Harold Pinter, from 'Directing Simon Gray's Plays', Simon Gray Plays 1
'Superficially, it is a light comedy about a group of educated, often eccentric English characters in an academic backwater in the early sixties. But though the jokes are excellent, the piece cuts deep. There are Strindberg-like glimpses of wretchedly unhappy marriages and, as in Ibsen, a sense of chickens coming home to roost. But the primary impression here is of an English Chekhov. As in the plays of the Russian master, the characters talk a lot, but they rarely listen, still less understand, so they are often at cross-purposes. And like The Seagull, the long time scheme in Quartermaine's Terms - it spans several years - creates a poignant sense of transience and mortality.' Daily Telegraph
'Gray's selection of details and exchanges is immaculate: he achieves drama and mystery in mundane lives; the comedy is beautifully stated and even personal tragedies are underlined with running gags that ring with truthfulness. No false hothouse effect is necessary to make bare the bewilderment of spirit of his central figure, the grinning, forgetful and deeply kind staff lecturer, St John Quartermaine, an inarticulate character of awesome loneliness who rivals the tragic force of Willy Loman.' The Times
'A play that is at once full of doom and gloom and bristling with wry, even uproarious comedy. The mixture is so artfully balanced that we really don't know where the laughter ends and the tears begin: the playwright is in full possession of the Chekhovian territory where the tragedies and absurdities of life become one and the same.' New York Times
Cheating at snakes and ladders, fighting over comic books, a bungled infidelity beneath the tree. Christmas has arrived in the Bunker household along with family and friends. But as the children lurk just out of sight, it's the adults who are letting the side down.
I couldn't. Not in our sitting-room. Not in front of the television. Somewhere else.
Presiding over the festivities are two warring uncles, one a kindly, incompetent doctor with an interminable puppet show to perform; the other a bullying retired security guard who dominates the TV, brings toy guns for his nieces and determines there's a thief in their midst.
Alan Ayckbourn's masterly Season's Greetings offers a seriously entertaining look at the misery and high jinks of an average family Christmas. The play opens at the National Theatre, London, in December 2010.
Three times I caught him at it. Ripping open presents, helping himself to the contents.
The Boy Who Fell into a Book premiered at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, in December 1998.
A time-travelling comedy thriller, Communicating Doors was published to coincide with the West End opening in 1995.
David Eldridge's Under the Blue Sky premiered at the Royal Court Jerwood Theatre Upstairs, London, in September 2000.
Methuen's Royal Court Writers Series was launched in 1981 to celebrate 25 years of the English Stage Company and 21 years since the publication of the first Methuen Modern Play. Published to coincide with specific productions in the Jerwood Theatre Downstairs and the Jerwood Theatre Upstairs, the series fulfils the dual role of programme and playscript.
A hugely entertaining pitch that recalls the old movies to which it frequently pays homage - Strangers on a Train, Rebecca, Kind Hearts and Coronets - and expands after intermission to reveal an immensely disturbing vision of contemporary middle-class England poisoned by the rise of economic ruthlessness and the collapse of ethics. New York Times
Things We Do for Love
Lloyds Private Banking Playwright of the Year Award
One of his best, his most shockingly and uproariously funny: a cruel and hilarious masterpiece of tragic comedy and comic tragedy. Sunday Times
House & Garden
The triumph of his ingenuity lies in the fact that you have to see both plays . . . A second time round, in whichever order you take them, characters will deepen, while those you know become the background. It is a superb Ayckbourn joke that a comedy about non-communication should depend on the sharpest communication skills. Sunday Times
"This tragicomedy shocks us into realizing how hungry we have been for witty and wounded grown-ups who toss off gorgeously written observations without knowing how little we know about what we think we know."—Newsday
Meet the Bascovs, an Upper West Side Jewish family in 1980. In an opulent apartment overlooking Central Park, former movie star Julie and her sister-in-law Faye bring their families together for a traditional holiday dinner on a night when things don't go as planned. Twenty years later, as 2001 approaches, the Bascovs's seemingly picture-perfect life may be about to crumble. An incisive portrait of a family grasping for stability at the dawn of a new millennium, The Assembled Parities premiered on Broadway in 2013 to rave reviews and a Tony Award nomination for Best Play.
Richard Greenberg has written two dozen plays in his thirty-year career, including Take Me Out (Tony Award for Best Play, Drama Desk Award, NY Drama Critics Circle Award, Outer Critics Circle Award, Lucille Lortel Award), The Dazzle (Outer Critics Circle Award), Three Days of Rain (L.A. Drama Critics Award, Pulitzer Prize finalist), The American Plan, the book for a musical adaptation of Far From Heaven, and many more. He has received the Oppenheimer Award for a new playwright as well as the first PEN/Laura Pels Award for a playwright in mid-career.
A terrific piece - brilliant, bizarre and yet totally believable . . . In fact, it's more than classic; it's close to the top of its class. Yorkshire Post
If I Were You
A blissfully funny comedy that's also filled with sadness, a devilishly simple theatrical idea that spins out all kinds of complex truths about human nature. Daily Telegraph
Life and Beth
A wise, humane, funny play about the inevitability of death and the continuity of life. Guardian
My Wonderful Day
A transformation happens as magical as the most magnificent pantomime transformation anyone could ever imagine . . . the playwright dissolves the paraphernalia of our adult selves and uncovers that space inside each of us that is still the child we once were. Observer
Life of Riley
As perceptive as ever . . . Ayckbourn has once again achieved a satisfyingly rich, tragi-comic complexity. Daily Telegraph
“Mr. Margulies is a skilled practitioner of fluid dialogue that is naturally funny and sensibly smart.” –The New York Times
In his “absorbing intelligent” (Los Angeles Times) and timely new play, Donald Margulies uncovers the layers of a relationship between a photojournalist and foreign correspondent—once addicted to the adrenaline of documenting the atrocities of war, and now grounded in the couple’s Brooklyn loft. Photographer Sarah was seriously injured while covering the war in Iraq; her reporter partner James had left weeks earlier, when the stress and horrors became too much for him. Now James writes online movie reviews while Sarah recovers, mourning for her Iraqi driver (and former lover) killed in the explosion, and itching to get back behind the camera. With this play—coming to Broadway this winter—Margulies revisits themes of being an artist, as characters ask: What does it mean to capture suffering on film, rather than stopping to intervene?
Donald Margulies received the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for Dinner with Friends, which has been produced throughout the world. Other plays include Sight Unseen (OBIE Award), Brooklyn Boy, and Collected Stories, among many others.
Who is the amorous stranger, Titus, who materialises in young Grace's bedroom? Can she believe he is who he says he is? For her parents, Franklin and Martha, does love everlasting still hold true if death is postponed indefinitely? Can lawyer Lorraine, who prides herself on her infallibility, have finally discovered the ideal partner, one who is also never wrong? Will lonely secretary Sylvia, after unhappy affairs with everyone from deep sea divers to space shuttle pilots, ever find her Mr Right?
A comedy with its head in the future and its heart in the past, Alan Ayckbourn's Surprises premiered in July 2012 at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, in a co-production with Chichester Festival Theatre.
and the rest of the family set out to the house to prove the rumours wrong. But Thark promises to live up to its spinechilling reputation...
This adaptation received its world premiere at Park Theatre in August 2013, directed by Eleanor Rhode, whose previous sellout successes include A Life and the Time Out Critics’ Choice productions of The Drawer Boy and Generous.
“A powerhouse drama. . . . Lynn Nottage’s beautiful, hideous and unpretentiously important play [is] a shattering, intimate journey into faraway news reports.”—Linda Winer, Newsday
“An intense and gripping new drama . . . the kind of new play we desperately need: well-informed and unafraid of the world’s brutalities. Nottage is one of our finest playwrights, a smart, empathetic and daring storyteller who tells a story an audience won’t expect.”—David Cote, Time Out New York
A rain forest bar and brothel in the brutally war-torn Congo is the setting for Lynn Nottage’s extraordinary new play. The establishment’s shrewd matriarch, Mama Nadi, keeps peace between customers from both sides of the civil war, as government soldiers and rebel forces alike choose from her inventory of women, many already “ruined” by rape and torture when they were pressed into prostitution. Inspired by interviews she conducted in Africa with Congo refugees, Nottage has crafted an engrossing and uncommonly human story with humor and song served alongside its postcolonial and feminist politics in the rich theatrical tradition of Bertolt Brecht’s Mother Courage.
Lynn Nottage’s plays include Crumbs from the Table of Joy, Fabulation, and Intimate Apparel, winner of the American Theatre Critics’ Steinberg New Play Award and the Francesca Primus Prize. Her plays have been widely produced, with Intimate Apparel receiving more productions than any other play in America during the 2005-2006 season.
Alan Bennett's new play is as much about the theater as it is about poetry or music. It looks at the unsettling desires of two difficult men, and at the ethics of biography. It reflects on growing old, on creativity and inspiration, and on persisting when all passion's spent: ultimately, on the habit of art.
In his small pub in Oldham, Harry is something of a local celebrity. But what's the second-best hangman in England to do on the day they've abolished hanging? Amongst the cub reporters and sycophantic pub regulars, dying to hear Harry's reaction to the news, a peculiar stranger lurks, with a very different motive for his visit.
Don't worry. I may have my quirks but I'm not an animal. Or am I? One for the courts to discuss.
Martin McDonagh's Hangmen premiered at the Royal Court Theatre, London, in September 2015.
With his latest play Good People, David Lindsay-Abaire returns to Manhattan Theatre Club where four of his previous works were produced, including his 2007 Pulitzer Prize-winning Rabbit Hole. The play premiered there in winter 2011 in a production directed by Daniel Sullivan (who also directed Rabbit Hole), and featuring Frances McDormand in the role of protagonist Margie Walsh. Good People is set in South Boston, the blue-collar neighborhood where Lindsay-Abaire himself grew up: Margie Walsh, let go from yet another job and facing eviction, decides to appeal to an old flame who has made good and left his Southie past behind. Lindsay-Abaire offers us both his "quiet three-dimensional depth" (Los Angeles Times) and his carefully observed humor in this exploration of life in America when you're on your last dollar.
David Lindsay-Abaire is the author of Fuddy Meers, Kimberly Akimbo, A Devil Inside, Wonder of the World, and Rabbit Hole, in addition to the book for the musicals High Fidelity and Shrek. His plays have been produced throughout the United States and around the world.
This House is a timely and relevant political comedy, exploring Westminster and the 1974 hung parliament.
In the run-up to the General Election pressure mounts as squabbling whips attempt to attract key regional votes. As it becomes clear the results will be closely balanced, the play tracks the formation, perils and consequences of a coalition government, including the compromises, conflicts and power games all in the interest of gaining control of Parliament.
With well-paced, witty and waspish dialogue, This House playfully explores the childish digs and chauvinistic attitudes that riddle political life. Award-winning playwright James Graham combines comedy with comment in this portrayal of the strain between the thinking individual, the pressure to toe the part line and the end goal of winning government.
An all-pervasive fear of the future and a guilty pleasure in the excesses of the present drive Mike Bartlett's epic rollercoaster of a play from 1968 to 2525 and back again.
Earthquakes in London includes burlesque strip shows, bad dreams, social breakdown, population explosion, worldwide paranoia. It is a fast and furious metropolitan crash of people, scenes and decades, as three sisters attempt to navigate their dislocated lives and loves, while their dysfunctional father, a brilliant scientist, predicts global catastrophe.
Mike Bartlett's contemporary and directed dialogue combines a strong sense of humanity with epic ambition, as well as finely-aimed shafts of political comment embedded effortlessly into every scene.
sentimental drama, this late Restoration comedy exposes the reformed
rake Loveless to the temptations of London and the charms of a merry
widow, neither of which he is able to withstand. More memorable than
the straying husband, however, is Restoration comedy's ultimate
follower of fashion, Lord Foppington, who defends himself in the
Epilogue by observing that no highwayman or Jacobite was ever well
dressed. As the introduction to this edition argues, Sir John Vanbrugh
- dramatist, architect and member of the influential Kit Cat Club -
presents courtship and marriage not only with cynicism, but also with
moral bravery and social impudence; qualities not much in evidence in
his sentimental rivals.
Stalin has been in power for 16 years and his purges are at their zenith. Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita is lying unpublished in a desk drawer, and his latest play Molière has been banned following terrible reviews in Pravda. As a secret policeman dryly puts it, this has opened up a convenient “gap in his schedule.” This “gap” is to be filled by a play of Stalin’s life which Bulgakov will write. The NKVD has even kindly found him an office in the notorious Lubyanka prison: a venue that would focus any writer’s mind. But as Bulgakov loses himself in a world of secrets, threats, and paradoxes, and begins to fall ill from the liver disease that would eventually kill him, his feverish dreams of conversations with Stalin become reality in his brain, just as the state’s lies become truths in his play.
Collaborators is a darkly comic portrait of the impossible choices facing any artist in a dictatorship.
nurse, is introduced to a series of suitors to her hand. Like Juliet,
she finds all of them unsatisfactory - and rightly so, for the audience
know that the nastiest of them is having an affair with her domineering
aunt. Like Juliet, Annabella is wooed by a sensitive and passionate
young man whose love she returns - but this young man happens to be her
own brother, Giovanni. When they consummate their love and she, to
avoid the scandal of extramarital pregnancy, agrees to marry her aunt's
lover, the tragic outcome is inevitable. John Ford, writing his
psychologically powerful and intellectually challenging tragedies in
the early years of King Charles I's reign, is a playwright of the first
rank, as 20th-century directors have shown both in the theatre and on
Then a cigarette box and an ill-considered remark spark off a relentless series of revelations and other, more dangerous secrets are painfully exposed. As the truth spills out about the suicide of Robert's clever, reckless brother, and the group's perfect lives begin to crumble, the cost of professional and social success becomes frighteningly plain.
Hollywood, 1939: semi-independent mogul David O. Selznick has just shut down production on the most eagerly anticipated movie in history – his megabudget version of Margaret Mitchell’s bestselling novel Gone With The Wind – scrapping the original script and sacking the director in the process. Determined to produce a rewrite in five days, he engages the reluctant services of ace script doctor Ben Hecht – possibly the only person in America who has not read the novel – and the movie’s new director Victor Fleming, poached straight from the set of The Wizard of Oz, where he had been squabbling with the Munchkins and coming to blows with Judy Garland. His reputation on the line, Selznick locks himself
in his office with his two collaborators, with nothing but a stockpile of peanuts and bananas to sustain them, and a marathon creative session begins...
It's 1981. As the Soviet army burns its way through Afghanistan, CIA operative Jim Warnock is sent to try to halt its bloody progress, beginning a secret spy war behind the official hostilities. Jim and his counterparts in the KGB and the British and Pakistani secret services wrestle with ever-shifting personal and political loyalties. With the outcome of the entire Cold War at stake, Jim and a larger-than-life Afghan warlord decide to place their trust in each other.
Spanning a decade and playing out in Washington, D.C., Pakistan, and Afghanistan, Blood and Gifts is a sweeping, often shockingly funny epic set against one of the greatest historical events of recent history, the repercussions of which continue to shape our world.
Serious Money is perhaps Caryl Churchill's most notorious play. A satirical study of the effects of the Big Bang, it premiered at the Royal Court in 1987 and transferred to the West End. Since then, it has prompted city financiers the world over to applaud and decry its presentation of their lives. British Telecom refused to provide telephones for the Wyndham's production, writing to say that "This is a production with which no public company would wish to be associated".
Written by Shelagh Delaney when she was nineteen, A Taste of Honey is one of the great defining and taboo-breaking plays of the 1950s.
When her mother, Helen, runs of with a car salesman, feisty teenager Jo takes up with a black sailor who promises to marry her before he heads for the seas, leaving her pregnant and alone.
Art student Geoff moves in and assumes the role of surrogate parent until misguidedly, he sends for Helen and their unconventional setup unravels.
A Taste of Honey offers an explosive celebration of the vulnerabilities and strengths of the female spirit in a deprived and restless world. Bursting with energy and daring, this exhilarating and angry depiction of harsh, working-class life in post-war Salford is shot through with love and humour, and infused with jazz.
The play was first presented by Theatre Workshop at the Theatre Royal Stratford, London, on 27 May 1958.
All is not well in the Humble hive. Thirty-five-year-old Felix Humble is a Cambridge astrophysicist in search of a unified field theory, but after the sudden death of his father, James, a teacher and amateur beekeeper, he is forced to return to the family home in the English countryside. Once there he and his demanding mother, Flora, a glamorous former showgirl who resents having spent the last thirty years in suburban exile, attempt to reconcile themselves to James's death and to each other, plumbing the depths of their anger as well as their love. The emotional turmoil increases exponentially with the arrival of George, Flora's longtime lover, and his daughter Rosie, Felix's former girlfriend, as Felix is forced to acknowledge that his search for unity must include his own chaotic home life. A play concerned with beekeeping and astrophysics, imbued with heartbreak and wit, larger questions of the universe and smaller questions of family dynamics, Humble Boy has been called "a feast: a serious, moving, cerebral feast" (The Sunday Times).
The Hard Problem is a tour de force, exploring fundamental questions of how we experience the world, as well as telling the moving story of a young woman whose struggle for understanding her own life and the lives of others leads her to question the deeply held beliefs of those around her.
Hilary, a young psychology researcher at the Krohl Institute for Brain Science, is nursing a private sorrow and a troubling question. She and other researchers at the institute are grappling with what science calls the “hard problem”—if there is nothing but matter, what is consciousness? What Hilary discovers puts her fundamentally at odds with her colleagues, who include her first mentor and one-time lover, Spike; her boss, Leo; and the billionaire founder of the institute, Jerry. Hilary needs a miracle, and she is prepared to pray for one.
For years Sister Margaret Alexander has moved her Harlem congregation with a mixture of personal charisma and ferocious piety. But when Margaret's estranged husband, a scapegrace jazz musician, comes home to die, she is in danger of losing both her standing in the church and the son she has tried to keep on the godly path.
The Amen Corner is a play about faith and family, about the gulf between black men and black women and black fathers and black sons. It is a scalding, uplifting, sorrowful and exultant masterpiece of the modern American theater.
In recent years, A Delicate Balance has enjoyed many and new stunning revivals, running now, including a Broadway production in 1996, which won the Tony Award for Best Revival, and another at the Alameida Theatre in London in 2011.
Winner of the Outer Critics Circle award for Best Play.‘splendidly silly... One Man is, like Mr. Corden’s grin, both satanic and seraphic, dirty-minded and utterly innocent.... ideal escapism for anxious times.’ – New York Times
‘deliriously funny’ – Washington Post
‘gobsmackingly funny... this virtuoso banquet of slapstick farce and verbal jousting brings with it a shocking revelation: How starved we were for comedy.’ – Time Out New York
Award-winning writer Joe Penhall first rose to prominence in 1994 with his Royal Court play Some Voices and he has been described by the Financial Times as 'one of the finest playwrights of his generation.' Blue/Orange is an accessible and vibrant play, which explores a number of important issues and which makes it a good choice to study. This includes themes of race and representation, sanity and insanity (and in particular the social structures, stigma and complexity surrounding schizophrenia), as well the political context of New Labour and spin, and questions of prejudice and difference.
This Student Edition features expert and helpful annotation, including a scene-by-scene summary, a detailed commentary on the dramatic, social and political context, and on the themes, characters, language and structure of the play, as well as a list of suggested reading and questions for further study and a review of performance history.
Richly intermingling elements of burlesque, farce, and social satire with a wry look at the world market in art, Is He Dead? centers on a group of poor artists in Barbizon, France, who stage the death of a friend to drive up the price of his paintings. In order to make this scheme succeed, the artists hatch some hilarious plots involving cross-dressing, a full-scale fake funeral, lovers' deceptions, and much more.
Mark Twain was fascinated by the theater and made many attempts at playwriting, but this play is certainly his best. Is He Dead? may have been too "out there" for the Victorian 1890s, but today's readers will thoroughly enjoy Mark Twain's well-crafted dialogue, intriguing cast of characters, and above all, his characteristic ebullience and humor. In Shelley Fisher Fishkin's estimation, it is "a champagne cocktail of a play--not too dry, not too sweet, with just the right amount of bubbles and buzz."
Oh What a Lovely War is a theatrical chronicle of the First World War, told through the songs and documents of the period. First performed by Joan Littlewood's Theatre Workshop at the Theatre Royal, Stratford East, London in 1963, it received the acclaim of London audiences and critics. It won the Grand Prix of the Théâtre des Nations festival in Paris that year and has gone on to become a classic of the modern theatre. In 1969 a film version was made which extended the play's popular success. The play is now on the standard reading list of schools and universities around the UK and was revived by the Royal National Theatre in 1998.
The chase is on in this breakneck comedy of licensed insanity, from the moment when Dr Prentice, a psychoanalyst interviewing a prospective secretary, instructs her to undress. The plot of What the Butler Saw contains enough twists and turns, mishaps and changes of fortune, coincidences and lunatic logic to furnish three or four conventional comedies. But however the six characters in search of a plot lose the thread of the action - their wits or their clothes - their verbal self-possession never deserts them. Hailed as a modern comedy every bit as good as Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest, Orton's play is regularly produced, read and studied. What the Butler Saw was Orton's final play.
"He is the Oscar Wilde of Welfare State gentility" (Observer)
The dead of winter, Long Beach Island, New Jersey, Charlie, has hit rock bottom. Away from the rest of the world, this perfect escape is interrupted by a motley parade of misfits who show up and change his plans. A hired beauty, a fireman, and an eccentric British real estate agent desperately trying to stay in the country all suddenly find themselves tangled together in a beach house where the mood is anything but sunny.
This pithy piece portrays a scenario of attempted suicide with mordant humour, where a basis of social alienation leads to unexpected connections. The richly-drawn characters are quick-witted and narcissistic yet self-aware and the dialogue is fluid and witty.
All New People is centred around a clever concept which works as a catalyst for both angst-fuelled scrutiny and morbid humour.
So exclaims the Grocer's wife who, with her husband and servants, is attending one of the London's elite playhouses where a theatre comany has just begun to perform. Peeved at the fact that all the plays they see are satires on the lives and values of London's citizenry, the Grocer and his wife interrupt and demand a play that instead contains chivalric quests and courtly love. What's more, they nominate their apprentice Rafe to take on the hero's role of the knight in this entirely new play.
The author, Francis Beaumont, ends up not just satirising the grocers' naive taste for romance but parodying his own example of citizen comedy. This play-within-a-play becomes a pastiche of contemporary plays that scorned those who were not courtiers or at least gentlemen or ladies. Like Cervantes in Don Quixote, Beaumont exposes the folly of those that take representations for realities, but also celebrates their idealism and love of adventure.
The editor, Michael Hattaway, is editor of plays by Shakespeare and Jonson as well as of several volumes of critical essays, and author of Elizabethan Popular Theatre, Hamlet: The Critics Debate, and Renaissance and Reformations: An Introduction to Early Modern English Literature. He is Professor Emeritus of English Literature in the University of Sheffield.