Plenty (play)

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Plenty is a play by David Hare, first performed in 1978, about British post-war disillusion. Susan Traherne, a former secret agent, is a woman conflicted by the contrast between her past, exciting triumphs—she had worked behind enemy lines as a Special Operations Executive courier in Nazi-occupied France during World War II—and the mundane nature of her present life, as the increasingly depressed wife of a diplomat whose career she has destroyed. Viewing society as morally bankrupt, Susan has become self-absorbed, bored, and destructive — the slow deterioration in her mental health mirrors the crises in the ruling class of post-war Britain.

Susan Traherne's story is told in a non-linear chronology, alternating between her wartime and post-wartime lives, illustrating how youthful dreams rarely are realised and how a person's personal life can affect the outside world.


Hare's inspiration for Plenty came from the fact that 75 per cent of the women engaged in wartime SOE operations divorced in the immediate post-war years; the title is derived from the idea that the post-war era would be a time of "plenty", which proved untrue for most of England. Directed by the playwright, Plenty was first performed at the Lyttelton Theatre on 7 April 1978, featuring Kate Nelligan as "Susan", the protagonist; it was nominated for the Olivier Award as Play of the Year and Nelligan as Best Actress in a New Play, losing to Whose Life is it Anyway? and Joan Plowright in Filumena.[1]

The first New York City production, also directed by Hare, opened on 21 October 1982, at the Public Theater; it ran 45 performances, with Nelligan reprising the role of Susan, supported by Kelsey Grammer and Dominic Chianese. After eleven previews, the Broadway production (directed by Hare) opened on 6 January 1983 at the Plymouth Theatre, for 92 performances, wherein Nelligan was joined by Edward Herrmann, Daniel Gerroll, Madeleine Potter, and George N. Martin.

In 1985, Hare's film adaptation was directed by Fred Schepisi, with Meryl Streep as Susan, and Charles Dance, Tracey Ullman, John Gielgud, Sting, Ian McKellen, and Sam Neill in supporting roles. Ullman and Gielgud were nominated for BAFTA Awards, and Gielgud was named Best Supporting Actor by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association and the National Society of Film Critics.

In 1999, Cate Blanchett also played the leading role of the play in a celebrated performance in London's Albery Theatre.[2] From 3 to 26 February 2011 the play was revived at the Crucible Theatre as part of a David Hare season (alongside Racing Demon and The Breath of Life), featuring Hattie Morahan, Edward Bennett and Bruce Alexander.[3]

Awards and nominations[edit]

  • Tony Award for Best Play (nominee)
  • Tony Award for Best Actor in Play (Herrmann, nominee)
  • Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play (Nelligan, nominee)
  • Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Play (Martin, nominee)
  • New York Drama Critics' Circle Award for Best Foreign Play of the 1982–83 Season (winner)

See also[edit]


External links[edit]