Mint Theatre streams forgotten Lillian Hellman play

The ever-generous Mint Theatre is now streaming another of their successful revivals, this time of Lillian Hellman’s largely-forgotten second play, DAYS TO COME.

DAYS TO COME is a family drama set against the backdrop of labour problems and workers’ unrest in a small Ohio town which threatens to tear apart both town and family. “It’s the story of innocent people on both sides who are drawn into conflict and events far beyond their comprehension,” Hellman said in an interview before DAYS TO COME opened in 1936. “It’s the saga of a man who started something he cannot stop…”

“It’s a gripping, lucid examination of the dangerous intersection of economic, social, and personal forces.” said The New Yorker

Andrew Rodman is running the family business and failing at it. The workers are out on strike and things are getting desperate. “Papa would have known what to do,” his sister Cora nags, “and without wasting time and money.” But it’s too late, Rodman is bringing in strikebreakers, naively failing to anticipate the disastrous impact that this will have on his family and their place in the community where they have lived for generations.

Audiences had no chance to appreciate DAYS TO COME when it premiered on Broadway in 1936; it closed after a week. Hellman blamed herself for the play’s failure. “I wanted to say too much,” she wrote in a preface to the published play in 1942—while admitting that her director was confused and her cast inadequate. “On the opening night the actors moved as figures in the dream of a frightened child. It was my fault, I suppose, that it happened.” Nevertheless, “I stand firmly on the side of Days to Come.” In 1942, Hellman could afford to take responsibility for the play’s failure; she had enjoyed much success in the days after DAYS TO COME (with both THE LITTLE FOXES and WATCH ON THE RHINE). But Hellman’s play is better than she would admit.

“Days to Come … turns out to be a gripping piece of storytelling, one whose failure and subsequent obscurity make no sense at all.” The Wall Street Journal

DAYS TO COME was revived only once in New York, in 1978, by the WPA Theatre. In reviewing that production for The Nation, Harold Clurman wrote that “our knowledge of what Hellman would subsequently write reveals that Days to Come is not mainly concerned with the industrial warfare which is the ‘stuff’ of her story for the first two acts.” Hellman’s real preoccupation is “the lack of genuine values of mind or spirit” of her principle characters, the factory-owning Rodmans.

Mint Theatre’s production, running 1 hour 50 minutes, can be seen online until April 2nd. Find it here

Listen to “Dearest Squirrel – the John Osborne Letters”

On Sunday 11th December, BBC Radio 4extra presents a fascinating insight not only into the life of one the UK’s leading mid-century playwrights and his relationships, it’s also an authentic celebration of the lost world of repertory theatre.

John Osborne meets Pamela Lane in 1951 and within three months the couple are married. So begins an extraordinary love affair that lasts over 30 years.

A completely fresh insight into the mind of one of the UK’s greatest playwrights, the letters between John Osborne and his first wife, actress Pamela Lane, are also a love letter to a now defunct system of repertory theatre and life in post-war Britain.

As these letters reveal, soon after their divorce, Osborne and Lane began a mutually supportive, loyal, frequently stormy and sometimes sexually intimate alliance lasting thirty years until Osborne’s death. By the mid- 1980s, they had become closer and more trusting than they had been since their earliest years together.

‘You are for me what you always were’, Pamela told him, ‘I am in love with you still’.

It is, he declared, ‘my fortune to have loved someone for a lifetime’.

Acerbic, witty, candid and heartbreaking, the letters reveal a unique relationship – troubled, tender and enduring.

The author, Peter Whitebrook, was born in London and has written and broadcast extensively on the theatre and literature. His co-adaptation of John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath won a Fringe First Award. His biography of John Osborne was nominated for both the Sheridan Morley Prize for biography and the Theatre Book Prize.

Read by Simon Shepherd and Amanda Root
Abridged by Polly Coles
Producer: Clive Brill

This omnibus was first broadcast in 5 parts on BBC Radio 4 in 2018. It is a Brill production.

Broadcast at 6.30am on Sunday December 11th, the 70-minute programme is available for some time after initial broadcast on the BBC IPlayer service. Find it here

DAYS WITHOUT – a moving new short film by playwright John Binnie

Playwright/ director John Binnie has been a leading light in Scottish theatre for nearly 40 years. From his re-established Clyde Unity Theatre company, to writing the very first AIDS-related play (the poignant and beautiful KILLING ME SOFTLY, awarded at the 1985 Edinburgh Fringe Festival (where we first met and became friends), he has always been a writer to caringly uncover the poignant humanity pulsing within the authenticity of ordinary life.

Now his wide-ranging talents have lead to a film, written and directed by Binnie himself, entitled DAYS WITHOUT. Set during the first days of lockdown in 2020, Myrna, an elderly mum in a nursing home, and her middle-aged gay son Russ struggle with self-isolation in their own special ways.

Russ feels history repeating, recalling the AIDS pandemic of thirty years earlier and sees strong parallels between the suffering of his first love, Cal, and the impact of the current Covid pandemic on his mum’s well-being.

The film is written and directed by John Binnie, with Graham Crammond, Ann Scott Jones and Scott Miller. Director of photography was Kevin Walls, music by Tommie Travers, production design by Robin Mitchell, stage management by Linda Service, movement consultant Jane Simpson and dramaturgy by Mari Binnie.

The film was supported by Creative Scotland through National Lottery funding.

You can watch the film by clicking the link below.

Sir David Hare in conversation in free event

Next Tuesday 20th April at 2pm Eastern Time, 6 pm UK time, the ever-eloquent and much-respected writer Sir David Hare will be in conversation, in an event organised and hosted by the National Arts Club of America.

Described by The Washington Post as “the premiere political dramatist writing in English”, he has written over 30 stage plays & 30 screenplays for film & TV.

His plays include Plenty, Pravda (with Howard Brenton), The Secret Rapture, Racing Demon, Skylight, Amy’s View, The Blue Room, Via Dolorosa, Stuff Happens, The Absence of War, The Judas Kiss, The Red Barn and The Moderate Soprano. For cinema, he has written The Hours, The Reader, Damage, Denial, Wetherby, and The White Crow, among others, while his television films include Licking Hitler, The Worricker Trilogy, Collateral, and Roadkill.

In a millennial poll of the greatest plays of the 20th century, five of the top 100 were Hare’s.

Like Judi Dench, Richard Eyre, and Ian McKellen, three of our recent guests on NAC @ Home, Sir David is a recipient of the Gielgud Award for Excellence in the Dramatic Arts. It was in the Broadway production of Amy’s View, written by Sir David and directed by Sir Richard, that Dame Judi won the 1999 Tony Award for her stellar role as Esme. And filmgoers will recall a brilliant performance by Sir Ian (in a powerful scene with Meryl Streep) in the cinematic version of Sir David’s Plenty.

The NAC invites you to join them for a wide-ranging dialogue, hosted by NAC Member John F. Andrews, president and founder of the Shakespeare Guild.

The event is planned to last one hour and tickets can be obtained through this link here (subject to availability). Although tickets are free, a donation is requested to go towards the NAC’s support of young artists.

The NAC says: “Please help us support artists. By making a donation with your registration, you contribute directly to the NAC Artist Fellows program, helping to further the careers of up-and-coming artists.”

Founded in 1898, the mission of The National Arts Club is to stimulate, foster, and promote public interest in the arts and to educate the American people in the fine arts.

This program will be hosted via Zoom. Registrants will receive additional details after registration.

ROYAL COURT WRITERS’ SCHEME – free courses for aspiring writers – apply by June 26th!

Royal Court Theatre. Image courtesy Royal Court website.

Great news for all aspiring playwrights, whatever your level of experience. Applications for the Royal Court’s Introduction to Playwriting groups are now open and close at midday on Wednesday 26 June.

This is a myth-busting introduction to theatre writing, led by writers currently associated with the Royal Court. Running one evening a week for eight weeks, there are three separate intakes starting in August and October this year, and January 2020. All you need to have is an interest in writing and the thirst to write a play. At the end of the course participants are encouraged to submit a play for feedback from Royal Court readers.

Places are assigned based on potential; writers are not expected to have extensive experience of writing for stage. Application is through a short extract of written work.

There is no fee for attending the course, and The Royal Court say that they are often able to help successful applicants with travel costs into London too, so don’t let your location put you off.

This could be the break you have waited for. Make sure you apply! Details here