The Niceties

by Eleanor Burgess

1 October - 26 October 2019

There is one appropriate way of responding to a woman of color who says, I have an idea to assert, and that is to shut up and listen

The European premiere of the hit Off-Broadway play

★★★★ Four Stars, The Times
★★★★ Four Stars, Theatre Weekly
★★★★ Four Stars, West End Wilma
★★★★ Four Stars, LondonTheatre1
★★★★ Four Stars, ReviewsGate

OffWestEnd Award nomination for Female Performance in a Play – Moronkẹ Akinola

The European premiere of the hit Off-Broadway play The Niceties by Eleanor Burgess.

At an elite East Coast university, an ambitious young black student and her esteemed white professor meet to discuss a paper the college junior is writing about the American Revolution. They’re both liberal. They’re both women. They’re both brilliant. But very quickly, discussions of grammar and Google turn to race and reputation, and before they know it, they’re in dangerous territory neither of them had foreseen – and facing stunning implications that can’t be undone.

The Niceties is a complex and compelling depiction of racial and generational divides which speaks directly to our polarised, post-truth era, as it asks who gets to tell the story of America, and how.

Originally premiered at the Huntington Theatre, Boston, before transferring to Manhattan Theatre Club, New York City, The Niceties marks the European debut of a stunning new American playwright, Eleanor Burgess.

Post Show Discussion 11th October
Join us after the performance on Friday 11th October for a post-show discussion with the playwright Eleanor Burgess and actors Janie Dee and Moronke Akinola as they discuss The Niceties in development and performance. The event will be posted by Shanaé Chisholm and Nicola Watkinson, who have worked as embedded critics on this production of The Niceties. There will also be a chance to put your own questions to the team as they explore the play’s complex depiction of race and legacy in the 21st century.

The discussion will commence promptly after the performance at approximately 9:40pm and is expected to last approximately 30 minutes.

About the hosts

Shanaé Chisholm
Shanaé is a recent BA Media and Communications graduate, with a specialism in Creative Writing. Through her blogging, she aims to bring a unique perspective to theatre discourse by representing young, Black, female theatre enthusiasts.

Nicola Watkinson
Nicky is a cultural critic who writes and speaks on a range of arts and culture topics. She is particularly interested in interdisciplinary work and work that tackles questions of form. She has a Master’s in contemporary literature and culture from UCL, and her academic research focuses on theories of identity, femininity, grief, the fragment, and translation. She has been writing about theatre and performance since 2015, and was the embedded critic on the Paper Birds’ show Ask Me Anything earlier this year.

No performances on Sundays, and on Friday 4 October, Saturday, 5 October and Friday, 25 October.


About the Playwright Eleanor Burgess

Playwright Eleanor Burgess has had work produced at Manhattan Theatre Club, McCarter Theatre Center, Huntington Theatre Company, the Alliance Theatre, Merrimack Repertory Theatre, the Contemporary American Theatre Festival, Portland Stage Company, and Centenary Stage, and developed with The New Group, New York Theatre Workshop, Ensemble Studio Theatre, Salt Lake Acting Company, the Lark Play Development Center, and the Kennedy Center/NNPN MFA Playwrights Workshop. She has been a member of Page 73's writers' group Interstate 73 and The Civilians’ R&D Group, and the recipient of the Alliance/Kendeda National Graduate Playwriting Award, an EST/Sloan commission, a Huntington Playwriting Fellowship, a Keen Teens Commission, and the Susan Glaspell Award for Women Playwrights. She grew up in Brookline, Massachusetts, studied history at Yale College, and recently completed the M.F.A in Dramatic Writing at NYU/Tisch.

About the Director Matthew Iliffe

Director Matthew Iliffe returns to the Finborough Theatre following his acclaimed production of Lionel Bart and Alun Owen’s musical Maggie May this spring, and Colleen Murphy’s new play Geography of Fire/La Furie et sa Géographie as part of Vibrant 2019 – A Festival of Finborough Playwrights. Direction includes the European premiere of The Burnt Part Boys which was nominated for the OffWestEnd Award for Best Director and Best Musical Production (Park Theatre), Side By Side By Sondheim (The Piano Bar, Bristol Hippodrome), Thoroughly Modern Millie (Landor Theatre), Precious Little Talent (The Albany), The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (Alma Tavern Theatre, Bristol) and The Way Things Weren't (The Room Above, Bristol). Assistant Direction includes Brass (National Youth Music Theatre at the Hackney Empire) and Romeo and Juliet (Eastville Park, Bristol). Matthew graduated from the University of Bristol with a first class honours degree in Theatre and Performance Studies, and trained on the StoneCrabs Young Directors Programme, in association with The Albany.

The Press on Matthew Illife's Maggie May at the Finborough

“Kudos to the dauntless ambition of Matthew Iliffe’s chamber production, which grapples with the material in considerable style.” The Times

“The vim and vigour of Matthew Iliffe’s production.” The Guardian

“Director Matthew Iliffe and his strong cast have put it on the tiny Finborough stage in fine style.” Reviewsgate

“A thrilling production that fills its small space impressively… Director Matthew Iliffe ensures every aspect of the show is a rediscovered joy” The Reviews Hub

“The thrill of Iliffe’s production is that it brings this teaming world to vivid life on a tiny pocket studio stage.”

“Hugely impressive” The Upcoming

“Matthew Iliffe’s inventive production… a terrific night out” Illusions Media

The Press on Matthew Illife's Burnt Part Boys

“It’s the imaginative way that the audience is taken on this journey by director Matthew Iliffe that makes this show truly special.” Musical Theatre Review

“A forward-thinking and meticulous director.” A Younger Theatre

“This unusual musical is gripping and its staging imaginative… Expertly sung and staged.” The Stage

“Powerfully told and imaginatively staged.” Stage Review

“One of the finest examples of Off West End musical theatre... The show under Matthew Iliffe's direction, is also staged perfectly.” Jonathan Baz

“Staged with heart and craft... one of the best new shows in town.” Mark Shenton

The Press on The Niceties in New York and Boston

“Blisteringly smart, searing and revealing!” The Boston Globe

"An articulate, expression of #blacklivesmatter anger as well as a millennial rebel yell." The Arts Fuse
“The Niceties is a bristling, provocative debate play.” The New York Times

“Crackles and spark with friction. Burgess’ characters are drawn with precision and her dialogue is expertly crafted to keep both the tension and attention high” New York Theatre Guide

The world premiere of The Niceties was co-produced in the 2018-2019 season by the Huntington Theatre Company (Peter DuBois, Artistic Director  Michael Maso, Managing Director), Boston, MA; Manhattan Theatre Club (Lynne Meadow, Artistic Director Barry Grove, Executive Producer), New York, NY; and McCarter Theatre Center (Emily Mann, Artistic Director/Resident Playwright  Michael S. Rosenberg, Managing Director), Princeton, NJ.
Originally developed at the Contemporary American Theater Festival in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, in July 2017, under the leadership of Ed Herendeen, Producing Director, and Peggy McKowen, Associate Producing Director.
Developed in part at PORTLAND STAGE COMPANY, Anita Stewart, Executive and Artistic Director.

The Press on The Niceties

★★★★ Four Stars, The Times
★★★★ Four Stars, Theatre Weekly
★★★★ Four Stars, West End Wilma
★★★★ Four Stars, LondonTheatre1
★★★★ Four Stars, ReviewsGate

OffWestEnd Award nomination for Female Performance in a Play – Moronkẹ Akinola

1 October - 26 October 2019

Tickets and Times

Tuesday 7:30pm
Wednesday 7:30pm
Thursday 7:30pm (matinees on 3 October and 24 October at 3.00pm)
Friday 7:30pm
Saturday 3:00pm
Sunday 3:00pm

Approximately two hours including one interval of 15 minutes