Play-reading Recordings

In this space, we have published video recordings from our evenings of online play-reading that we held throughout the pandemic so that you can have a taste of theatre even in these difficult times when we can’t physically go to one.

LA RONDE’
BY ARTHUR SCHNITZLER, TRANSLATED AND ADAPTED BY IAN GLEDHILL
Performed by Lucy Jepson and Richard Carwardine

Arthur Schnitzler wrote La Ronde in 1897. However, the first performance of the play was not until 1920 in Berlin. La Ronde consists of ten interlocking scenes, each involving two people. One character in each scene returns to partner a different character in the next scene, forming a so-called “circle of amorous encounters.” The play is originally set in 1890s Vienna but Ian Gledhill has updated the play to the present day and set it in an unnamed city.

THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST’
BY OSCAR WILDE
Performed by Lucy Jepson and Charlotte Creasey

First performed on 14 February 1895 at the St James’s Theatre in London, it is a farcical comedy in which the protagonists maintain fictitious personae to escape burdensome social obligations. Working within the social conventions of late Victorian London, the play’s major themes are the triviality with which it treats institutions as serious as marriage, and the resulting satire of Victorian ways.

THE RIVALS’
BY RICHARD BRINSLEY SHERIDAN
Performed by David Gelipter and Lynda Liddament

This comedy in five acts was first performed at Covent Garden Theatre on 17 January 1775. The play is set in 18th-century Bath, a town that was legendary for conspicuous consumption and fashion at the time. The plot centres on the romantic difficulties of Lydia Languish, who is determined to marry for love and into poverty. Realizing this, the aristocratic Captain Jack Absolute woos her while claiming to be Ensign Beverley. But her aunt, Mrs. Malaprop, will not permit her to wed a mere ensign, and Lydia will lose half her fortune if she marries without her aunt’s permission.

THE TAMING OF THE SHREW’
BY WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE
Performed by Lucy Jepson and Oliver Jenkinson

This comedy is believed to have been written between 1590 and 1592. The main plot depicts the courtship of Petruchio and Katherina, the headstrong, obdurate shrew. Initially, Katherina is an unwilling participant in the relationship; however, Petruchio “tames” her with various psychological torments, such as keeping her from eating and drinking, until she becomes a desirable, compliant, and obedient bride.

‘ROSMERSHOLM’
BY HENRIK IBSEN
Performed by Mira Lieberman and Nick Lewis

‘Rosmersholm’ which was first performed in 1887 has been described as one of Ibsen’s most complex, subtle, multilayered and ambiguous plays. The play’s plot revolves around ex-parson Johannes Rosmer, a representative of high ethical standards, and his housekeeper, the adventuress Rebecca West. Both are haunted by the spirit of Rosmer’s late wife who committed suicide – and we will tell you no more to avoid spoilers!

‘NAMING OF PARTS’
BY HENRY REED
Performed by Nick Lewis

Our latest evening of readings took place on 11 November – Remembrance Day. So it seems appropriate that we should begin our selection of recordings from that evening with Nick Lewis reading ‘Naming of parts’, a poem by Henry Reed (1914-1986).

‘AS YOU LIKE IT’
BY WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE
Performed by
Lucy Jepson and Oliver Jenkinson

This pastoral comedy is believed to have been written in 1599. The story is about Rosalind and her cousin who escape into the forest and find Orlando, Rosalind’s love. Disguised as a boy shepherd, Rosalind has Orlando woo her under the guise of “curing” him of his love for Rosalind. In this particular scene, Rosalind dressed as a boy interrogates Orlando to find out who has been marking her name on the trees as tokens of love.

‘GOING TO POT’
BY GEORGES FEYDEAU
Performed by
Robin Purshouse, Lesley Cottingham and Jana Kalalova

In this comedy, an aspiring contractor for the French war department (he wants to supply every solider with a chamber pot) falls victim to a series of disasters that are all more-or-less the result of his young son’s constipation.

‘LACEY’S LAST CHANCE’
BY GABRIEL DAVIS
Performed by
Lesley Cottingham

In this modern one act play published in 2012, Lacey yearns for lasting love but has the unfortunate habit of – when the going gets tough – killing her partners.

‘A CHILD’S CHRISTMAS IN WALES’
BY DYLAN THOMAS
Performed by
Richard Carwardine

This piece of prose by the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas was recorded by Thomas in 1952. Emerging from an earlier piece he wrote for BBC Radio, the work is an anecdotal reminiscence of a Christmas from the viewpoint of a young boy, portraying a nostalgic and simpler time.

‘CLOSER’
BY PATRICK MARBER
Performed by
Rachel Bray, Nick Lewis and Richard Davies

Closer is an Olivier award-winning play from 1997 about modern relationships and sexual politics in which a quartet of strangers meet, fall in love, and become caught up in a web of sexual desire and betrayal. The opening scene introduces us to three of the four characters. If you like the scene, you might be interested to know that in 2004, this play was adapted for a film of the same name, starring Julia Roberts, Natalie Portman, Jude Law and Clive Owen.

‘TOP GIRLS’
BY CARYL CHURCHILL
Performed by
Jill Govier, Linda Kirk, Lynda Liddament, Lottie Creasey and Jana Kalalova 

This 1982 play centres around Marlene, a career-driven woman who is heavily invested in women’s success in business. The play examines the roles available to women in modern society, and what it means or takes for a woman to succeed. In this scene, Marlene is throwing a dinner party and her guests are all fictional or historical women.

SUDS performed Top Girls in 1991. Our reading in December was a trip down memory lane for three of the cast who were reprising their roles from that production: Lynda Liddament as Marlene, Jill Govier as Pope Joan and Linda Kirk as Isabella Bird.

‘LES LIAISONS DANGEREUSES’
BY PIERRE CHODERLOS DE LACLOS
Performed by
Charlotte Creasey and Matt McDonnell

In April 2020, we were planning to stage the play adapted by Christopher Hampton but unfortunately had to cancel due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In this scene, we are bringing you a letter exchange between Valmont and Merteuil from the original novel.

‘NEIGHBOURHOOD WATCH’
BY ALAN AYCKBOURN
Performed by
Lesley Cottingham, Lynda Liddament and Noor Sobka

The play from 2011 centers around a brother and sister who innocently set up a Neighbourhood Watch group following petty crime from a nearby estate, only for the group to go out of control and become an authoritarian force controlling the lives of the people they are supposed to protect.

‘NO MAN’S LAND’
BY HAROLD PINTER
Performed by
David Walker and Richard Carwardine

This 1975 play is about the sense of being caught in some mysterious limbo between life and death, between a world of brute reality and one of fluid uncertainty. In this particular scene, Hirst has invited Spooner back to his house. The ambiguous dialogue raises questions as to how well they really know each other.

‘THE CARETAKER’
BY HAROLD PINTER
Performed by
Trevor Parsons

This play in three acts premiered in London’s West End in 1960. It is a psychological study of the confluence of power, allegiance, innocence, and corruption among two brothers and a tramp.

‘A TRUE BORN ENGLISHMAN’
BY PETER BARNES
Performed by
David Walker

A monologue in which a Buckingham Palace footman reflects on his career.

‘GOLDEN GIRLS’
Performed by
Mira Lieberman, Lucy Jepson, Lynda Liddament and Jana Kalalova

This famous American TV sitcom revolves around 4 single women of a certain age sharing a house together in Miami which results in many comical situations. Such as this scene in which we can see the girls in conversation about Blanche’s new suitor (who still has his own hair and teeth!).

‘MAKE AND BREAK’
BY MICHAEL FRAYN
Performed by
Linda Kirk

In this play from 1980, Mrs Rogers is a secretary to John Garrard, a successful manufacturer who is driven by a compulsion to use and consume the world and the people around him.

‘RICHARD II’
BY WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE
Performed by
Matt McDonnell

This play is believed to have been written around 1595. It is based on the life of King Richard II of England (ruled 1377–1399) and chronicles his downfall and the machinations of his nobles.

‘SEPARATE TABLES’
BY TERENCE RATTIGAN
Performed by
Julia Morrison and Jana Kalalova

‘Separate Tables’ comprises two linked one-act plays set in the same small residential hotel on the south coast of England. The play examines social attitudes towards lifestyles and behaviour deemed morally reprehensible in 1950s Britain. It was first produced at the St. James’s Theatre, London, on 22 September 1954.

‘THE FATHER’
BY AUGUST STRINDBERG
Performed by
David Reid and Mira Lieberman

‘The Father’ is a naturalistic tragedy written in 1887. It is about the struggle between parents over the future of their child; resulting in the mother, using her cunning manipulative skills, subduing and finally destroying the father.

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