Secret Rapture

Play by David Hare. With the death of their father, two estranged sisters - Marion, a hard-nosed Thatcherite government minister, and Isobel a warm-hearted liberal - forge an uneasy reconciliation. As they try to put their father's affairs into order, the sisters must deal with the burden of their emotionally scarred, alcoholic young stepmother Katherine. Isobel, always the magnanimous one, reluctantly gives Katherine a job in her graphic design company. It is an act of kindness that turns out to be highly destructive. As a result of Katherine's manipulation, Isobel's career and personal life dissolve into chaos and violence.

NOTE: Age recommendation 13+ (contains strong language).

1988: Original London Production at the NT Lyttelton Theatre

2003: Original West End London Production at the Lyric Theatre

A film version was released in 1994, adapted by David Hare and directed by Howard Davies, with a cast that featured Penelope Wilton, reprising her stage role from the London Premiere, as 'Marion French', Juliet Stevenson as 'Isobel Coleridge', Joanne Whalley-Kilmer as 'Katherine Coleridge', Penelope Wilton as 'Marion French', Neil Pearson as 'Patrick Steadman', Alan Howard as 'Tom French', and Robert Stephens as 'Max Lopert'.

David Hare's other plays include The Breath of Life, Via Dolorosa, The Blue Room, Judas Kiss, Amy's View, Skylight, and Plenty.


1988: Original London Production at the NT Lyttelton Theatre

Previewed 26 September 1988, Opened 4 October 1988, Closed 27 March 1989 (in repertory) at the National Theatre's Lyttelton Theatre

Returned 17 May 1989, Closed 26 September 1989 (in repertory) at the National Theatre's Lyttelton Theatre

The first cast featured Jill Baker as 'Isobel Glass', Penelope Wilton as 'Marion French', Paul Shelley as 'Tom French', Clare Higgins as 'Katherine Glass', Arkie Whiteley as 'Rhonda Milne', and Mick Ford as 'Irwin Posner' - from Monday 26 September 1988 to Monday 27 March 1989.

The second cast featured Diana Hardcastle as 'Isobel Glass', Susan Tracy as 'Marion French', Richard O'Callaghan as 'Tom French', Anna Calder-Marshall as 'Katherine Glass', Valerie Gogan as 'Rhonda Milne', and Simon Templeman as 'Irwin Posner' - from Wednesday 17 May 1989 to Tuesday 26 September 1989.

Directed by Howard Davies, with sets by John Gunter, costumes by Fotini Dimou, lighting by Nick Chelton, music by Ilona Sekacz, and sound by Paul Groothuis.


2003: Original West End London Production at the Lyric Theatre

Previewed 17 November 2003, opened 26 November 2003, closed 21 February 2004 at the Lyric Theatre

A major revival David Hare's Secret Rapture in London starring Belinda Lang, Jenny Seagrove and Simon Shepherd

The cast featured Jenny Seagrove as 'Isobel Glass', Belinda Lang as 'Marion French', Peter Egan as 'Tom French', Liza Walker as 'Katherine Glass', Simon Shepherd as 'Rhonda Milne', and Melanie Gutteridge as 'Irwin Posner'.

Directed by Guy Retallack, with designed by Robert Jones, and lighting by Oliver Fenwick.

Jenny Seagrove's London theatre credits include playing the roles of 'Constance Middleton' in Edward Hall's revival of William Somerset Maugham's The Constant Wife at the Apollo Theatre in 2002; 'Olive Madison' in Elijah Moshinsky's production of Neil Simon's The (female) Odd Couple at the Apollo Theatre in 2001; 'Laura' in Roger Redfarn's production of Noel Coward's Brief Encounter at the Lyric Theatre in 2000; 'Julia' in Auriol Smith's producton of Richard Harris' Dead Guilty at the Apollo Theatre in 1995; 'Annie Sullivan' in Richard Olivier's revival of William Gibson's The Miracle Worker at the Comedy Theatre in 1994; and 'Joanna Lyppiatt' in Tom Conti's revival of Noel Coward's Present Laughter at the Globe Theatre in 1993.

Belinda Lang's London theatre credits include the roles of 'Sonia' in Jennie Darnell's revival of Yasmina Reza's Life x 3 at the Savoy Theatre in 2002; 'Barbara' in Alan Ayckbourn's production of his comedy Things We Do for Love at the Duchess Theatre in 1998; 'Eleanor' in Terry Johnson's production of his comedy Dead Funny at the Savoy Theatre in 1995; and 'Daphne Stillington' in Alan Strachan's revival of Noel Coward's Present Laughter at the Greenwich Theatre, and transfer to the West End's Vaudeville Theatre in 1981.

Peter Egan's London theatre credits include the role of 'Lloyd Dallas' in Jeremy Sams' revival of Michael Frayn's Noises Off at the National Theatre's Lyttelton Theatre in 2000, and transfer to the Piccadilly Theatre in 2001.

Liza Walker's London theatre credits include the role of 'Alice' in Patrick Marber's production of his play Closer at the National Theatre's Cottesloe Theatre and Lyttelton Theatre in 1997, and transfer to the West End's Lyric Theatre in 1998.

"What a difference a decade or two make. Fifteen years ago, Sir David Hare's play was a blistering commentary on public and private morality in Thatcher's Britain. Now it is a bleak comedy; dramatic rapture is now comic rupture, the characters more like caricatures. A bookseller has died. His daughter Marion is a Tory junior minister who cannot forgive her sister for being so non-judgmental and nice all the time. Good sister Isobel feels a duty to help her dad's floosie widow, a raving alcoholic, by giving her a job in her design business. Bad sister Marion asset strips the business. It all ends in tears as Isobel loses everything - even her floppy-haired boyfriend. Hare's play was once a tragedy for our times. Now, as a funny-sour comment on the sheer awfulness of families, it has got fresh legs." The Daily Express

"In David Hare's The Secret Rapture an elderly bookseller dies, and his daughters, Isobel and Marion, are left with the problem of what to do about Katherine, their youngish alcoholic stepmother. Isobel, who runs a small design firm, is kind and good. Marion is bad - so bad that she is a junior minister in the Thatcher government. Marion persuades Isobel to give Katherine a job, but like many of Isobel's good deeds it leads to unintended grief. The play itself is of small merit but some historical interest... it is chiefly remarkable for the crude colours and clumsy workmanship with which Marion is portrayed. She is a glaring, life-denying harpy, and poor Isobel, inevitably pales beside her." The Sunday Telegraph

"Fifteen years on, David Hare's 1988 play Secret Rapture about the greed-is-good culture of Thatcher's Britain strikes me as dated and feeble and, in Guy Retallack's sluggish production, twice as long and laboured as it might have been. Marion is a Tory Minister, a stereotypical Thatcherite witch, acquisitive and uncaring. Her sister, Isobel, is the flip-side, selfless and generous. Following their father's death, the sisters' attitudes are tested by their predatory stepmother, Katherine, a confused, volatile alcoholic. In the programme, Hare states that his 'magnificent' theme is that good people bring out the worst in us. He can say that again. Poor Jenny Seagrove in the unenviable part of the priggish martyr, Isobel, enraged me almost to strangling point. As did Hare's simplistic idea that small companies are inevitably destroyed by expansion. Even the would-be amusing portrait of the chairman of Christians In Business, played by Peter Egan, seems out of place and out of time." The Mail on Sunday

Secret Rapture in London at the Lyric Theatre previewed from 17 November 2003, opened on 26 November 2003, and closed on 21 February 2004.