Kevin McKidd as Todd and Katherine Tozer as Older Joan.

The production transferred to the Albery Theatre in the West End, with performances from 18 January 2001.

The play received its American premiere at New York Theatre Workshop in November 2002 in a production directed by Stephen Daldry, performed by Alexa Eisenstein, Marin Ireland, Frances McDormand, Chris Messina and Gina Rose.

Fast

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Fin Kennedy’s play Fast is an ensemble play for teenage performers commissioned by Y Touring, an established theatre company that produces and tours plays for young people about complex, science-based issues. It explores issues around fasting, diet, food production and food security. The play was workshopped at Regent High School in Camden, London, before being performed as part of a young people’s summer school run by Y Touring on 22 August 2014.

The play is set among a group of Year 11 classmates (fifteen to sixteen years old) of mixed social backgrounds, in an unnamed state secondary school, in a medium-sized British town, near to some countryside. Cara, a sixteen-year-old student, is from a farming family, and we learn that one year previously her father had killed himself. When Cara’s school holds a twenty-four-hour fast in aid of Oxfam, Cara decides she will not eat again until Tesco’s and the other suppliers, whom she holds responsible for driving her father to suicide, are held to account.

The Y Touring premiere was directed by Dominique Poulter and Nathan Bryon and designed by The Company.

Fast Labour

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Steve Waters’ Fast Labour focuses on the growing culture of human exploitation in the UK focusing specifically on the experience of migrant workers.

In the Ukraine, Victor had a business, a family and a home, but things have changed and he’s fled to the UK in search of a better life. Now he’s doing everything from gutting fish to picking carrots. But he’s a strong-minded man who is determined not to stay at the bottom of the economic food chain forever. He decides to build a business of his own with the aid of two fellow East Europeans and his Scottish mistress. By offering cheap labour to a big shot gang master, Victor builds up a highly successful empire. But this rapid expansion exposes the hypocrisy at the heart of his business – by lining his own pockets he is necessarily cheating those illegal migrants whom he employs. Waters subverts an audience’s expectations by turning the victim into the perpetrator and also points to our own complicity in these exploitative working methods with our increasing consumer demands.

Fast Labour was first performed at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds in 2008 before transferring to the Hampstead Theatre in London.

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.