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Jo Clifford - The Plays - Teatro do Mundo
 The Tree of Knowledge    2011
 Sex, Chips and The Holy Ghost    2011
 The Tree of Life    2010
 The Seagull    2010
 La Princesse de Cleves    2010
 Every One    2010
 An Apple A Day    2009
 Having a Heart    2009
 Spam Fritters    2009
 Chrystal and the General    2009
 Yerma    2008
 An Opera for St. Monan    2008
 Blood Wedding    2008
 Life is a Dream    2008
 The Gospel According to Jesus, Queen of Heaven    2008
 Leave to Remain    2007
 Tchaikovsky and the Queen of Spades    2007
 Lucy's Play    2007
 The Force of Destiny    2006
 Faust Parts One and Two    2006
 Anna Karenina    2005
 The World    2005
 Great Expectations    2005
 God's New Frock    2005
 God's New Frock (film)    2004
 Sitios    2004
 La Celestina    2004
 God's New Frock    2003
 The Chimes    2003
 S.D.O.    2002
 Madeleine    2002
 Queen of Spades    2002
 The Constant Prince    2001
 Baltasar and Blimunda    2001
 Charles Dickens: The Haunted Man    2001
 Bintou    2000
 Torquemada parts one and two    2000
 Hansel and Gretel    2000
 Inés de Castro (BBC2)    2000
 Ain’t it Grand to be bloomin’ well dead    1999
 Letters from a Strange Land    1999
 The Night Journey    1999
 Life is a Dream    1998
 The Magic Flute    1998
 The Leopard parts one and two    1997
 Writing Home to Mother    1997
 Bazaar    1997
 An Opera for Terezin    1996
 Inés de Castro (Opera)    1996
 War in America    1996
 Light in the Village    1995
 Wuthering Heights    1995
 La Vie de Boheme parts one and two    1994
 Visoes de Febre    1994
 Dreaming    1994
 Celestina (Radio)    1993
 La Vie de Boheme    1993
 Anna    1993
 Inés de Castro (Radio)    1992
 Don Duardos    1992
 What's in a Name    1992
 Macbeth    1991
 The Price of Everything    1991
 Ten Minute Play    1991
 Light in the Village    1991
 The Girl Who Fell to Earth or Shoot the Archduke!    1991
 Quevedo: The Soul's Dark Night    1990
 Santiago    1990
 Inés de Castro    1990
 The Magic Theatre    1989
 Celestina    1989
 Inés de Castro    1989
 The House of Bernarada Alba    1989
 Schism in England    1988
 Great Expectations    1988
 Playing with Fire    1987
 Heaven Bent, Hell Bound    1987
 Lucy's Play    1986
 Losing Venice (Radio)    1986
 Losing Venice    1985
 Romeo and Juliet    1984
 Ending Time    1984
 Desert Places    1983
 The Doctor of Honour    1983
 The House with Two Doors    1982
Inés de Castro

Written: 1989

Traverse Theatre

Inés is a play that almost never happened.

I had got involved for very cynical reasons: I had heard that a foundation to promote Portuguese culture in English wanted to commission a british playwright to dramatise the story: and I thought, well, at least I'll get a holiday in Portugal.

So I went. I saw the tombs: the tombs designed by Pedro to face each other across the nave of the monastery church in Alcobaca, so that when they rose from the dead the first thing the two lovers would see would be each other. I saw the place where InŽs is supposed to have been murdered: the Quinta das Lagrimas, which means the garden of tears. I saw an extraordinary fishing village called NazarŽ where they launched the fishing boats out from the beach through the pounding surf of the ocean. I saw the fearsome old women in black who wait on street corners: and I spent a long time staring out at the pitiless sea.

And the more I thought about the story (which every child in Portugal is taught at school) the more deeply it impressed me, and the more strongly I felt it had to be written as a tragedy.

Some years before I'd read a book by George Steiner called The Death of Tragedy, in which he argued that it is impossible to write tragedy in this age of ours. I always felt he had to be wrong: that in this age we need tragedy more than ever. For tragedy is not simply a dwelling on pain or misery: it is about asserting, too. Asserting the meaning and the value of human life.

So I wanted to write something classical, that obeyed the classic rules: where everything happened in a very short space of time, where there was a chorus, and tragic irony, and where everything that happened offstage.

I felt I needed nine actors to accomplish this; negotiations with the traverse in Edinburgh, the producing theatre, almost broke down when they told me they could only afford six. So all the actors, except for InŽs herself, had to double as protagonists and chorus. And although that aggravated me at the time, in retrospect I'm grateful for it, because it gave the play the tightness of structure it needed.

But then I was given another commission, by the National theatre in London, and I could see no way of finishing INES in time. But the first director, who was a close friend, persuaded me to try. I had three weeks.

It was winter. We lived in a cottage on the outskirts of Edinburgh, in a place called Rosslynn, in a wild wood beside a magical chapel. I walked the winter woods, I prayed in the chapel: and somehow all kinds of memories came to my aid. Memories of deaths, mostly: my mothers, my father's, and my father-in-law's. Memories of love; memories of fear. Of the fear we had, my wife and I, for the future of our children in so dangerous an age.

I don't plan when I write. I just try to become the characters and in my imagination live out their lives. Think what they think, feel what they feel, write out what they say. Be present in the moment, whether it be funny or sad, horrifying or fearful.

Sometimes people ask me how to perform my plays, and I can never tell them. I can't say, well you do this bit loud and this bit soft, or this bit slow or this bit fast. Stand here when you say this, or put a pause in here. It's not for me to say. It's for the actor to do. To do what I tried to do, out there in the winter woods: be in the moment with every scrap of intelligence and skill I might possess. Give myself utterly to the moment: and then move onto the next.

And when it was finished I was afraid. Afraid because I had never seen or read anything like it before: and I had no idea how it could be done. Also it seemed very short. So I persuaded my new computer to put it all into double-spacing. And then I printed it, and handed it in. And the actors gave a reading of it in the theatre's dusty office, and the amazing Portuguese artist Paula Rego happened to be there, and afterwards did the most astonishing picture. And soon afterwards we rehearsed it, and the script changed, as it always does in rehearsal, but not a great deal. I remember inserting the prayer, the one Pedro prays before going off to war, quite causally, just to bridge a link between scenes. And now it seems most intensely important.

Beyond that, I wanted the play to please. Please because it gave pleasure to the senses, being beautiful to look at, pleasure to the ears, pleasure to the mind (because it gives rise to thinking) pleasure to the emotions (because it awakens deep feeling), and pleasure perhaps even in a deeper sense because it speaks to the spirit.

I can't tell how much I succeeded; but I'm proud that since it opened, the play opened, the play has been seen in Edinburgh, London, Liverpool, Dublin, Sydney, Australia, both the Carolinas and who knows where else. That it's been translated into Portuguese and Spanish and Croatian, and was heard on Croatian radio early this year. As I write this, late into the night, the sounds of the music James McMillan composed when he made it an opera are still ringing in my ears, and in my heart.