Eighteen-year-old Charity Royall lives in the remote village of North Dormer with her guardian and father-figure Lawyer Royall.

Then one Summer, Lucius Harney, a young architect with his knowledge and experience of progressive New York, comes into their lives.

20 South Street presents the World Premiere of

Summer

by Julia Stubbs Hughes

based on the novel by Edith Wharton

8-26 May 2012 at the Jack Studio Theatre, London

With: Francis Adams, Joanne Gale, and Jeffrey Mundell.

Director: Timothy Stubbs Hughes. Designer: Alesya Bolotina. Lighting: Katherine Lowry. Sound/Music: Millie Cook.

Edith Wharton (1862-1937)

Born Edith Newbold Jones into a society known as ‘Old New York’ at a time when women were discouraged from achieving anything beyond a proper marriage, Edith Wharton broke through these constraints to become one of America’s greatest writers. She was a close friend of Henry James, who in turn was a valued literary adviser and the saying “keeping up with the Joneses” was said to refer to her father’s family. The author of The Age of Innocence, Ethan Frome and The House of Mirth, she wrote over 40 books in 40 years, including authoritative works on architecture, gardens, interior design, and travel. Essentially self-educated, she was the first woman awarded: the Pulitzer Prize for Literature (for The Age of Innocence in 1921); an honorary Doctorate of Letters from Yale University; and full membership in the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Wharton wrote Summer in six weeks in the spring of 1916, whilst she was in France, assisting with the war effort. She was one of the few foreigners who was allowed to travel to the front lines during the First World War and in recognition of her work with the displaced, she was named a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor. In the midst of the war around her, she wrote to her longtime editor Charles Scribner,

“I am taking a few weeks rest at Fontainebleau and making use of my leisure to write a ‘long-short’ story of the dimensions of Ethan Frome. It deals with the same kind of life in a midsummer landscape, and is a thing I have in mind for several years.”

The story that Wharton would write was something that she would later pair with Ethan Frome, even calling Summer the ‘hot Ethan’ but this time at its centre, it would have a heroine who is an orphan, a ‘refugee’, literally named Charity. Wharton was probably the most renowned of the group of female writers in the early part of the 20th century and what she cared about most was telling women’s stories. In this respect, Summer is one of her most important novels. It was only moderately successful when it was published in 1917 but when Wharton’s writings were rediscovered in the 1960s, Summer found a new audience who rightly valued it as one of her best works.

2012 marks the 150th anniversary of Edith Wharton’s birth.

How I hate everything.

In 1993, I saw John Madden’s film adaptation of the novel Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton. Wanting to read the original book on which the film was based, I was struck in the novel’s introduction by the reference to a companion novel – Summer – that Wharton had written some years afterwards.

I sought out the novel and was immediately struck by its story and characters. As in Ethan Frome, the novel concerned a love triangle but whereas in the first novel where Ethan was the centre, caught between his wife Zeena and her cousin Maddie, in Summer, Wharton explored the awakening of Charity, a young girl and the two men in her life, Royall her guardian and the young visitor to their tiny village, Lucius Harney.

Rather than adapt the whole story, I became much more interested in whether I could tell the events of the novel purely through its three main characters and by doing so, create a dynamic and emotional piece of work.

Starting work on the adaptation in 2005 and following many drafts and workshops over several years with a terrific group of actors – Lucy Cudden, Andrew Macbean, and Benjamin Wilkin – Summer finally became a draft ready for production. It received its World Premiere at the Jack Studio Theatre, London in May 2012. I was delighted with the production of my first play and in particular, of the three incredible actors – Joanne Gale, Francis Adams, and Jeffrey Mundell – who were cast to portray Charity, Royall, and Harney.

REVIEWS for Summer

‘The performances are good, with Joanne Gale capturing the headstrong girl with all the sarcasm and moodiness that you’d expect from a teenager without seeming incongruent to the time. Francis Adams is perfectly cast as the patriarchal Royall, creating a good man whose morals you can begin to mistrust as the story unfolds. In the second half, there is a lovely moment as he addresses the audience (as the townspeople) and you get a real sense of his guilt and fear underneath his speech. Mundell, in a subtle performance, builds a steamy chemistry with Gale and the two express a very convincing love for each other.’

One Stop Arts

‘The character of Charity is beautifully drawn, strong but also vulnerable, frustrated by the expectations placed on her sex by society… One would anticipate the relationships between these three characters, specifically chosen by the writer to carry the plot of an entire novel, to be intense and flagrant, but somehow each one remains emotionally and physically independent from the others to a considerable extent… Music and sound effects composed and arranged by Millie Cook are engrossing; string arrangements lend a sense of gravity and foreboding from the earliest scenes… Alesya Bolotina’s set design is simple yet effective, with only two tatty chairs and a bench to evoke the New England setting. It’s the lighting design, by Katherine Lowry, that really lifts the space, teasing out the hidden colours of Bolotina’s set, and conveying a sense that there’s more going on here than meets the eye. The small studio space has been reconfigured, and this new set up allows director Timothy Stubbs Hughes to create a real sense of flow and pace.’

EXEUNT

‘Joanne Gale portrays spunky Charity with fervour, she is quick-witted and at times a little brusk as teenagers can be. There’s a lovely chemistry between her and Jeffrey Mundell who plays Lucius, the blossoming relationship is played out subtly.’

BroadwayBaby.com