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Narrow Road to the Deep North

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Narrow Road to the Deep North
Narrow Road to the Deep North (Edward Bond).jpg
Written byEdward Bond
Date premiered24 June 1968
Place premieredBelgrade Theatre, Coventry
Original languageEnglish
SettingJapan about the seventeenth, eighteenth or nineteenth centuries

Narrow Road to the Deep North is a 1968 satirical play on the British Empire by the English playwright Edward Bond.[1]

It is a political parable set in Japan in the Edo period. It deals with the poet Basho and the changing political landscape over about 35 years.

The play won Bond the John Whiting Award for 1968.[2]


Of course, that's only a symbol, but we need symbols to protect us from ourselves.

The censor

Because of the plays scenes of violence (it was known in the press as "The One With Five Dead Babies and a Disembowelling"), it was originally refused a theatrical license by the Lord Chamberlain, though permission was eventually given after Bond agreed to some last minute amendments.[3]

Original production

It was first performed in 1968 for the Peoples and Cities conference at the Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, in a production directed by Jane Howell:[4]

  • Basho, old, a priest - Peter Needham
  • Kiro, twenty - Paul Howes
  • Argi - Malcolm Ingram
  • Tola - Christopher Matthews
  • Heigoo - John Rowe
  • Breebree - Gordon Reid
  • Shogo, twenty-five - Edward Peel
  • Prime Minister - Peter Sproule
  • Commodore, forty-seven - Nigel Hawthorne
  • Georgina, thirty-nine - Susan Williamson
  • Peasants, soldiers, tars, tribesmen, etc. -
  • Alison King
  • Diana Berriman
  • Alan David
  • Geoffrey White                               
  • Vandra Edwards
  • Malcolm Ingram
  • Christopher Matthews
  • John Rowe
  • Gordon Reid
  • Peter Sproule 

Royal Court Theatre

The play was then staged as part of an Edward Bond season at the Royal Court in 1969, to mark the abolition of stage censorship the previous year.[2]

Critical reception

Bond said he "knew the critics would like it, and they did."[5] The Independent's Maeve Walsh reported that Narrow Road to the Deep North was found by the critics to be cryptic but was still admired overall.[3] The Observer called it "a funny, ironic and beautiful play...In a series of short elegant scenelets, Brechtian in style, but with a sly mock-Zen lightness all their own, the play compares, and finally equates, the tyranny of brute force and religious conscience."[6] Clive Barnes of The New York Times, despite praising earlier productions, criticized the Vivian Beaumont Theater performance as "distressingly tedious" for the acting and staging. Barnes wrote, "The writing has a fake Oriental archness to it—a solemnity, at times a pomposity. Yet the ideas are fresh. [...] Narrow Road to the Deep North is far better play than it would appear to be from its Lincoln Center production. But on just how much better I will for the moment hold my peace."[7]

Ann Marie Demling noted that it is one of the Bond plays to which "awards and citations of excellence have been given" along with Saved (1965), Lear (1971), Bingo (1973) and The Fool (1975).[8] Richard Stayton of Los Angeles Times wrote that "Bond’s metaphor for the Vietnam War unfortunately travels neatly into the 1990s as a mirror to such tragedies as Bosnia", but panned the performance he had seen (which was by The Actors' Gang).[9] Gerry Colgan of The Irish Times wrote in 2001 that while Bond's works were not generally well-known in Ireland, Narrow Road to the Deep North was a play that had "[resonated] down the years" along with Saved (1965).[10] Michael Mangan described it as one of Bond's "major plays" in a 2018 book on the dramatist.[11] Academic Amer Hamed Suliman dubbed it "one of Edward Bond's most significant works" in 2019.[12]


  • Review, Educational Theatre Journal, 24(2):195–197, May 1972.
  • Narrow Road to the Deep North, by Edward Bond, Methuen Modern Plays, 1981, ISBN 978-0-413-30840-5.


  1. ^ Patterson, Michael (January 22, 2015). Narrow Road to the Deep North. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/acref/9780191760082.001.0001/acref-9780191760082-e-966 – via
  2. ^ a b Billingham, P. (November 19, 2013). "Edward Bond: A Critical Study". Springer – via Google Books.
  3. ^ a b Walsh, Maeve (February 21, 1999). "Thirty years ago today: 'Saved' for the nation, farewell to the censor". The Independent. Retrieved May 3, 2020.
  4. ^ Bond, Edward (January 1, 2014). "Bond Plays: 2: Lear; The Sea; Narrow Road to the Deep North; Black Mass; Passion". A&C Black – via Google Books.
  5. ^ Spencer, Jenny S. (1992-12-17). Dramatic Strategies in the Plays of Edward Bond. Cambridge University Press. p. 255. ISBN 978-0-521-39304-1.
  6. ^ Bond, Edward (January 1, 2014). "Bond Plays: 2: Lear; The Sea; Narrow Road to the Deep North; Black Mass; Passion". A&C Black – via Google Books.
  7. ^ Barnes, Clive (1972-01-07). "Stage: 'Narrow Road to Deep North'". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-06-10.
  8. ^ Demling, Anne Marie (1983). "The Use of the Grotesque in the Plays of Edward Bond". LSU Digital Commons.
  9. ^ Stayton, Richard (1993-08-25). "Theater Review: 'Narrow Road' a Bumpy Trip to a Dead End". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2020-06-10.
  10. ^ Colgan, Gerry (2001-04-13). "The Crime of the Twenty-First Century". The Irish Times. Retrieved 2020-06-10.
  11. ^ Mangan, Michael (2018-08-01). Edward Bond. Oxford University Press. p. 31. ISBN 978-1-78694-267-8.
  12. ^ "(PDF) Floating above the Stream: A Brechtian Reading of Edward Bond's Narrow Road to Deep North". ResearchGate. Retrieved 2020-06-10.

External links

This page was last edited on 5 July 2020, at 04:31
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