James Saunders   |   bibliography

Return To A City  -  by James Saunders (1959)

First performance at the Questors Theatre, Ealing, 13th June 1960 with two other one-act plays, Barnstable and Committal, under the title Ends and Echoes, with the following cast -

   -    Patricia Hooper
   -    Laurence Nixon
   -    Peter Browning
   -    Barbara Jackson
   -    Victor Pompini
    Directed by Peter Whelan

© 1968 James Saunders
published by Andre Deutsch (London, England), 1968
(Neighbours and other plays - James Saunders)
ISBN-10: 0233960309
ISBN-13: 978-0233960302
also contains Neighbours + Trio + Triangle + Alas, Poor Fred + A Slight Accident + The Pedagogue

© 1968 James Saunders
published by Heinemann Educational Books, (London, England), 1968
(Neighbours and other plays - James Saunders)
ISBN-10: 0435237861
ISBN-13: 978-0435237868
also contains Neighbours + Triangle + Trio + Alas, Poor Fred + A Slight Accident + The Pedagogue
commentary by Ronald Hayman

Return To A City: a dream-like and terrifying evocation of the extremity to which the human race is likely to bring itself.

- (inside cover, Andre Deutsch, 1968)

Return to a city was written in 1959... It's tone and atmosphere are reminiscent of Beckett's Endgame. We are in a broken world in which only a handful of characters seem to have survived. The comforts and protections which we take for granted are denied to them. The house has only half a roof and two walls (and a bit). Food is so scarce that a bone is a treat. As in King Lear, desolation drives 'unaccompanied man' to ask basic questions about his own existence:

"Who do you think holds me in the vertical position? I. My muscles. I work them, I tell them to hold on, from minute to minute from second to second, year in and year out. I do it. Look at me! All in one piece. You talk to me about the future! Look at me. Don't you see? I am standing upright on the ends of my legs, holding my mind inside my body! The future? Ha! My dear fellow, the future is this: my wife has a bone for me!"

Saunders experiments with his characters as he does with the medium, trying to find out more about the basic components of their existence and their motivations...

In the same way that he makes his characters improvise, Saunders is improvising himself. But for him, it's not just a matter of words and the style on the page: it's also theatrical effects and the style in the theatre. The style of Return to a city changes when we get the much more suspenseful situation of a sixteen-year-old girl in the power of a man who's already killed another man in order to keep her, and it changes again when Saunders experiments with sound effects to make the audience hear noises of the city, which no longer exists, as the man remembers them:

- Ronald Hayman (from the commentary, Heinemann, 1968)

James Saunders   |   bibliography

comments to: weed@wussu.com
revised 16 February 2008
URL: http://www.jamessaunders.org/jsreturn.htm