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Kyoto and The Letter of Last Resort at Jermyn Street Theatre

The Letter of Last Resort
The Letter of Last Resort

With the appointment earlier this month of Theresa May as the country’s second woman Prime Minister, the vote on the future of Trident and the decision to abolish the Department for Energy and Climate Change, Jermyn Street Theatre hosts a very topical double-bill production by award-winning Scottish playwright, David Greig.

The two plays, Kyoto and The Letter of Last Resort, will be brought together for the first time in London, at the Jermyn Street Theatre, running from 2-13 August.

The Letter of Last Resort is set in No 10 Downing Street on the night a new woman PM is elected. As was reported when Theresa May took office, one of the first duties of the PM is to write the letter that is placed in a safe in each of the Trident nuclear submarines which patrol, in secret, around the world to provide the UK with its ultimate deterrent. In Letter, John, an enigmatic civil servant in charge of “arrangements”, arrives late at night to steer her through the task. This 45-minute one-act play sees the PM grapple with the weight of the decision she is being asked to make on the ultimate and conflicting issues of moral responsibility, rationality and retaliation.

Kyoto takes a wry look at the world’s environmental challenges through the eyes of two long-standing combatants as they grapple with dilemmas of climate change (and a dress) in a dowdy hotel room in a post-communist country. Dan is a self-satisfied, presumptuous chef de delegation, Lucy an ardent environmental campaigner. It takes them a little time to become aware of the very large elephant in the room with them.


Speaking about this double-bill, Director John Davey said: “The timing of this double bill could not be more appropriate. With the ink only just dry on the new Letter of Last Resort and all of us wondering what the country’s approach to both nuclear deterrence and the environment will be under a new Prime Minister, these two plays raise questions we all want answered.

“These plays may be short, but not slight – quite the opposite, in fact. Greig shows the ability of the natural dramatist to raise huge issues tangentially, by showing human beings at moments of decision, and how those decisions are centrally related to those issues. The two plays work differently, but they are complementary pieces.

“Both leave the audience with a greater awareness, with a sense that they have been involved in issues which affect the lives of millions – but all they’ve watched is two people on stage.”

Kyoto was written in 2009 for David MacLennan’s lunchtime play series A Play, A Pie and A Pint and first performed at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh. Some 20 years after Kyoto and endless conferences about the world’s environmental challenges, this 30 minute one-act play Kyoto features Jananne Rahman as Lucy and Simon Roberts as Dan.

Speaking about Kyoto, David Greig said; “It’s not meant to preach or teach as a play. Just like the attraction between these people [the issue of global warming] is the elephant in the room.

The Letter of Last Resort premiered in 2012 at the Tricycle Theatre, London, directed by Nicolas Kent, as part of a series of short plays commissioned under the title The Bomb: A Partial History, before a run also at the Traverse Theatre. At a time when the UK’s nuclear capability is being hotly debated, this powerful one-act play addresses the issues of deterrence, retaliation, moral responsibility and rationality. The Letter of Last Resort features Lisa Day as the Prime Minister and Robert Gordon Clark as John.

This is the first time they have been staged as a double-bill. In her book The Theatre of David Greig, Clare Wallace notes “the dimensions of both Kyoto and The Letter of Last Resort seem in wilfully inverse relation to the proportions of the political questions they raise.

Jermyn Street Theatre – 2nd to 13th August 2016


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