April 27 – May 5
Washington DC. 1946. The war is just over, and Harry Brock, a loud-mouthed junk-man millionaire, has descended on Washington to cash in. He plans to buy a Senator, and bribe Congress to look the other way, while he forms a cartel to wheel and deal in war-time scrap-metal. Part of his entourage is his ex-chorus-girl mistress, the beautiful, but uneducated, Billie Dawn. To make Billie more acceptable for Washington, Harry hits on the idea of hiring Paul Verrall, a handsome young reporter, to smarten her up. But, as Billie starts to read and learn, one of the things she discovers is that she doesn’t have to listen to Harry any more. Horrified at what he has unwittingly helped create, Harry looks around for ways “to make her dumb again”. But, it’s too late. The delicious genie is out of the bottle.
June 17 (staged reading)
London. 1895. Poet, novelist, playwright, wit and raconteur, Oscar Wilde, is the most famous man in London. The author of The Picture of Dorian Gray, as well as the children’s stories, The Happy Prince and The Selfish Giant, he also has two hit plays running in London at the same time – An Ideal Husband, and the world’s most perfect comedy – glitteringly witty The Importance of Being Earnest. Oscar is fêted in society, comfortably married, and the father of two young sons. But, he is also desperately in love with the beautiful, but dangerously unstable, Lord Alfred Douglas (nicknamed “Bosie”), youngest son of the Marquess of Queensberry. Outraged at the gossip circulating in London, the “mad Marquess” begins a campaign of stalking and publicly vilifying Wilde. Finally goaded by Bosie, Wilde brings an action for criminal libel against Queensberry, which backfires, and places Wilde in the dock – an outcast from the society that has so recently adored him.
July 27 - August 4
Vienna. 1986. Kurt Waldheim is running for the chancellorship of Austria, despite his Nazi past.
Hoping to shatter the artistic block that has crippled his brilliant career, Stephen Hoffman, a young American piano prodigy, has come to study in Vienna. He is assigned to an elderly vocal teacher, Professor Josef Mashkan, who – to Stephen’s disgust – insists on teaching him, not the piano, but how to sing Schumann’s “Dichterliebe” song cycle about the birth and death of love.
November 16 – 24
North Carolina. 1916. But it could be anywhere. Any time. Teenager Eugene Gant lives in a country town with his large, crazy family, and survives by reading great books. His home is the "Dixieland" boarding house, run by his domineering mother, Eliza, who is forever buying real estate and caring for her bizarre assortment of boarders rather than her family. She constantly battles with Eugene's boozy, poetry-spouting father, W. O. Gant – a monumental mason, whose prize possession is a marble angel that represents the characters' aspirations. Of all his siblings, Eugene most idolises his older brother, Ben, who knows the danger of entrapment by the family, and urges young Eugene to get away. Caught in the stifling cross-fire between his romantic father and pragmatic mother, Eugene dreams of escaping to become a writer. But nothing complicates a dream like the arrival of your first great love. Will he ever get away? Will he recover? Can he learn to understand and forgive?
It is 1890, and the social season is in full swing. Wealthy, debonair young man-about-London, Lord Arthur Savile, is on top of the world. He is doted on by his elderly, aristocratic relatives, and engaged to Sybil Merton, the girl of his dreams.
At a party, his palm is read by a fashionable cheiromantist, who foretells that he will commit a murder. Horrified at the potential shame this will bring his bride, Arthur decides that it’s his duty to get the murder out of the way, discreetly, before he marries Sybil. But, which of his relatives is the most expendable? Aided by the services of his Jeeves-like butler, Baines, and a seedy German anarchist, with an array of guns, bombs and poisoned chocolates, Lord Arthur sets about his noble task – with increasingly hilarious results.
Wickedly funny, ingenious and farcical, Oscar Wilde’s short story is laden with the stunning dialogue that glitters through The Importance of being Earnest and Lady Windermere’s Fan.
Following the sell-out success of last year’s Ukaria play-reading of Judging Oscar, it seemed fitting to follow it up with one of Oscar’s lesser-known, but no less brilliant gems.
November 15 – 23
Vivie Warren has just graduated with Honours from Cambridge – making her a rarity in late 19th century England. She has been supported through her education by her mysterious mother, who has spent much of Vivie’s life abroad.
Holidaying in Surrey, before starting work with a female actuary in London, Vivie is reunited with her bombastic mother, and several of her mother’s old male associates. During the course of the weekend, it becomes apparent to Vivie that her mother’s considerable wealth has not been earned in quite respectable ways.
Like Pygmalion, Major Barbara – indeed all of Shaw’s plays – Mrs Warren is filled with fascinating, ding-dong arguments between mother and daughter, and rich with Shaw’s trademark wit and humour, leaving the audience to decide where rightness lies.
Written in 1893, and one of Bernard Shaw’s cleverest, wittiest plays, it was originally banned, and not licensed for public performance until 1925.
At a time when women’s issues are in the foreground of the public and political debate, the play’s themes – of women’s position in society, women’s higher education, and the exploitation of female workers – couldn’t be more timely.
August 2 – 10
In 16th-century Spain, the Spanish Inquisition is in full swing. Crown Prince Carlos is betrothed to Princess Elisabeth of France – until his tyrannical father, King Philip II, decides it would be better politics for him to marry Elisabeth himself.
Trapped in a spy-riddled court, the explosive young prince’s hatred for his puritanical father knows no bounds. Nor does his continued love for his now-stepmother. Carlos entreats his boyhood friend, Rodrigo, Marquis of Posa, to act as a go-between.
Rodrigo decides, instead, to defy the Inquisition, and convert Carlos’ dangerous passion into a full-scale rebellion against Philip’s religiously oppressive and bloody regime. But, can Rodrigo shield Carlos from his enemies at court, while opening the prince’s eyes to what a humane ruler might achieve?
Schiller’s most famous play – regarded as the German Hamlet – is a taut political thriller, brim-full of back-stabbing intrigue, interwoven with timeless debates about liberty, justice, power, tolerance, freedom of conscience and legitimacy of government.
One of the world’s truly great plays, so famous was Don Carlos that Giuseppe Verdi adapted it into the most magnificent of all his operas.
A must-see, if you loved The Tudors and The Borgias.
April 26 – May 4
Hard-boiled San Francisco Private Eye, Sam Spade, is hired by the alluring Miss Wonderly to track down her sister, who has eloped with a gangster called Floyd Thursby. But Miss Wonderly quickly turns out to be as slippery and treacherous as she is beautiful.
Throw into the mix a perfumed Greek fortune-hunter, a teenage hoodlum, a sinister fat man, plus a fabulous jewel-encrusted statue worth murdering for, and the stage is set for one of the greatest crime thrillers of all time.
These are the ingredients of Dashiell Hammett’s coolly glittering 1928 gem of detective fiction, the first of its kind, and one that has haunted generations of readers.
The story was filmed twice, in the 1930s, before John Huston decided to make it his first film. And thank goodness he did, because his 1941 version – which starred Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet – became a cinema classic, ushering in, as it did, the film noir style of seedy detective films.
Following its tradition of its award-winning Strangers on a Train, and by The Hound of the Baskervilles, Independent Theatre is thrilled to be bringing another brilliant classic of crime and mystery to the stage.