Greenland (1988 play)

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Greenland is a 1988 play by Howard Brenton. It is a neo-Brechtian epic psychodrama[1] with many actors, props and scene changes,[2] on which the writer worked for seven years.[3] It is the last of Brenton's three Utopian plays, following Sore Throats and Bloody Poetry.[4]

The play opened at the Royal Court Theatre in London on 26 May 1988[5] and played there for a season.[6] Its United States premiere was at the Famous Door Theater in Chicago in January 1994.[7]

Plot summary[edit]

The first act is set on 11 June 1987, the day of the third consecutive Conservative general election victory.[8] Four of the characters jump into the River Thames in despair, and in the second act wake up 700 years in the future, in a utopia where no one has to do anything they don't want to.[9]

Leading characters[edit]

The action centres around four characters: Joan, a Labour parliamentary candidate, Betty, a morally outraged fundamentalist, Brian, a drunk, and Paul, Lord Ludlow, a wife-beating debt-ridden capitalist.[10]


  1. ^ Sternlicht, Sanford V. (2004). A reader's guide to modern British drama. Syracuse University Press. p. 212. ISBN 978-0-8156-3076-0. 
  2. ^ Brater, Enoch (1995). The theatrical gamut: notes for a post-Beckettian stage. University of Michigan Press. p. 220. ISBN 978-0-472-10583-0. 
  3. ^ Reinelt, Janelle G. (1996). After Brecht: British Epic Theater. University of Michigan Press. p. 18. ISBN 978-0-472-08408-1. 
  4. ^ O'Connor, John (December 2005). "From Sore Throats to Greenland: Howard Brenton's Utopian Plays". Contemporary Justice Review (Routledge) 8 (4): 409–430. doi:10.1080/10282580500334270. ISSN 1028-2580. 
  5. ^ Boon, Richard (1991). Brenton, the playwright. Methuen Drama. p. xiii. ISBN 978-0-413-18970-7. 
  6. ^ Homden, Carol (1995). The plays of David Hare. Cambridge University Press. p. 100. ISBN 978-0-521-42718-0. 
  7. ^ Weiss, Hedy (14 January 1994). "Wild Flight to 'Greenland': Brenton Play Gets U.S. Premiere Here". Chicago Sun-Times. p. 35. 
  8. ^ Stevenson, Randall; Jonathan Bate (2006). The Oxford English Literary History. Oxford University Press. p. 325. ISBN 978-0-19-928835-9. 
  9. ^ Bram, Leon L.; Norma H. Dickey (1989). Funk & Wagnalls New Encyclopedia 1989 Yearbook. Funk & Wagnalls. p. 238. ISBN 978-0-8374-9562-0. 
  10. ^ Christiansen, Richard (19 January 1994). "Famous Door does what it can with 'Greenland'". Chicago Tribune. p. 18.