NHB Modern Plays

Plays

Beauty and the Beast (adapt. Kirkwood)

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.

The Blinding Light  

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Howard Brenton's play The Blinding Light is about the playwright August Strindberg, focussing on a period of crisis in his life when, in 1896, he suffered a mental breakdown in a hotel room in Paris. The play was first performed at the Jermyn Street Theatre, London, on 6 September 2017.

The play is set in February 1896 in a squalid top-floor room in the Hotel Orfila, Rue d’Assas, Paris. The room is occupied by the famous Swedish playwright August Strindberg, who, having abandoned theatre, is living a life of squalid splendour, attempting to make gold by finding the philosopher’s stone, the secret of creation. As his grasp on reality weakens, his first two wives, Siri and Frida, visit him to bring him to his senses. But their interventions spin out of control.

In an introduction to the published script, Howard Brenton writes: 'I wrote The Blinding Light to try to understand the mental and spiritual crisis that August Strindberg suffered in February, 1896. Deeply disturbed, plagued by hallucinations, he holed up in various hotel rooms in Paris, most famously in the Hotel Orfila in the Rue d’Assas. ... Before and after the crisis in Paris he always wanted to make the theatre more real, at first by being true to the minutiae of everyday life – the famous cooking on stage in Miss Julie – then by trying to stage psychological states so vividly you think you are dreaming wide awake. By ‘realist’ or expressionist’ means he wanted audiences to see the world in a new light.'

The Jermyn Street Theatre production was directed by Tom Littler with a set designed by Cherry Truluck for Lucky Bert. It was performed by Laura Morgan, Jasper Britton (as August), Susannah Harker and Gala Gordon.

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.

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.