A divisive left-wing leader at the helm of the Labour Party. A Conservative prime minister battling with her cabinet. An identity crisis on a national scale. This is Britain 1981.
One Sunday morning, four prominent Labour politicians – Bill Rodgers, Shirley Williams, Roy Jenkins and David Owen – gather in private at Owen’s home in Limehouse, East London. They are desperate to find a political alternative. Should they split their party, divide their loyalties, and risk betraying everything they believe in? Would they be starting afresh, or destroying forever the tradition that nurtured them?
Steve Waters’ thrilling drama takes us behind closed doors to imagine the personal conflicts behind the making of political history. Limehouse premiered at the Donmar Warehouse, London, in 2017, directed by Polly Findlay. It is a fictionalised account of real events, and it is not endorsed by the individuals portrayed.
'Bitterly funny... the story of the SDP is one of political history's most intriguing "what if's". Limehouse expertly adds to its mystique'
'Richly enjoyable… Steve Waters’ deliciously well-written, quick-paced play is timely… the clash of politicians’ vanities feels spot on'
'A highly intelligent account of the birth of the SDP… Waters characterizes his protagonists with great clarity'
'Steve Waters sharply characterises each member of the gang and allows them a turn in the spotlight… admirably brings to life a key moment in postwar politics'
'A smart take on the Gang of Four… political drama of intellectual heft topped with a deliciously nimble-footed humour'
'Funny, serious, timely… the glory of this surprisingly moving play is that it is no cynically hopeless Thick Of It. It does not despise politicians. It gives each of this ill-assorted quartet credit for real faith and real decisions'
'Intelligent and timely… fascinating contemporary parallels abound'
'What starts as a thought-experiment evolves into a compelling political debate about the heart and soul of the British left… it’s all so bloody brilliant. Smart, slick, sophisticated, and steeped in political history with a refreshing lack of grandeur'
Steve Waters is a playwright whose plays include Limehouse (Donmar Warehouse, 2017); Temple (Donmar Warehouse, 2015); Why Can’t We Live Together? (Menagerie Theatre/Soho/Theatre503, 2013); Europa, as co-author (Birmingham Repertory Theatre/Dresden State Theatre/Teatr Polski Bydgoszcz/Zagreb Youth Theatre, 2013); Ignorance/Jahiliyyah (Hampstead Downstairs, 2012); Little Platoons (Bush Theatre, 2011); The Contingency Plan (Bush Theatre, 2009); Fast Labour (Hampstead, in association with West Yorkshire Playhouse, 2008); Out of Your Knowledge (Menagerie Theatre/ Pleasance, Edinburgh/East Anglian tour, 2007/8); World Music (Sheffield Crucible, 2003, and subsequent transfer to the Donmar Warehouse, 2004); The Unthinkable (Sheffield Crucible, 2004); After the Gods (Hampstead Theatre, 2002); and English Journeys (Hampstead Theatre, 1998).
His writing for television and radio includes Safe House (BBC4), The Air Gap, The Moderniser (BBC Radio 4), Scribblers and Bretton Woods (BBC Radio 3).
He ran the MPhil in Playwriting at Birmingham University between 2006 and 2011, and now runs the MA Creative Writing: Script at the University of East Anglia. He is the author of The Secret Life of Plays, published by Nick Hern Books.