• David Blake
  • The Plumber's Gift (1988)

  • Novello & Co Ltd (World)

First performance produced by Richard Jones and designed by Nigel Lowry

  • 2.2.3+asx.2/4231/timp.2perc/pf(cel).hp/str
  • S, Mz, A, T, Bar, B-Bar
  • 2 hr 30 min
  • John Birtwhistle

Programme Note


Set in a private guesthouse on the south coast of England, lovers who believe in ‘sincerity’ are contrasted with those who are reserved and courteous in love. These equally plausible philosophies are pitted against one another and the characters discover their own and each other’s limits and virtues.


The Plumber's Gift is set in the present, and revolves around a private guesthouse on the South coast of England.

The idiom is comedy of manners by day, mock pastoral by night. This is used to contrast lovers who believe in 'Sincerity' to those who observe certain distances and courtesies even in love. These equally plausible and appealing philosophies are tested against each other, and the characters discover their own and each others' limits and virtues.

In the night scene, these conscious ideals are explored in relation to fantasy, myth and 'operatic' modes of feeling and destiny; and the problem of 'simplicity versus sophistication' is revealed as a pastoral convention. The night scene is interrupted by the Interval, up to which is has recapitulated in pastoral terms the events of Act I.

After the Interval, the scene continues the pastoral parallel in a more serious mode, inducing some true and some false expectations as to how the events would continue in 'reality'. For instance, neither the 'gift' nor Colin's decision work out the same way in this scene and the next.

Between the night and the next scene, there is an 'alba' sung by all the characters, in which they express their potential human unity; it is the only point at which they truly sing together.

The light of day comes up on renewed conflict and the last scene gives a more political-economic context to the various discussions as to how to live. The characters are shown to waste or compromise their potential, but as a matter of decision rather than irrational destiny.

© David Blake