NHB Modern Plays

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Plays

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.

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.