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079 – The Hills of California, by Jez Butterworth

079 – The Hills of California, by Jez Butterworth

079 – The Hills of California, by Jez Butterworth

It is the Summer of 1976, and Britain is sweltering through record heat and sunshine. The proprietress of the Seaview guest house in Blackpool lies dying upstairs, and her three, possibly four, daughters are coming together to say goodbye to her. This is the setting of The Hills of California, a new play by Jez Butterworth, which as we record this episode is playing at the Harold Pinter Theatre in London

A new play by Jez Butterworth is a theatrical event. He has written eight plays over the past 30 years, including his breakout hit Mojo, The River, The Ferryman, and most famously Jerusalem, which we covered in episode 50 of the podcast. As in his last play, The Ferryman, The Hills of California is a multi-generational family drama that features a large ensemble cast. Do not be misled by the play’s title, however, as we are not in sunny California, but in the baking back-streets of Blackpool. The Hills of California, as described in Johnny Mercer’s song of the same name, stands in for a far-away dream for Veronica and her four daughters in Blackpool.

The play alternates between the daughters’ reunion in 1976 as their mother is dying, and scenes from their childhood back in 1955, when Veronica had dreams of molding her four girls into a famous singing troupe in the model of the Andrews Sisters. She drills them in song and dance routines, determined that one day they will perform at the London Palladium or even Carnegie Hall. Needless to say, things don’t turn out as they’d all hoped for. The play is a portrait of lost dreams, of deeply ingrained patterns of love and hurt within a family, and of suppressed and mutable memories.

I am joined to explore this major new play by Dr Sean McEvoy, who is a Fellow in English at Murray Edwards College at the University of Cambridge. Sean is the author of Class, Culture and Tragedy in the Plays of Jez Butterworth published in 2021, and a great fan of his work.

Listen to our episode on Jez Butterworth’s Jerusalem here:
050 Jerusalem

 

Sean McEvoy

Dr Sean McEvoy is a Fellow in English at Murray Edwards College at the University of Cambridge. Sean has taught drama at sixth form, undergrad and post-grad levels, as well as published books on Shakespeare (Shakespeare – The Basics), Tragedy (Tragedy – The Basics), and riots on the stage (Theatrical Unrest: Ten Riots in the History of the Stage 1601-2004), but most importantly for our purposes he is the author of Class, Culture and Tragedy in the Plays of Jez Butterworth published in 2021.

 

Recommended Play

Sean recommended Bingo by Edward Bond.

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080 – Long Day’s Journey into Night, by Eugene O’Neill

080 – Long Day’s Journey into Night, by Eugene O’Neill

Eugene O’Neill wrote his autobiographical magnum opus, Long Day’s Journey into Night, in 1941, but because of the personal revelations it contained he gave explicit instructions that it was not to be published until 25 years after his death and that it should never be staged. In the event his widow allowed both to occur in 1956, only three years after his death, when the play won O’Neill his fourth Pulitzer prize.

As we record this episode, a powerful new production of the play is playing in London, with Brian Cox and Patricia Clarkson heading the cast. I am delighted and privileged to talk with the production’s director, Jeremy Herrin, about O’Neill’s monumental play.

Photo by Johan Persson.

079 – The Hills of California, by Jez Butterworth

079 – The Hills of California, by Jez Butterworth

A new Jez Butterworth play is a theatrical event. The Hills of California is currently running at the Harold Pinter theare in London’s West End, directed by Sam Mendes. Do not be misled by the title, however, we are not in sunny California, but in the back streets of Blackpool, where four daughters come together to say goodbye to their dying mother. The play is a portrait of lost dreams, of deeply ingrained patterns of love and hurt within a family, and of suppressed and mutable memories.

I’m joined to explore this major new work by Sean McEvoy, author of Class, Culture and Tragedy in the Plays of Jez Butterworth.

078 – The Lover and The Collection, by Harold Pinter

078 – The Lover and The Collection, by Harold Pinter

We have a double-bill in this episode of two short plays written by Harold Pinter in the early 1960s: The Lover and The Collection, both of which explore sexual compulsion and the manipulation of truth within marriage or partnerships. As we record this episode a new production of both plays is playing at the Theatre Royal in Bath, directed by Lindsay Posner.

I’m delighted to welcome Lindsay back to the podcast to talk about these two Pinter gems.

Claudie Blakley and David Morrissey in The Lover
Photo by Nobby Clark

Sean McEvoy

Sean McEvoy

Sean McEvoy

Dr Sean McEvoy is a Fellow in English at Murray Edwards College at the University of Cambridge. Sean has taught drama at sixth form, undergrad and post-grad levels, as well as published books on Shakespeare (Shakespeare – The Basics), Tragedy (Tragedy – The Basics), and riots on the stage (Theatrical Unrest: Ten Riots in the History of the Stage 1601-2004), but most importantly for our purposes he is the author of Class, Culture and Tragedy in the Plays of Jez Butterworth published in 2021.

Recommended Play(s)

Sean recommended Bingo by Edward Bond.