The play takes its title from a quote made in April 2003 by US secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld in response to the looting of Baghdad: “Stuff happens …. and it’s untidy, and freedom’s untidy, and free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things”. Rumsfeld, as well as now American vice-president Dick Cheney, were signatories of a letter addressed to President Clinton in 1998, which advocated that one of the chief strategies for securing a ‘New American Century’ was the removal of Saddam Hussein.
Stuff Happens sets out to dramatise the process leading up to the formation of the coalition, led by the US and UK, to invade Iraq last year. Still in flux, the play is being developed throughout this summer in the NT studio and will incorporate pertinent world events as they occur.
Speaking at a press launch in February (See News, 5 Feb 2004), NT artistic director Nicholas Hytner, who will also direct, said that the Hare play will “react to the events we’ve all just lived through” and, though different positions would be explored, he hopes it will “be sceptical of the line our authorities have taken”. Rumsfeld and Cheney, as well as George Bush and Tony Blair, are likely to appear as characters alongside fictional ones.
Stuff Happens will be Hare’s 13th play for the National. Though he himself described himself as ‘exiled’ during the reign of Hytner’s predecessor Trevor Nunn, he’s featured heavily this year with his railway smash The Permanent Way and a new translation of Lorca’s The House of Bernarda Alba as well as the war piece. His previous plays at the NT include Amy’s View, Skylight, The Secret Rapture, The Absence of War, Murmuring Judges, Racing Demon and Plenty.
Meanwhile, in the NT Cottesloe, the summer repertory will continue in July with the premiere of actress Rebecca Lenkiewicz’ second play, The Night Season. Directed by Lucy Bailey (Baby Doll) and designed by Dick Bird, with a cast that includes Lloyd Hutchinson and Justine Mitchell, it opens on 3 August 2004 (previews from 23 July).
Late at night, shoeless, in the rain, an actor playing Yeats in a film shows up at his Sligo digs. In the morning, three feisty sisters, who’ve been dreaming upstairs, come down, burning to meet him. The youngest daughter shows him to his bedroom.
Lenkiewicz’s first play, Soho – A Tale of Table Dancers, won a Fringe First at Edinburgh in 2000 and later opened at London’s Arcola Theatre. As an actress, she recently appeared on stage at the National in Mourning Becomes Electra and has also worked at the RSC and Shakespeare’s Globe.
- by Terri Paddock