Fleeing a world he has rejected, Robin finds solace in his music and the sanctuary of his remote family home. But as his kingdom begins to crumble around him, how far will he go to save it and at what cost?
Polly Stenham returns with an anarchic twist on the drawing room drama. Following That Face and Tusk Tusk, her new play asks what is the right way to live?
Day Seats available on £10 Mondays only. Available from 9am on the day of performance. Online only. Click here for more information about £10 Mondays
Polly Stenham’s debut play That Face, written when she was just 19, received its world premiere in 2007 at the Royal Court, having been developed through the Royal Court’s Young Writers Programme, before transferring to the West End. She went on to win both the Evening Standard’s Charles Wintour Award and Critics’ Circle Award for Most Promising Playwright as well as the TMA Award for Best Play. Her second play Tusk Tusk played to sold out houses and critical acclaim in the Jerwood Theatre Upstairs in 2009.
Jeremy Herrin is Associate Director at the Royal Court. His credits at the Royal Court include Hero, Haunted Child, The Heretic, Kin, Spur of the Moment, Off the Endz, The Priory, Tusk Tusk, That Face and The Vertical Hour. Credits elsewhere include This House at the National Theatre, Children’s Children (Almeida), Absent Friends (West End), Uncle Vanya (Chichester), Death and the Maiden (West End), Much Ado About Nothing (Shakespeare’s Globe), South Downs (Chichester and West End).
Age Guidance 14+
Running Time: 1 hour and 45 mins with no interval
No Quarter is supported by the Royal College of Psychiatrists.
Playtext available from our bookshop (UK postage only)
Select a Date
Dates in January
|Fri 11 Jan 2013||7:45pm||Concessions Available, Preview Performance||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Sat 12 Jan 2013||7:45pm||Concessions Available, Preview Performance||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Mon 14 Jan 2013||7:45pm||Preview Performance||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£10|
|Tue 15 Jan 2013||7:45pm||Concessions Available, Preview Performance||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Wed 16 Jan 2013||7:00pm||Press Night||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||Press Night|
|Thu 17 Jan 2013||3:30pm||Concessions Available, Mid-Week Matinee||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Thu 17 Jan 2013||7:45pm||Concessions Available||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Fri 18 Jan 2013||7:45pm||Concessions Available||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Sat 19 Jan 2013||3:30pm||Concessions Available, Saturday Matinees||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Sat 19 Jan 2013||7:45pm||Concessions Available||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Mon 21 Jan 2013||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£10|
|Tue 22 Jan 2013||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Wed 23 Jan 2013||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Thu 24 Jan 2013||3:30pm||Concessions Available, Mid-Week Matinee||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Thu 24 Jan 2013||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Fri 25 Jan 2013||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Sat 26 Jan 2013||3:30pm||Concessions Available, Saturday Matinees||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Sat 26 Jan 2013||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Mon 28 Jan 2013||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£10|
|Tue 29 Jan 2013||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Wed 30 Jan 2013||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Thu 31 Jan 2013||3:30pm||Concessions Available, Mid-Week Matinee||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Thu 31 Jan 2013||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
Dates in February
|Fri 1 Feb 2013||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Sat 2 Feb 2013||3:30pm||Concessions Available, Saturday Matinees||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Sat 2 Feb 2013||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Mon 4 Feb 2013||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£10|
|Tue 5 Feb 2013||7:45pm||Captioned Performance||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Wed 6 Feb 2013||7:45pm||Post-Show Talk||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Thu 7 Feb 2013||3:30pm||Concessions Available, Mid-Week Matinee||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Thu 7 Feb 2013||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Fri 8 Feb 2013||7:45pm||Captioned Performance||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Sat 9 Feb 2013||3:30pm||Concessions Available, Saturday Matinees||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Sat 9 Feb 2013||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
Sold out Performances
Tickets £20 Mondays all seats £10
Concessions £15* (available in advance until 19 Jan incl, and all matinees. For all other performances, available on a standby basis on the day)
School and HE Groups of 8+ £10 (avail. Tue-Fri and mats)
Access £12 (plus a companion at the same rate) *ID required. All discounts are subject to availability.
5 stars The Evening Standard by Fiona Mountford, 17 January 2013
Polly Stenham has been the poster girl playwright for Dominic Cooke’s outstanding tenure at the Royal Court.
Her first play, That Face, won hearts and awards in Cooke’s first season in 2007 and her second, Tusk Tusk, kept the excitement bubbling in 2009. This year is Cooke’s farewell season and Stenham is back with another lacerating blast from her customary upper-middle-class moneyed milieu, a world in which children are always being let down by their parents.
Strangely, what No Quarter brought to mind most viscerally was another of Cooke’s triumphs, Jerusalem. “Rooster” Byron, that play’s anti-hero, couldn’t be more different from privileged mummy’s boy Robin (Tom Sturridge), but what these men grippingly share is the instinctive ferocity with which they are prepared to defend what they see as their territory.
But just sometimes, Stenham reminds us painfully, the myths we tell ourselves about home are all wrong. Living like a “landed gipsy” in a house full of moth-eaten stags’ heads, Robin, a damaged, drug-taking innocent, has agreed to help his dementia suffering mother Lily (Maureen Beattie) to die. The revelation at the end of act one, that Lily has sold Robin’s beloved home to developers, is the catalyst for a disparate — and desperate — cast of characters to arrive on the night of her wake. It’s a mad, modern spin on the traditional country house drama, like Agatha Christie on speed, and is marshalled with verve by Jeremy Herrin, the director of the moment.
Like the play, Sturridge’s performance is weird and wild and winding and wonderful; he’s an exciting and frightening actor who shouldn’t be allowed to absent himself so frequently from our stages. He glides effortlessly through the script’s occasional bagginess and there is wonderful support from Joshua James as an affected young aesthete.
Stenham is that rare thing, a truly exciting writer. Her plays could do with some editing, but her work is scintillatingly alive. There will, no doubt, be new writing this year that is neater or better structured, but it is hard to envisage anything providing this kind of mainlining thrill.
5 stars Whatsonstage by Michael Coveney, 17 January 2013
It’s been a long wait for Polly Stenham’s third play, but well worth it. This is a country house drama brought bang up to date, with Tom Sturridge as Robin, the Jimmy Porter of all disaffected whacked-out mother’s boys, trying to renegotiate his relationship with his chaotic, alcoholic mater Lily (Maureen Beattie), before the ship goes down.
Elements of both former plays, That Face and Tusk Tusk, re-occur in Stenham’s details of dysfunctional families, wayward teenagers, missing parents, drugs, spiked drinks and posh kids’ hedonism; Tom has been home-schooled – he claims to be “landed gypsy” – and has dropped out of music college and bonded with his tattooed coke supplier, a Scouse army veteran (Taron Egerton), sharing his birthday with his mother’s memorial.
But there’s nothing re-heated about Stenham’s writing. It’s fresh, scabrous, often very funny, the long mother and son scene (Lily, like Dorothy Parker, favours one margarita, two at the most; a third, and she’s under the host) a variation on the That Face show-down between Lindsay Duncan and Matt Smith without the incest.
It’s The Vortex updated. Noël Coward comes to mind again in a Hay Fever-like collision of family and guests in an orgiastic fancy dress party scene; as well as in the structural discipline of the piece. The Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams” is Lily’s anthem, and Robin identifies the outside woodland whinnying as the state crying for its nanny.
This is also a play about choices. Robin’s elder brother, Oliver (Patrick Kennedy), is the newly elected MP for Croydon North and represents social engagement, making money, being “real.” Their differences boil down to a well-articulated argument about lifestyle; yet another aspect is embodied in the gorgeously decadent twins, Scout and Arlo (Zoe Boyle and Joshua James), who come to lure Robin back to the bright lights.
And then there is the devoted teenager, Coby (Alexa Davies), and the trainee local policewoman, Esme (Jenny Rainsford), who both pull at Robin’s defunct sense of emotional commitment and come badly unstuck in the process; he’s determined to keep the house and honour his mother, but he doesn’t really know why or how.
Sturridge’s brilliant, compelling performance is made of a myriad tics and mannerisms, but is glued together with a deeply felt sense of purpose and lack of self-esteem, while Jeremy Herrin’s superb production – the high-beamed studio is used by designer Tom Scutt to convey the timbered, cluttered, Edwardian gothic scale of a house past its prime – has the combined impact of Stephen Beresford’s The Last of the Haussmans and Alan Bennett’s People. What a terrific new play to start the New Year.
4 stars Metro by Maxie Szalwinksa by 18 January 2013
Alcoholic, unstable, dead and Awol upper-middle-class parents keep cropping up in Polly Stenham’s dramas. The formula of children trying to keep their tumbledown lives from collapsing in the face of wrecking-ball mothers clicked best in her second play, Tusk Tusk (her 2007 debut That Face was, to my mind, overly praised).
No Quarter, which sits between the two in terms of quality, is about a twentysomething boy-man’s dawning awareness that there is no place like home any more, if ever there was.
Stenham immerses us in the ‘weird little kingdom’ of Robin (Tom Sturridge), a self-described ‘landed gypsy’ who grew up in a dilapidated manor house in the remote countryside – a dusty clutter of stag antlers and tatty antiques in Tom Scutt’s design.
At the start of the play, he’s helping his mother (Maureen Beattie), with whom he has a relationship of all-consuming intimacy and who is suffering from dementia, to commit suicide. After her death, he breaks into her sold house, gets high as a pilot’s lunchbox and hosts a party that tips out of control.
There are times when No Quarter almost flounders – Stenham is far more interested in mood and character than she is in plot. Thankfully, Jeremy Herrin’s seductive production keeps resuscitating it.
Sturridge, his jaw clenched and expression closed, could be more bewitching as damaged wild child Robin. But we grasp why he clings so fiercely to the family pile and it’s a relief when his delusions about it and his parents crumble.
The Observer by Susannah Clapp, 20 January 2013
Polly Stenham’s feral families are at the heart of Dominic Cooke’s Royal Court. First, in 2007, the bullying child and alcoholic mother of That Face. Then the abandoned, sharp-toothed adolescents of Tusk Tusk, which the author is adapting for the movies. In her new play, a mother who is losing her mind – or perhaps never quite had one – and two sons fighting for their lives.
Jeremy Herrin’s nimble production of No Quarter left me winded by its ferocity and tumult, exasperated by its patches of self-indulgence and exhilarated by its sharp surprises. I frequently did not want to be there but I didn’t want to look away. It can be seen as the last play in a trilogy featuring British middle-class youth: it transmits both the alarm and the tedium of being young. Yet it’s also a step forward for Stenham. For all its eccentricity, this is a state-of-the-nation play, with a real debate at the centre. It is striking with what intelligent even-handedness Stenham conducts this debate.
Striking because No Quarter has at its centre a character who could easily hoover up all the energy of the play. Robin – as in Hood – is a college dropout and provoker of accidents. A musician in flight from London, he loiters in his family’s mouldering country home: Tom Scutt’s design wittily conjures up the grubbiness, the antlers on the wall, the superfluous rugs. A self-styled “landed gypsy”, he has something in common with that other rural exile, Jerusalem’s Rooster, but he is crosser, less lyrical, more obviously exploitative. Tom Sturridge – top-knotted and wispy like an androgynous wizard – gives him an eerie Peter Pan grace (he can leap on to a sofa or swing from a beam as if he had wings). His scenes with the magnificent Maureen Beattie – alternately crumpled and frozen-faced as the demented mother – are particularly strong. Yet it’s his exchanges with Patrick Kennedy, as the responsible MP brother, Oliver, that provide the dialogue’s meat. Both are dismayed by the world their parents have bequeathed them. Robin’s reaction is to stick up for the alternative world of art: it’s an argument that is usually a pushover in the theatre. Yet Oliver’s arguments – for engagement with the outside world, for trying to put things right – are put with equal eloquence.
These are not the longest exchanges in the play: an over-extended though well written central section is an extravaganza of snogging and snorting. It’s the combination of both elements, of punk and politics, that makes Stenham such an interesting dramatist.
4 stars Sunday Express by Mark Shenton, 20 January 2013
The Royal Court, consistently the best theatre in London to find new plays, starts the year with No Quarter. It’s another bold, brave hit, and proves how commitment to a playwright can really pay off.
Polly Stenham, a young writer whose first play there was written when she was just 19, now delivers her third and most abrasively detailed yet.
Once again her subject is a dysfunctional family radiating around the legacy of a troubled, neglectful mother.
It is acted with intensity, with the woundingly brilliant Tom Sturridge as the hopelessly damaged son at the centre of it.
Jeremy Herrin directs it with a brooding brilliance that keeps its shifting textures both surprising and shocking.
4 stars Mail on Sunday by Georgina Brown, 27 January 2013
Time and time again, playwrights return to the subject of parents screwing up their children’s lives: Tennessee Williams, Eugene O’Neill and, most recently, 26-year-old Polly Stenham.
In her first play, That Face, the mother was a need alcoholic. In her second, Tusk Tusk, a mother abandoned her children altogether. No Quarter, which Stenham has said is the last in a trilogy, is a more adult take on the issue and suggests that children can strive in spite of, perhaps even because of, a monstrously manipulative mother.
The play is set in a ramshackle room jammed to the rafters with the battered and bruised remnants of a grand country house: a suit of armour, gilded candelabra and stuffed hunting and shooting trophies. It was here that 24-year-old Robin (an elfin Tom Sturridge) claims he was born and home-schooled by his mother Lily. And it is where, having dropped out of his music studies, he has taken refuge. He calls himself a ‘landed gypsy’.
His older MP brother, Oliver, bursts in to find him apparently on a bender. But things are never quite as they seem in this whirlwind of a play, which is filled with exhilarating twists. The raddled woman in a dressing gown whom Robin hides from Oliver is not, after all, some unsuitable Mrs Robinson, but Lily (the marvellous Maureen Beattie), who is suffering from dementia and expecting Robin to help her die.
Stenham is not, however, interesting in exploring the rights and wrongs of euthanasia. Instead, the play becomes a well-focused rant against the internet for trading ‘information not thought’, as well as debate about the appropriate response to the rottenness of contemporary society. Robin has chosen withdrawal; Oliver wants to get out there and change things.
But it also becomes a rave (overextended in my view) which has Robin’s cocaine supplier, a tattooed Scouser named Tom, snorting and snogging with a pair of exquisitely elegant incestuous twins who share a private language as well as lovers.
Robin says whisky tastes of ‘tweed’ and Stenham squeezes lovely jokes out of a cat called God. Clever and quirky, her writing never fails to delight.
Fri 11 Jan, 7:45pm Sat 12 Jan, 7:45pm Tue 15 Jan, 7:45pm Thu 17 Jan, 3:30pm Thu 17 Jan, 7:45pm Fri 18 Jan, 7:45pm Sat 19 Jan, 3:30pm Sat 19 Jan, 7:45pm Thu 24 Jan, 3:30pm Sat 26 Jan, 3:30pm Thu 31 Jan, 3:30pm Sat 2 Feb, 3:30pm Thu 7 Feb, 3:30pm Sat 9 Feb, 3:30pm
Fri 11 Jan, 7:45pm Sat 12 Jan, 7:45pm Mon 14 Jan, 7:45pm Tue 15 Jan, 7:45pm
Wed 16 Jan, 7:00pm
Thu 17 Jan, 3:30pm Thu 24 Jan, 3:30pm Thu 31 Jan, 3:30pm Thu 7 Feb, 3:30pm
Sat 19 Jan, 3:30pm Sat 26 Jan, 3:30pm Sat 2 Feb, 3:30pm Sat 9 Feb, 3:30pm
Tue 5 Feb, 7:45pm Fri 8 Feb, 7:45pm
Wed 6 Feb, 7:45pm