Greenland (1988 play)

Greenland is a 1988 play by Howard Brenton. It is a neo-Brechtian epic psychodrama[1] with many actors, props and scene changes,[2] on which the writer worked for seven years.[3] It is the last of Brenton's three Utopian plays, following Sore Throats and Bloody Poetry.[4]

First edition Methuen, 1988
Written byHoward Brenton
Date premiered26 May 1988
Place premieredRoyal Court Theatre, London
Original languageEnglish

Howard Brenton's Greenland is not to be confused with the 2011 play of the same name co-authored by Moira Buffini, Matt Charman, Penelope Skinner and Jack Thorne.

The play opened at the Royal Court Theatre in London on 26 May 1988[5] and played there for a season.[6] Its United States premiere was at the Famous Door Theater in Chicago in January 1994.[7]

Plot summary

The first act is set on 11 June 1987, the day of the third consecutive Conservative general election victory.[8] Four of the characters jump into the River Thames in despair, and in the second act wake up 700 years in the future, in a utopia where no one has to do anything they don't want to.[9]

Leading characters

The action centres around four characters: Joan, a Labour parliamentary candidate, Betty, a morally outraged fundamentalist, Brian, a drunk, and Paul, Lord Ludlow, a wife-beating debt-ridden capitalist.[10]


  1. Sternlicht, Sanford V. (2004). A reader's guide to modern British drama. Syracuse University Press. p. 212. ISBN 978-0-8156-3076-0.
  2. Brater, Enoch (1995). The theatrical gamut: notes for a post-Beckettian stage. University of Michigan Press. p. 220. ISBN 978-0-472-10583-0.
  3. Reinelt, Janelle G. (1996). After Brecht: British Epic Theater. University of Michigan Press. p. 18. ISBN 978-0-472-08408-1.
  4. O'Connor, John (December 2005). "From Sore Throats to Greenland: Howard Brenton's Utopian Plays". Contemporary Justice Review. Routledge. 8 (4): 409–430. doi:10.1080/10282580500334270. ISSN 1028-2580.
  5. Boon, Richard (1991). Brenton, the playwright. Methuen Drama. p. xiii. ISBN 978-0-413-18970-7.
  6. Homden, Carol (1995). The plays of David Hare. Cambridge University Press. p. 100. ISBN 978-0-521-42718-0.
  7. Weiss, Hedy (14 January 1994). "Wild Flight to 'Greenland': Brenton Play Gets U.S. Premiere Here". Chicago Sun-Times. p. 35.
  8. Stevenson, Randall; Jonathan Bate (2006). The Oxford English Literary History. Oxford University Press. p. 325. ISBN 978-0-19-928835-9.
  9. Bram, Leon L.; Norma H. Dickey (1989). Funk & Wagnalls New Encyclopedia 1989 Yearbook. Funk & Wagnalls. p. 238. ISBN 978-0-8374-9562-0.
  10. Christiansen, Richard (19 January 1994). "Famous Door does what it can with 'Greenland'". Chicago Tribune. p. 18.

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