Quiz: Guess the play from the stage direction

The cover of David Bowie's The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust that contains Starman. The cover of the vinyl edition clearly makes an appearance in play no 2

The cover of David Bowie’s The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust that contains Starman. The cover of the vinyl edition clearly makes an appearance in play no 2

Last week, the Guardian posted a quiz about stage directions and naturally I thought I could do better. Ten stage directions, guess the play, no multiple choice but a clue. Some times the clues are more fun than the question itself.

1. “He picks up the tortoise and moves it a few inches as though it had strayed, on top of some loose papers, and admonishes it.” Clue: That should be easy enough. Additional help: the play premiered at the National Theatre in 1993.

2. “He puts the stylus on the record: ‘Starman’ by David Bowie”. Clue: it’s the only play in the list currently performing in London. For an additional clue, look at the caption of the photo.

3. “A full bottle of wine is handed to James. He drinks half of it while the others cheer, but has to stop and take a breath. He staggers. Even Rachel stops her clearing-up to watch”. Clue: The play has been turned into a film, released in the UK in September.

4. “He puts on some music. He takes a knife and cuts the fish. He puts the fish in the oven. Pulls a cork, then chops some vegetables.” Clue: if you have seen the play, you will definitely remember this scene. Additional help: the play will premiere in Broadway soon, with a high-profile actor playing the male character.

5. “Sylvia’s flat. She’s just opened the door. Oliver is there. There’s some blood in his mouth”. Clue: the names should be the clue. Also, in the play each actor plays two characters with the same name in two different periods.

6. “The audience is raked down towards the actors. There should be a minimum of scenery, props and furniture, in order to keep the focus on the drama of the scene”. Clue: it’s a tricky one, not least because it’s the same stage direction (or as good as) in two different plays of the same writer. The titles of the two plays make up the name of a film adapting the novel Tristram Shandy.

7. “Afternoon. A large rehearsal room in the National Theatre”. Clue: Even if you have a passing familiarity with the play, you don’t need a clue. It played at the Lyttelton stage in 2009.

8. “He takes out a deeply filthy handkerchief, spreads it carefully, expertly across his right shoulder, slowly tucks the tiny violin on his left, stands perfectly still, looks for the first time at the audience.” Clue: the character referred in this scene has been played by both David Tennant and David Dawson. No, it’s not Romeo.

9. “A shabby kitchen. Peeling Paint. Scruffy lino. Tables, chairs, cupboards, cooker, sink.” Clue: the words of the play title appear in this stage direction.

10. “The backstage makeshift dressing room at a football stadium in the outskirts of Moscow”. Clue: if you have seen the play you will know. The story moves from Moscow, to Berlin, to Paris, to London, but the setting (backstage somewhere) hardly ever changes.

The answers are below, highlight the text in order to read them, and let me know how you did:

1. Arcadia by Tom Stoppard
2. My Night With Reg by Kevin Elyot
3. Posh by Laura Wade
4. The River by Jez Butterworth
5. The Pride by Alexi Kaye Campbell
6. Cock and Bull by Mike Bartlett
7. The Habit of Art by Alan Bennett
8. Comedians by Trevor Griffiths. The character is Gethin Price
9. The Kitchen Sink by Tom Wells
10. Birdland by Simon Stephens

2 responses to “Quiz: Guess the play from the stage direction

    • I got 5 of the 6 plays that I have seen (didn’t get the 1st) and one of the plays I haven’t seen but heard about. Absolutely not familiar with 6,8 and 9 – s

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