Cft Plenty 447 X792 Px.

Rachael Stirling   Rory Keenan


By David Hare 

Festival TheatreTicketsPrice: from £10


Those of us who went through this kind of war, I do think we have something in common.

Susan Traherne is a former secret agent. Her heroic work with the Special Operations Executive in Nazi-occupied France brought her extremes of danger, as well as adventures and romance.

Twenty years on she is living a very different existence in London, as the wealthy wife of a diplomat. Her strained marriage and altered circumstances have threatened her identity and trapped her in a destructive nostalgia for her wartime idealism.

In a post-war land of plenty, Susan battles for her own body and mind, as Britain loses its role in the world.

Using a non-linear structure, the drama dips backwards and forwards in time to explore how the past and present coexist.

On its first appearance at the National Theatre in 1978, David Hare’s play caused a furore, and is now accepted as one of the great modern classics. David Hare’s previous plays for Chichester include South Downs (2011) and Young Chekhov (2015).

Kate Hewitt directs, following her acclaimed production of Cock (Festival 2018). Her productions also include Frost/Nixon at Sheffield and Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train at the Young Vic.

Rachael Stirling’s recent work includes Medea (Headlong) and The Winter’s Tale (Sam Wanamaker Playhouse), and The Bletchley Circle and Detectorists on television.

Rory Keenan's recent stage work includes Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me (Chichester 2015), Long Day’s Journey Into Night (West End and New York) and Saint Joan (Donmar).

Prologue Block Link384X216.

Prologue tickets available from 2 March

Cast & Creatives


  • Bw Rachael Stirling Colour Copy.

    Rachael Stirling

    Susan Traherne
  • Bw Rkeenan High.

    Rory Keenan

    Raymond Brock
  • Bw Balfour Micah.

    Micah Balfour

  • Bw Alan Booty.

    Alan Booty

    Another Frenchman
  • Bw Anthony Calf.

    Anthony Calf

    Sir Leonard Darwin
  • Bw Raphael Desprez.

    Raphael Desprez

    A Frenchman
  • Bw Gemma Dobson6340Colweb.

    Gemma Dobson

  • Bw Philippe Edwards 3 145 Of 230 Print 2.

    Philippe Edwards

    John Begley
  • Bw Yolanda Kettle.

    Yolanda Kettle

    Alice Park
  • Bw 0315 Louise Mai Newberry © Michael Wharley 2017 4.

    Louise Mai Newberry

    Mme Aung
  • Bw Macy Nyman.

    Macy Nyman

    Dorcas Frey
  • Bw Nick Sampson.

    Nick Sampson

    Sir Andrew Charleson
  • Bw Headshot Rupert Young.

    Rupert Young

    Codename Lazar
  • Bw Ozzie Yue.

    Ozzie Yue

    M. Aung

Creative team

Kate Hewitt


Georgia Lowe


Lee Curran

Lighting Designer

Giles Thomas

Music and Sound

Nina Dunn

Video Designer

Fleur Darkin

Movement Director

Charlotte Sutton

Casting Director

Access performances

Linked Events

Playing Susan Traherne

Playing Susan Traherne

It was in 1985 that Rachael Stirling made her first visit to Chichester to see her distinguished mother, Diana Rigg, playing the Egyptian queen in Antony and Cleopatra – the first of several such outings over the years. So it’s a great cause for celebration that Rachael herself is now making her debut on the Festival Theatre stage as the heroine of David Hare’s landmark play, Plenty.

Rachael will be playing the iconic role of Susan Traherne, a former Special Operations Executive struggling to come to terms with the reality of post-war life while caught in a stifling marriage to a low-rank diplomat. It’s a play she can’t wait to explore.

‘Cate Blanchett [who played the role in the West End in 1999] has said that, in her opinion, the three great parts for female actors of this age group are Hedda Gabler, Blanche DuBois (in A Streetcar Named Desire) and Susan Traherne. And it’s true.

‘It’s rare that you get to chart a character over 20 years, to see the beginning, middle and end of their youth – Susan is nigh on 40 by the time the play ends’, Rachael says. ‘She is an encyclopedia of a character: the woman you would want to (a) go into the trenches with but (b) stand next to at any party. Her company is thrilling, unpredictable, chaotic, exhausting and exhilarating.

Plenty is a period piece in the sense it’s set in the past but actually there are numerous women today who are full of potential but can’t find a place in which to shine. So Susan, actually, is timeless and not defined by the male company she keeps as much as woman characters often are. She sails her own path. I can’t wait to tell this story every night and to hear how the audience responds to her.’

Rachael is also enthused by the approach her director, Kate Hewitt, and designer, Georgia Lowe, are taking to the play. ‘The way that Kate and Georgia are designing this, is thrilling. They want to achieve something that’s visually spectacular but not necessarily absolute naturalism. And David Hare is very excited by it. He’s going to be constantly in rehearsals so he’ll have his hand on the tiller.

‘If you ask me, is there anything else that I would rather be doing at this exact moment in time than Plenty at Chichester, the answer is a resounding no. It’s one of the greatest challenges and a privilege to take this on.’

Bw Rachael Stirling Colour Copy.

Women of the SOE

The Women of the Special Operations Executive

During the Second World War, very few people were aware of the existence of the Special Operations Executive, also known as “Churchill’s Secret Army” or the “Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare”. Created in 1940 and charged by the Prime Minister to “set Europe ablaze!” their purpose was to put British special agents into occupied territory in order to conduct espionage and sabotage in support of the resistance movement.

Trained in unarmed combat, firearms and wireless communications, they also had to be fluent linguists so that they could blend in seamlessly and avoid detection wherever they were dropped. Their skills also included resisting interrogation and evading capture; many agents hid suicide pills in their coat buttons in fear of the Gestapo.

Although the highest ranking staff in the SOE were generally public school and Oxbridge educated men, the agents ranged from electricians to journalists, former chefs to the daughter of a Brixton car dealer. Female operatives were critical to the success of the SOE; stereotypical attitudes to women at the time often worked to their advantage, as they were viewed as above suspicion. The SOE employed 39 female agents in France, with another 16 deployed to further enemy territories, and there are many stories of women displaying incredible daring, courage and the ability to evade capture during their time as agents. Many sadly suffered torture and death at the hands of the Nazis; those who returned quietly carried on with their lives, often not speaking publicly of their experiences until many years later.

Join us on Wednesday 19 June at 10.30am to hear Tania Szabo speak about the life of her mother, Violette Szabo, a legendary agent of the SOE in Young, Brave and Beautiful. Tickets £5

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