Plenty

Original London Production 1978

Original West End Production 1999


Play by David Hare. Plenty traces its heroine Susan Traherne across twenty years, from France in 1943 to London in the 60s. A moving and passionate account of a life lived in dissent.


Original London Production 1978

Previewed 7 April 1978, Opened 12 April 1978, Closed 4 November 1978 (in repertory) at the Lyttelton Theatre

Presented by the National Theatre. The cast featured Kate Nelligan as 'Susan Traherne' with Paul Freeman as 'Codename Lazer', Julie Covington as 'Alice Park', Basil Henson as 'Sir Leonard Darwin', Stephen Moore as 'Raymond Brock', Lindsay Duncan as 'Dorcas Frey' and David Schofield as 'Mick' along with Robert Ralph as 'a Frenchman', Gill Brailey as 'Louise', Kristopher Kum as 'Mr Aung', Me Me Lai as 'Mrs Aung', Tom Durham as 'John Begley', Frederick Treves as 'Sir Andrew Charleson' and Timothy Davies as 'a Frenchman'. Directed by David Hare with sets by Hayden Griffin, costumes by Deidre Clancy, lighting by Rory Dempster, music by Nick Bicat and sound by Julian Beech.


Original West End Production 1999

Previewed 15 April, Opened 27 April 1999, Closed 24 July 1999 at the Abery Theatre (now Noel Coward Theatre)

Presented as part of The Almeida Season at the Albery Theatre. The cast featured Cate Blanchett as 'Susan Traherne' with Duncan Bell as 'Codename Lazer', Debra Gillet as 'Alice Park', Richard Johnson as 'Sir Leonard Darwin', Julian Wadham as 'Raymond Brock', Katie Blake as 'Dorcas Frey' and Alec Newman as 'Mick' along with Alain Bourgouin as 'a Frenchman', Heather Dickinson as 'Louise', Burt Kwouk as 'Mr Aung', Jacqui Chan as 'Mrs Aung', Jamie de Courcey as 'John Begley', Jeremy Child as 'Sir Andrew Charleson' and George Trillat as 'a Frenchman'. Directed by Jonathan Kent with designs by Maria Björnson, lighting by Mark Henderson, music by Jonathan Dove and sound by John A Leonard.

"The play dramatises the intriguing statistic that 75 per cent of women flown behind the lines for the Special Operations Executive in the war were subsequently divorced. Ms Blanchett plays - or rather lives - the part of Susan Traherne, a posh English resistance agent who loses her marbles in drab post-war Britain. Blanchett rips up the carpet - in a series of ravishing dresses - wrecking polite dinner parties, boozing and smoking manically to recapture the sense of purpose she found in war. The performance is wired, erotic and superbly flaky. She wobbles here and there vocally, but the intensity is astonishing. She meets her match in downbeat Julian Wadham as her decent foreign office husband, Brock. There are laughs from Burt Kwouk as the oriental diplomat and from Richard Johnson, wonderful as the starchy British ambassador who honourably falls on his sword over the Suez crisis. By turns depressing, funny and puzzling, the play is a snapshot of a life in crisis in a country that has also lost the plot. The Almeida Theatre production - with ingenious sets by Maria Bjornson - is directed with a haunting sense of tragedy by Jonathan Kent." The Daily Express

"When we meet Cate Blanchett's Susan Traherne it is London in 1962, and she is a middle-aged Foreign Office wife about to leave the husband whose career she has ruined. Then the scene switches back to occupied France in 1943, and we begin to see the reasons for her decline. She is a 17-year-old British agent, meeting a spy who has dropped by parachute into Gestapo country, and, despite the tears that suddenly erupt from a seemingly aloof, controlled Blanchett, she feels purposeful, significant, even patriotic. David Hare's point is that we emerged from the Hitler war believing that England would soon flow with milk and honey, and instead we got a flood of marketing men, ad agencies and City speculators. 'Plenty' was promised; but, by the time Hare's darting, cinematic narrative has reached mid-1962, what has mainly been delivered is blasted hopes and thwarted dreams... Susan is a muddle and a puzzle, a conformist rebel and a destructive idealist. Her war behind the lines left her longing for a nation fit for heroes. It also made her tricky and callous, a woman too restless and self-absorbed to create anything fit for anyone... All this asks Blanchett to be svelte and assured, bitter and brassy, crazily aggressive, and, as when her doomed hopes of motherhood enter the emotional equation, oddly vulnerable; and Blanchett gives us the lot... Add Maria Bjornson's series of period-picture sets; throw in able performances from the rest of Jonathan Kent's cast, which includes Julian Wadham as Susan's put-upon spouse, Debra Gillett as her bohemian-drifter friend, and Richard Johnson and Jeremy Child as senior diplomats; and you have Plenty enough to enjoy." The Times

"Played with extraordinary force, grace and passion by Cate Blanchett... On stage she is looser, limber, altogether larger, with coltish movement, flowing blonde hair, fearless energy, a great voice and an almost frightening emotional power... The play, given a tough, springy production by Jonathan Kent and a brilliant design by Maria Bjornson - Whitehall, the Embankment, Knightsbridge and grubby Pimlico conjured within a camera-like shutter frame - lives urgently, and gloriously, once more. Susan is both a specific and a symbolic character, and Miss Blanchett hits exactly the right sound of despair, rhetoric and self-dramatisation. She is a marvel, and a revelation... Julian Wadham is superb as the hapless diplomatic husband, Debra Gillett sharp and funny as Susan's bohemian sidekick, a new child of the 1960s. Overall, the show constitutes another triumph in the Almeida Theatre's colonisation of the West End. Unmissable." The Daily Mail

"My disappointment at Cate Blanchett's West End of London stage debut in Plenty may be more my fault than hers. Perhaps it's unfair to expect threatrical perfection from a performer just because she was nominated for an Oscar and then won a BAFTA Best Actress award for Elizabeth. Certainly I found Ms Blanchett's Susan Traherne, David Hare's sad central character in his 1978 play, too strident by half. If you pitch a performance somewhere up in the rafters from the start, there's nowhere to go but into orbit when the drama heightens. But Hare's examination of women adjusting to a crumbling peacetime Britain after what the author calls the 'exhilaration and danger' of their wartime experiences - the action takes place between 1943 and 1962 - is so strong that, creaking only slightly with age, it still makes for a compelling evening. And there's strong ensemble acting from a large cast, in which Richard Johnson, as a jaundiced diplomat, especially shines, and some smashing, evocative sets by Maria Bjornson. 'There will be days and days and days like this,' says a sun-dappled Susan, surrounded by golden wheat at the very end of Jonathan Kent's meticulous revival. There weren't, of course. In terms of human idealism and social justice, Plenty became less, which, come to think of it, is what I would have welcomed from Ms Blanchett." The News of the World

Plenty in London at the Albery Theatre (now Noel Coward Theatre) previewed from 15 April 1999, opened on 27 April 1999 and closed on 24 July 1999