The Royal Court Theatre Presents
Vera Vera Vera
by Hayley Squires
22 March – 14 April 2012
Jerwood Theatre Upstairs
Tickets: £20. Mondays all seats £10.
‘Bobby’s dead and you’re still breathing. That’s a fucking walking talking tragedy that is.’
The boy who comes back from a war far away in a wooden box is glorified and called a hero. As the funeral plans are made in a small Kent town, his siblings squabble over who he was. Maybe the fanfare isn’t needed for this heroic martyr.
Vera Vera Vera is a blackly comic play about what we are willing to fight for. Hayley Squires is a bracing new voice, clear eyed and loud, looking at violence, neglect and apathy.
Hayley Squires is an actor. This is her first play and her first submission to the Royal Court.
Director Jo McInnes most recently directed Red Bud at the Royal Court, as well as appearing in Wastwater by Simon Stephens as an actor. Her directorial credits also The Verdict in 2007 on BBC1 and the world premiere of Marine Parade by Simon Stephens at the Brighton Festival.
Running time 1hr approx
Vera Vera Vera is part of Young Writers Festival 2012
£10 Monday tickets available on the day of perf from 9am online, 10am in-person.
An in-person waiting list for returns for sold out performances operates from 1hr before each performance.
Pay What You Like tickets for Friday 23 March will be released at 10am at the Box Office for in-person callers.
Under 26s tickets £8
Join in the conversation @ Twitter #vera
Playtext available from our bookshop (UK postage only)
The Young Writers Festival is supported by the National Lottery through Arts Council England and is in partnership with the European Commission Representation in the UK, with additional support from the Dr. Mortimer and Theresa Sackler Foundation.
Vera Vera Vera will be transferring to Theatre Local Peckham this summer, 4 – 28 July. For more information on Theatre Local visit our News Section
Select a Date
Dates in March
|Thu 22 Mar 2012||7:45pm||Concessions Available, Preview Performance||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Fri 23 Mar 2012||7:45pm||Preview Performance||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||Pay What You Like|
|Sat 24 Mar 2012||7:45pm||Concessions Available, Preview Performance||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Mon 26 Mar 2012||7:00pm||Press Night||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Tue 27 Mar 2012||7:45pm||Concessions Available||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Wed 28 Mar 2012||7:45pm||Concessions Available||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Thu 29 Mar 2012||3:30pm||Concessions Available, Mid-Week Matinee||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Thu 29 Mar 2012||7:45pm||Concessions Available||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Fri 30 Mar 2012||8:30pm||Concessions Available||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Sat 31 Mar 2012||3:30pm||Concessions Available, Saturday Matinees||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Sat 31 Mar 2012||8:30pm||Concessions Available||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
Dates in April
|Mon 2 Apr 2012||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£10. Tickets released 9am|
|Tue 3 Apr 2012||7:45pm||Post-Show Talk||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Wed 4 Apr 2012||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Thu 5 Apr 2012||3:30pm||Concessions Available, Mid-Week Matinee||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Thu 5 Apr 2012||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Sat 7 Apr 2012||3:30pm||Concessions Available, Saturday Matinees||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Sat 7 Apr 2012||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Tue 10 Apr 2012||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Wed 11 Apr 2012||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Thu 12 Apr 2012||3:30pm||Concessions Available, Mid-Week Matinee||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Thu 12 Apr 2012||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Fri 13 Apr 2012||8:30pm||Captioned Performance||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Sat 14 Apr 2012||3:30pm||Concessions Available, Saturday Matinees||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Sat 14 Apr 2012||8:30pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
Sold out Performances
Mondays all seats £10 (available on the day of perf from 9am online, 10am in-person.)
Under 26s £8 (excluding Mondays)
Concessions £5 off (available in advance for all performances until 31 March inclusive and all matinees. For all other performances, available on a standby basis on the day)
School and HE Groups of 8+ 50% off (available Tuesday–Friday)
Access £12 (plus a companion at the same rate)
Pay-What-You-Like Friday 23 March (available on the day of perf from 10am)
4 stars The Telegraph by Charles Spencer, 28 March 2012
This fine and moving debut play forms part of the Royal Court’s Young Writers Festival and its author, Hayley Squires, an actress who recently graduated from drama school, is just 23.
Yet there is a wise compassion about her writing that strikes me as remarkable, and she packs more into the hour-long running-time than many established dramatists achieve in three times that length. The play is often desperately bleak, but there are moments of great tenderness and the possibility of hope too. Watching it, I was reminded of Thomas Hardy’s famous line: “If a way to the better there be, it exacts a full look at the worst.”
The worst has indeed happened to the family at the centre of this play. Bobby, a young soldier from a small town in Kent has been killed in Afghanistan, attempting to save the life of a comrade. His unseen mother is in bed in a haze of Prozac, and won’t even attend the funeral. His older brother, Danny, is a vile and violent drug dealer who is planning to put a notice on the church door saying, “No brown people allowed”. His sister, Emily, is a promiscuous, self-loathing neurotic wreck who requires a line or two of “sniff” to get her through the funeral.
But there are also examples of courage and moral decency. Bobby’s best friend, Lee, bravely stands up to Danny even when threatened with a glassing; and a 16-year-old boy, Sammy, fights to protect the honour of the dead soldier’s cousin, a schoolgirl called Charlie. The gauche romance between these two teenagers is beautifully caught in writing and acting that recalls Bill Forsyth’s lovely film Gregory’s Girl.
Most moving of all though is the scene when, with admirable honesty, Emily comes to understand the wrong direction her life has taken. “I don’t even know where my heart is,” she says in a hauntingly beautiful line, but one senses that with the help of the loyal Lee, she might finally locate it.
The director, Jo McInnes, finds all the strengths of this terrific debut, juxtaposing the play’s violence and despair with moments of humour and aching tenderness. And the use of Vera Lynn songs to punctuate the scenes conjures up a kinder, wiser, and more decent England than the one we inhabit today.
The acting is superb. Danielle Flett is especially fine as the tense, self-loathing Emily, who finally discerns the faintest glimmer of hope; Tommy McDonnell is horribly persuasive as her sadistic brother while Daniel Kendrick touchingly captures the decency and courage of Lee. There is wonderful work too from Abby Rakic-Platt and Ted Riley, who both enchantingly capture the embarrassment and the ecstasy of mixed-up teenagers in love.
Variety by David Benedict, 28 March 2012
Rage in “Vera Vera Vera” is counterbalanced by wit — sometimes bitter, sometimes uproarious — and even the most vicious moments carry raw tenderness that holds the audience in thrall. Conflicting emotions are expected in a drama about the return of a dead soldier from Afghanistan. What you don’t expect is for those emotions to be held in such grippingly mature balance in a first-time playwright. Graced by transfixing performances in Jo McInnes’ production, Hayley Squires’ debut is small at just 60 minutes, but its reach is big.
Squires wrongfoots the audience from the start. The opening scene (of five) in which 16-year-old Sammy (touchingly open Ted Riley) and Charlie (Abby Rakic-Platt) sound each other out during school lunch break doesn’t even seem to be addressing the play’s central theme. Yet not only do we later learn how Charlie is connected to the dead soldier Bobby, we are also introduced to the mode that governs all the characters’ lives: fighting.
Sammy, a young boxer, is furious with another (unseen) boy and is threatening to beat him up, an action that upsets but also excites Charlie. Across three scenes set over one day, we see not only the outcome of the fight but a tentative romance developing between the two.
Their scenes are interlaced with even more hostile confrontations three months earlier between Bobby’s sister Emily (Danielle Flett), his drug-dealer brother Danny (cold-as-ice and terrifying Tommy McDonnell) and his best friend Lee (put-upon Daniel Kendrick) who, secretly, is sleeping with Emily. Bobby’s imminent return to their village is going to be a news story and the possibility of TV exposure pushes beliefs — some racist, mostly foul-mouthed, all violent — out from hiding.
Exchanges between the three of them aren’t just blunt, they’re brutal. Since bullying Danny’s supply of drugs controls them all, Danny is lethally intent upon wielding his power. But Squires doesn’t write shouting matches. She constantly makes you aware of the emotional toll and the cost of the hatred that is running and ruining her characters’ lives.
That’s clearest of all in Emily. Wire-thin and taut with the need to appear strong, Flett vividly conveys Emily’s exhaustion. Ground-down to the point of truth-telling — “We aren’t good people, Lee, we’re shit” — her clear-eyed delivery of how they really are is simply bewitching.
After a riskily fast opening, McInnes’ pacing and direction of the emotional undertow is so acute that Squires’ metaphor achieves its link to both the poetic and the overtly political with neither strain or sentimentality.
As with previous breakthrough discoveries at the Royal Court Young Writers Festival including U.S. dramatist Christopher Shinn and the U.K.‘s Simon Stephens, this will surely launch Squires’s career. The running time, caustic nature of her writing and the eschewal of, for the most part, developing plot means “Vera Vera Vera” will have a future probably confined to small-scale theaters. But the compassion surging through her lacerating dialogue and her structural command promise a glowing future for the playwright.
The Observer by Susannah Clapp, 1 April 2012
Vera Vera Vera, Hayley Squires’s first play (she is 23), is a sharp, hour-long sliver: a series of sketches driven by pointless pugilism and distress and played out to the sound of Vera Lynn heartwarmers. A soldier killed in Afghanistan is being eulogised out of his real existence; in a family stunned into silence by his death, two teenagers try to find their way towards each other and comfort.
The kind-hearted core is made too explicit (“cuddles” is a squirm-making word) but the subject is real, the dialogue fierce and Jo McInnes’s excellent direction makes the play feel ample. The action is not hurled around but kept in a state of constant vigilance. Actors not on stage stand at the side, looking on; between scenes they muscle into the changes in character, shifting props around with chivalry, neatness or brutish swagger.
Even the washed-up older generation are young: a past-hope trio of coked-up twentysomethings who lie to themselves and each other. Tommy McDonnell is all heavy assurance; Danielle Flett slowly shrivels; Daniel Kendrick touts a deceptive calm. The youngest actors – barely out of their teens – look as if they’d just slouched or roared into the theatre and are simply waiting for the audience to settle so that they can continue their story. Ted Riley blazes with uncontainable energy; Abby Rakic-Platt’s glowing face after a first kiss ignites the Theatre Upstairs
The Sunday Times by Maxie Szalwinska, 1 April 2012
There’s a vigorous pulse of indignation to Hayley Squires’s first play. A young soldier called Bobby has been killed in Helmand province, leaving his thuggish brother, Danny (Tommy McDonnell), and sister, Emily (Danielle Flett), back home in Kent to fight like cats in a sack over who he really was and what he died for. While the siblings verbally maul each other, Bobby’s teenage cousin, Charlie, is tentatively flirting with Sammy, a school chum. Squires’s short drama gets derailed by obviousness, but the playwright brings an economical wit to her frequently foul-mouthed characters, who emerge as casualties of small-town anomie, with little to do except drink and get high. And the acting in Jo McInnes’s production is top-notch, from Ted Riley and Abby Rakic-Platt as the increasingly loved-up teens to Flett’s Emily, a woman teetering on the edge of collapse or self-discovery.
The New York Times by Matt Wolf, 3 April 2012
At the Royal Court’s tiny Theatre Upstairs, Hayley Squires, a 23-year-old actress, is making a most impressive playwriting debut. Her play’s title, “Vera Vera Vera,” pays reference to the scene-change music of the venerable English singer-songwriter Dame Vera Lynn (born 1917), whose melodies exert a nostalgic pull at odds with the raw contemporaneity of Ms. Squires’s script.
With her play fringed at every turn by the threat of violence, Ms. Squires is writing about the way forward from rage and grief. (The solution — a cuddle or two — is squirm-inducing in a way that the play as a whole is not.) While the teenage Charlie (short for Charlene) does her best to unpack the language of “Romeo and Juliet” for school, she finds a confidant and possible boyfriend courtesy of the pugilistic Sammy, who comes armed with both a hotline to Shakespeare and a readiness to use his fists to settle a score elsewhere.
The pair’s burgeoning rapport is intercut with events three months earlier surrounding the death in Afghanistan of Charlie’s (unseen) cousin, Bobby, whose funeral unleashes the full fury of the dead soldier’s two siblings, Emily and Danny, the second of whom is played by Tommy McDonnell with an unwavering rabidity that casts a real chill. (Jo McInnes’s expert direction locates the adrenalin rush inherent in even a scene change.)
In thrall in varying amounts to drink and drugs, Emily and Danny circle one another like attack dogs waiting to be unleashed. But Ms. Squires is careful all the while to convey an array of family members offstage that takes into account a mother who would seem to have checked out of life in all but the most literal way. The toxicity in the air is fueled by the seemingly mild-mannered Lee (Daniel Kendrick, excellent), Bobby’s placatory best friend, whose own connection to proceedings prompts a response from Danny that John Webster and his Jacobean brethren would have understood at once.
The five scenes alternate between explosive scenarios — recordings of Dame Vera being the one constant in an escalation of feeling that threatens to make a morgue out of the verdant grassland on view that is covered with detritus on either side of the central playing area. (Tom Piper, a designer as seasoned as Ms. Squires is raw, is responsible for the set.)
“Vera Vera Vera” is short, running just an hour, and yet smart enough to recognize its natural length. Besides, one is never too old to understand a truism that Ms. Squires has intuited at the outset of her career: In the theater, as elsewhere, it’s no bad thing to leave people wanting more.
Thu 22 Mar, 7:45pm
Sat 24 Mar, 7:45pm
Tue 27 Mar, 7:45pm
Wed 28 Mar, 7:45pm
Thu 29 Mar, 3:30pm
Thu 29 Mar, 7:45pm
Fri 30 Mar, 8:30pm
Sat 31 Mar, 3:30pm
Sat 31 Mar, 8:30pm
Thu 5 Apr, 3:30pm
Sat 7 Apr, 3:30pm
Thu 12 Apr, 3:30pm
Sat 14 Apr, 3:30pm
Thu 22 Mar, 7:45pm
Fri 23 Mar, 7:45pm
Sat 24 Mar, 7:45pm
Mon 26 Mar, 7:00pm
Thu 29 Mar, 3:30pm
Thu 5 Apr, 3:30pm
Thu 12 Apr, 3:30pm
Sat 31 Mar, 3:30pm
Sat 7 Apr, 3:30pm
Sat 14 Apr, 3:30pm
Tue 3 Apr, 7:45pm
Fri 13 Apr, 8:30pm
See the Dates & Tickets tab for all dates.