Mother Clap's Molly House

Previewed 24 August, Opened 4 September 2001, Closed 24 November 2001 at the National Theatre's Lyttelton Theatre
Transferred: Previewed 6 February, Opened 8 February 2002, Closed 23 March 2002 at the Aldwych Theatre in London

Mark Ravenhill's new play with song Mother Clap's Molly House In London directed by Nicholas Hytner.

It's London, 1726, and Mrs Tull's got problems. The whores are giving her a hard time, a man in a dress is looking for a job, her husband has a roving eye, and the apprentice boy keeps disappearing on midnight walks. Meanwhile in 2001, a group of wealthy gay men are preparing for a raunchy party. Mother Clap's Molly House, a black comedy with songs, is a celebration of the diversity of human sexuality, an exploration of our need to form families, and a fascinating insight into a hidden chapter in London's history.

Devised by Mark Ravenhill in workshops with students at the drama college Lamda with songs by Mark Ravenhill and Matthew Scott. Directed by Nicholas Hytner with set designs by Giles Cadle, costumes by Nicky Gillibrand and lighting by Rick Fisher. PLEASE NOTE: This production contains language and scenes which some people may find offensive. Mark Ravenhill's West End credits include Some Explicit Polaroids.

"There is barely a moment in Mother Clap when 18th Century 'Mollies' (gay men) aren't going at it hammer and tongs... There is a serious point to this jubilant sleaze. At the heart of Ravenhill's 'Play with songs' is a fierce satire about how capitalism created and destroyed a gay cultural identity... Ravenhill, drawing inspiration from John Gay's The Beggar's Opera, sets the action in the early 18th Century during the first flush of capitalism. Mother Clap's Molly House is originally a costume shop for female prostitutes. Business is poor. On the owner's death his sullen wife has a blinding flash of greed. Why not cash in on the pink sixpence?... The second act swivels to the present day... A gauche young boy arrives fresh from the country, expecting to discover a glorious gay future. He discovers instead the legacy of Ma Clap's Molly House. In the emancipated 21st Century, sex has become a commodity and relationships are things of convenience. It's an eloquent theme, daringly undressed. But the problem with Nicholas Hytner's production is that the satire is fudged by the conspicuous 'Fun' being had by those on stage." The Mail on Sunday

"Mark Ravenhill's new play is so dirty it is almost pure... The setting is a molly house in 18th-century London. A molly house is not a brothel: it does not sell sex. It is a place where men can hire costumes, cross-dress and enjoy themselves in any way they like, including sexually. What is on sale is, broadly, pleasure.. Nicholas Hytner's direction is spectacular, vigorous, uninhibited and civilised -by which I mean not that it is polite and restrained, but that it takes on board a cargo of moral Semtex and handles it with care, timing the blasts for when they can cause the most constructive damage. Ravenhill's writing is tough, eloquent, and sardonic, with some of the barbed formality of the Restoration style, which gets brutally peeled off in the present-day scenes." The Sunday Times

"The show is not so much laced with bawdy humour as steeped in it, but instead of relying on 'naughty' suggestiveness to crank up the laughs, Ravenhill and the director, Nicholas Hytner, paradoxically create startlingly innocent comedy from refreshingly frank language and staging. Mother Clap's Molly House has a level of purely theatrical ambition missing in nearly all the National Theatre's recent new plays. But the realisation of that ambition is down to Hytner's marvellously animated production. It is peppered with boisterous individual performances and whole scenes are brought to three-dimensional life on Giles Cadle's atmospheric, garret-like set with winning vigour and flair. The evening, however, belongs to Deborah Findlay. Her Mother Clap begins in timidity and terror and grows into a hilarious performance of high comic brilliance which never loses sight of truth and tenderness. Like Caryl Churchill's Serious Money, Mark Ravenhill's play exposes the delights and dangers of commerce, but this constantly surprising evening deserves to do a roaring trade." The Independent

Mother Clap's Molly House in London at the NT Lyttelton Theatre previewed from 24 August, opened on 4 September 2001 and closed on 24 November 2001, transferred to the Aldwych Theatre previewed from 6 February, opened on 8 February 2002 and closed on 23 March 2002.