Royal Court Playwright's Podcast https://royalcourttheatre.com/ Playwright Simon Stephens talks to some playwrights including Jez Butterworth, April de Angelis, Rachel De-lahey, Tanika Gupta, David Hare, Robert Holman, Dennis Kelly, Alistair McDowall, Anthony Neilson, Joe Penhall, Lucy Prebble, Anya Reiss, Polly Stenham and Enda Walsh. Thu, 23 Sep 2021 06:20:30 +0000 en-US © 2016 Royal Court Royal Court episodic Playwright Simon Stephens talks to some playwrights including Jez Butterworth, April de Angelis, Rachel De-lahey, Tanika Gupta, David Hare, Robert Holman, Dennis Kelly, Alistair McDowall, Anthony Neilson, Joe Penhall, Lucy Prebble, Anya Reiss, Polly Stenham and Enda Walsh. Royal Court AnoushkaWarden@royalcourttheatre.com clean https://d19lfjg8hluhfw.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/09094046/Playwrights-Podcast-Icon-1400-x-1400.jpg Royal Court Playwright's Podcast https://royalcourttheatre.com/ Royal Court AnoushkaWarden@royalcourttheatre.com Playwright Simon Stephens talks to some playwrights including Jez Butterworth, April de Angelis, Rachel De-lahey, Tanika Gupta, David Hare, Robert Holman, Dennis Kelly, Alistair McDowall, Anthony Neilson, Joe Penhall, Lucy Prebble, Anya Reiss, Polly Stenham and Enda Walsh. No https://wordpress.org/?v=5.5.3 Dutch Singer-Songwriter, Performer & Composer Wende talks to Simon Stephens https://royalcourttheatre.com/podcast/dutch-singer-songwriter-performer-composer-wende-talks-to-simon-stephens/ Thu, 05 Aug 2021 16:53:48 +0000 Rosie Evans-Hill https://royalcourttheatre.com/?post_type=podcast&p=80241 The following content may contain strong language.

Click here to book tickets for The Song Project (Aug 17- 28 Aug).
Click here to return to the main podcast page.
To subscribe via iTunes click here.
To listen on Spotify click here.

To read the transcript of this episode, click here.

Full introduction by Simon Stephens:

It’s one of the anomalies of the United Kingdom’s position as an island nation that not only does it seem to me to assume that every other country in the world is spending most of its time looking on with fascination at what is happening here but it rarely pays any attention to what is happening anywhere else. There are few arenas where this is more clear than in the performing arts.

Throughout the past twenty years the ignorance that British theatre makers have for theatre that is being made throughout the world or that British playwrights have for what is happening in international playwriting has struck me again and again. It reminds me of British attitude to food in the 70s or to football in the 80s. It’s not real theatre. It’s weird foreign muck.

In recent years I have become aware that the same applies to music. The artist who brought the myopic nature of the British musical world most clearly to my awareness is the startling Dutch singer, songwriter, performer and composer Wende Snijders.

I’d never heard of Wende, as she is publicly known, when I started writing a series of songs with her and for her to perform in the last years of the last decade. The extent of her status, the level of her success was unknown to me. For twenty years Wende has been one of the most celebrated singers and performers in the whole of Europe.

She released her first album in 2004 as a graduate from the Amsterdam Theatre School. A collection of celebrated French Chansons supported by the Metropole Orchestra. The following seventeen years have seen her release nine more albums and tour the continent to sell out audiences. She has sold out runs at Amsterdam’s astonishing Carré theatre. She has plundered the European songbook with force and drama and brilliance. She has released haunting electronica. She has performed a compelling version of Schubert’s song cycle Winterreise.

Her voice is graced with a haunting soul and yearning. It evokes Kate Bush to me or PJ Harvey or Róisín Murphy or Courtney Barnett but is also touched with a more historical legacy. By the spirit of Édith Piaf, perhaps of Lotte Lenya.

In 2019 she debuted a remarkable exploration of the form of songwriting in the Royal Court theatre upstairs. In a piece of work that she co-conceived with Designer and Royal Court Associate Chloe Lamford she gave the first iteration of The Song Project. Working with playwrights E.V. Crowe, Sabrina Mahfouz, Somalia Nonyé Seaton, Stef Smith and Debris Stevenson and in collaboration with composer Isobel Waller-Bridge and choreographer Imogen Knight, Wende explored the possibility that there are some ideas that couldn’t be dramatised, that couldn’t be articulated in speech or dialogue but that could, in fact, only be sung.

It was a visceral, forceful evening. She performed The Song Project, like she performs all of her work, with a startling tenderness and savagery and wit. She is a creature of the theatre in her metabolism as much as her training and she brings that theatricality to every moment of her work. The evening is a celebration of light over darkness, of hope over fear of the mess and beauty of the human body. It sings with feminism and physicality. It’s coming back to the Theatre Downstairs this summer of 2021.

It is a real pleasure to welcome her here on this special one off episode of the Royal Court Playwright’s podcast.

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yes no 01:09:40 Rosie Evans-Hill Yes no
S5 Ep5: Ta-Nia (aka Talia Paulette Oliveras & Nia Farrell) talk to Simon Stephens https://royalcourttheatre.com/podcast/s5-ep5-ta-nia-aka-talia-paulette-oliveras-nia-farrell-talk-to-simon-stephens/ Tue, 18 May 2021 09:13:54 +0000 Rosie Evans-Hill https://royalcourttheatre.com/?post_type=podcast&p=79755 Series 5 of the Royal Court Playwright’s Podcast was released in partnership with Berliner Theatertreffen Stückemarkt.

The following content may contain strong language.

Click here to return to the main podcast page.
To subscribe via iTunes click here.
To listen on Spotify click here.

This conversation has been transcribed and can be accessed here: https://royalcourttheatre.com/podcasts/playwrights-podcast-transcript-of-series-5-episode-5-ta-nia-aka-talia-paulette-oliveras-nia-farrell-talk-to-simon-stephens/

You can watch a livestreamed performance of Ta-Nia’s (aka Talia Paulette Oliveras & Nia Farrell) Dreams in Blk Major here: https://digital.berlinerfestspiele.de/stueckemarkt/dreams-in-blk-major
All readings/recordings will be available for 24 hours for the 18 May.

Full introduction by Simon Stephens:

The presence of academia in theatre making in the United States has a status that is, I think, more pronounced or established than it seems to me to be in the UK or elsewhere in Europe. In many US cities the theatre is housed within the university. The artists and audience are often academics or students. In New York, that complex heart of the country’s theatrical history, Columbia and NYU in particular provide the art form with a constant pulse of new life. Theatre in the US seems born out of a synthesis between the theoretical rigour and interrogations of its universities counterpointed with the energy and drive of the marketplace, as most famously typified in the theatre houses of Broadway.

The theatre making duo made up of director Talia Paulette Oliveras and writer Nia Farrell, collectively known as TaNia, both typify this position and obliterate every last archetype it might suggest. They met while studying experimental and collaborative theatre making at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. The power of their theoretical rigour and the incision of their thought as a means of critiquing power was maybe developed at NYU, but there is no arid or academic crust to the work that TaNia first developed there: the visceral, playful, humane, angry, Afrofuturist theatre event Dreams in Blk Major. First staged at Tisch in 2019 it transferred to the National Black Theatre in Harlem in the same year, and then the ANT Fest, the all new talent festival at the celebrated Ars Nova Theatre. In 2020/21 it was chosen by jurors to visit the Stückemarkt at the Theatertreffen.

It is a source of some regret to me to not be able to make it to Berlin to see any of the five shows chosen for the Stückemarkt in real life. But I can’t help feeling that it is a particular shame to not be in the same room as Dreams in Blk Major as it is played out there. Farrell’s text is sensuous and poetic. It explodes the conventions of linear narrative to create a text that is built on ritual more than it is on a dramatic arc. It describes itself as a celebration in five movements. Reading the text on the page, the energy of that celebration alone is infectious. Infused by the magic and dignity of music and art, it combines jazz and cookery, reinvents a school curriculum with unapologetic glory, reimagines BuzzFeed questionnaires and makes a theatrical intervention that encourages the audience to engage in a consideration of their own identities and incumbent histories. It draws from a past of centuries and imagines a new future, but invites a ritual that is necessarily defined by its present tenseness, asking its actors to really talk and really listen to one another, inviting its audience to really dance and the food that ends the piece to really be made, and to taste – I imagine – fucking fantastic! If this is a piece born out of a nuanced and complex theoretical understanding, it is also one of the most joyous and celebratory pieces of theatre I have imagined all year.

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yes no 59:11 Rosie Evans-Hill Yes no
S5 Ep4: Sam Max talks to Simon Stephens https://royalcourttheatre.com/podcast/s5-ep4-sam-max-talks-to-simon-stephens/ Tue, 18 May 2021 08:28:25 +0000 Rosie Evans-Hill https://royalcourttheatre.com/?post_type=podcast&p=79498 Series 5 of the Royal Court Playwright’s Podcast was released in partnership with Berliner Theatertreffen Stückemarkt.

The following content may contain strong language.

Click here to return to the main podcast page.
To subscribe via iTunes click here.
To listen on Spotify click here.

This conversation has been transcribed and can be accessed here: https://royalcourttheatre.com/podcasts/playwrights-podcast-transcript-of-series-5-episode-4-sam-max-talks-to-simon-stephens/

You can watch a livestreamed performance of Sam Max’s COOP here: https://digital.berlinerfestspiele.de/stueckemarkt/coop-deutsch-zaun
All readings/recordings will be available for 24 hours for the 18 May.

Full introduction by Simon Stephens:

The summaries on US new play database New Play Exchange, of the four plays by New York based writer Sam Max – each written over the last five years – return to a curious description. Their reimagining of Russian folk tale Pidor and the Wolf, hormone fuelled musical piece Twin Size Beds, apocalyptic break up play Driftwood, and juror’s selection for the 2020/21 Stückemarkt, Coop, are all described as dark comedies.

I understand that such databases are dependent on simplification, and that Sam Max is another artist in this year’s selection that is new to me, but to describe Coop, their poetic, haunting exploration of the yearning of a teenage girl in a nightmare of familial imprisonment as a dark comedy seems to me to miss its force. It does have at least three jokes that made me laugh out loud when I read it. But it is so much darker and stranger than the generic description implies.

Sam Max was born in Pennsylvania and graduated from the theatre department of the University of Evansville in Indiana.  Since moving to New York they have won the Robert Chesley/Victor Bumbalo Playwriting Award, received an Honourable Mention for the Relentless Award, and were named a member of the Young & Hungry List, tracking “Hollywood’s Top 100 New Writers“. Sam’s work has been presented at Under the Radar Festival, National Sawdust and by the Museum of Sex at the celebrated Joe’s Pub. They have been a resident artist at The Public Theatre, and have received awards from the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation, and the Foundation for Contemporary Arts. 

Coop, on one level is the story of Avery. A girl who lives on a farm, finds herself trapped in ritualised acts enacted by her parents and isolated from the outside world. Her resistance to this isolation and entrapment result in a murderous pact that echoes across the rural farmland that Max imagines their drama to play out in. But that synopsis does the play slight service. It is a play that blurs realities between a rural economic objectivity and the imaginative terrain of Avery’s mind. It is set on a farmland where no farm life seems to survive. It is a story that plays out on a tarnished landscape of prayer and ritual, in which the family survive entirely on a diet of eggs. It is a play of blood and violence and stillness, defined by dream images, and in which the dead lose contact with us as though we are speaking to them on an unrealizable phone signal. It reads as though Harmony Korine had staged Beckett’s Endgame on the landscape of Terrence Malick’s Badlands

I loved its expiration of language. It is one of several pieces this Stückemarkt that seem to stage characters desperate to find the right word for their experience.

Sam Max is in the early years of their working life but judging from the level of interest their work has provoked and from the depth and clarity of imagination that defines Coop, they are one of those writers whose work over the coming decade has the potential to allow us to reimagine ourselves as we come out of the pandemic.

 

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yes no 1:02:08 Rosie Evans-Hill Yes no
S5 Ep3: Eve Leigh talks to Simon Stephens https://royalcourttheatre.com/podcast/s5-ep3-eve-leigh-talks-to-simon-stephens/ Tue, 18 May 2021 08:27:49 +0000 Rosie Evans-Hill https://royalcourttheatre.com/?post_type=podcast&p=79435 Series 5 of the Royal Court Playwright’s Podcast was released in partnership with Berliner Theatertreffen Stückemarkt.

The following content may contain strong language.

Click here to return to the main podcast page.
To subscribe via iTunes click here.
To listen on Spotify click here.

This conversation has been transcribed and can be accessed here: https://royalcourttheatre.com/podcasts/playwrights-podcast-transcript-of-series-5-episode-3-eve-leigh-talks-to-simon-stephens/

You can watch a livestreamed performance of Eve Leigh’s Midnight Movie here: https://digital.berlinerfestspiele.de/stueckemarkt/midnight-movie
All readings/recordings will be available for 24 hours for the 18 May.

Full introduction by Simon Stephens:

One of the most exasperating myths in the various narratives that surround new playwriting culture is that playwrights ever burst into the playwriting world from nowhere. A prominent literary figure at the Royal Court used to talk about such hypothetical playwrights coming ‘from Mars.’ The truth is that those playwrights who arrive suddenly into the new writing scene have often spent years working with tenacity and determination on their craft and process before they appear to emerge from outer space and take the world by surprise.

Occasionally over the past couple of decades it has been a privilege to watch some writers make that journey. One striking example for me is the playwright Eve Leigh whose Midnight Movie is one of the juror choices in this year’s Stückemarkt.

I first met Eve in the early years of the last decade when she sent her play Stone Face to the Lyric Hammersmith while I was Associate there. The play was striking for the clarity of its vision and the muscular poetry of its writing. We met to talk about her work and have stayed in touch over the last decade. I am proud to think of her as a friend.

Over that time, she has written at least a play a year. Receiving her work has always been a joy. But there was a moment two or three years ago, with her plays Salty Irina and The Trick when it became clear that the years of work had started to play off. Here were plays of force and confidence. The lyrical petrify was now being matched by a sense of theatrical adventure and musical and clarity and cogency of idea.

And then in 2019 she appeared from nowhere, a playwright coming from outer space to hit our major stages. While earlier productions had caught some people’s eye: Spooky Action At A Distance was produced by the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama at the Gate theatre. Roy Alexander Weise directed Stone Face at the Finborough. It was in 2019 that The Trick premiered at the celebrated Bush theatre. Salty Irina was shortlisted for the Bruntwood Prize and Rachel Bagshaw directed Midnight Movie at the Royal Court.

Leigh is a writer of range and conviction.  Her work is defined by a formal exploration as much as an intellectual one. Her theatre is built on an understanding of the importance of the presence of the audience in her work. She invents games for them to play. She imagines magic tricks for them to take part in. She makes music for them to listen to.

She is a writer of real political exploration. In recent years her commitment to the investigation of issues of ability and access in the theatre have been integrated into her work in a way that is as theatrical and playful as it is serious and nuanced. She has examined, as a journalist as a well as a dramatist, the repeated depiction of violence against women in drama. She has written with compassion and understanding of the experience of the Eastern European diaspora, a diaspora that her own family was informed by and built around.

If 2019 was a breakthrough year then 2020 may have been an unwelcome interruption, but one of the most surprising oddities of that baffling pandemic – and one of the most playful explorations of theatre in its lockdowns – was the series of emails she sent headed Invisible Summer. Gifs, short films, poems, pieces of music that explore the territory surrounding Midnight Movie.

Midnight Movie is a play about the internet. It is also a play that seeks to dramatise the form of the internet. It’s a play about how we can become addicted to the solace and titillation, the voyeuristic horrors and the sense of community however dislocated or fictional or untrustworthy, that the internet can offer. It is a play that spans continents in the way the internet does, and which reshapes and reimagines itself with every refresh the way the internet does.

It tells the story of a night of migraine induced insomnia for the unnamed narrator of the play that seems to be a fictionalised version of Leigh. It returns to those investigations of diaspora, disability and voyeurism. It builds those investigations into its very form. Its opening stage directions insist that It should be performed by multiple people, ideally with visible and invisible disabilities, and that the performers and artistic team should consider some of the languages of accessibility – sign languages, captioning, audio description, live voice – and how they might be part of telling this story. 

Returning to our old email conversations in preparation for this interview, I found one from 2013 in which Eve exclaimed how much she had loved visiting the Theatertreffen and the Stückemarkt, and wondering if I knew any ways that she may be able to return.

I am thrilled that the way she managed to get back there, even if only virtually, is through the calibre and brilliance of her work.

 

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yes no 1:09:04 Rosie Evans-Hill Yes no
S5 Ep2: Laurence Dauphinais talks to Simon Stephens https://royalcourttheatre.com/podcast/s5-ep2-laurence-dauphinais-talks-to-simon-stephens/ Tue, 18 May 2021 08:26:06 +0000 Rosie Evans-Hill https://royalcourttheatre.com/?post_type=podcast&p=79497 Series 5 of the Royal Court Playwright’s Podcast was released in partnership with Berliner Theatertreffen Stückemarkt.

The following content may contain strong language.

Click here to return to the main podcast page.
To subscribe via iTunes click here.
To listen on Spotify click here.

This conversation has been transcribed and can be accessed here: https://royalcourttheatre.com/podcasts/playwrights-podcast-transcript-of-series-5-episode-2-laurence-dauphinais-talks-to-simon-stephens/ 

You can watch a livestreamed performance of Laurence Dauphinais’ Aalaapi here: https://digital.berlinerfestspiele.de/stueckemarkt/aalaapi
All readings/recordings will be available for 24 hours for the 18 May.

Full introduction by Simon Stephens:

It is indicative of my ignorance that I knew nothing of the work of Quebecoise musician, artist, director, actor and writer Laurence Dauphinais until starting work on this conversation. An ignorance only underlined by the range and success of her work not only in Montreal, where she lives and works, but throughout the world.

Her body of work is defined by its diversity. She was a graduate of the National Theatre School of Canada’s acting programme and has acted with success on television, in film and on stage alike. She toured solo work internationally. Her shows iShow and Siri travelling throughout Europe and South America.

She has written and directed Lumens:Game, a generative music and video piece created by Video Phase, has made soulful new electronic music with the Montreal collective Darrick, and is in the process of making her latest co-creation with Maxime Carbonneau, In the Cloud.

Her beautiful piece of documentary drama Aalaapi, which has been chosen for the 2020/21 Stückemarkt, was her debut as solo director. It premiered at the Centre du Théâtre d’Aujourd’hui (CTDA) in Montréal where it won the 2020 Playwright’s Prize.

Aalaapi depicts a marginalised group that is hardly ever given a voice in contemporary drama: the Inuit. Dauphinais works in collaboration with radio director Marie-Laurence Rancourt and the two performers Nancy Saunders and Ulivia Uviluk to create a piece that synthesises recorded testimony, hyper naturalistic drama and elegant, poised projection art. It is a haunting study of the humanness and persistence of Inuit culture as it spans the range of Canada and Quebec from the urban energy of Montreal to the coldest, most battered parts of isolation within the Arctic Circle.

Its quiet poetry, imagery and sound felt defined by its humanness. Its cascade of text crystallises the complexities of a multilingual culture and the yearning and impossibility of ever finding the right word. In its study of two performers contained within an isolated home I was surprised to see images of the lockdowns of the last year resonating. In its meteorological brutality it evoked images of climate instability that linger round the edges of so much of our imagination. But in its wit and honesty, restraint and humanity it is built with as much compassion for the community it documents as it reaches out into metaphors that resonate throughout the world.

 

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yes no 1:02:17 Rosie Evans-Hill Yes no
S5 Ep1: Jude Christian talks to Simon Stephens https://royalcourttheatre.com/podcast/s5-ep1-jude-christian-talks-to-simon-stephens/ Tue, 18 May 2021 08:25:11 +0000 Rosie Evans-Hill https://royalcourttheatre.com/?post_type=podcast&p=79494 Series 5 of the Royal Court Playwright’s Podcast was released in partnership with Berliner Theatertreffen Stückemarkt.

The following content may contain strong language.

Click here to return to the main podcast page.
To subscribe via iTunes click here.
To listen on Spotify click here.

This conversation has been transcribed and can be accessed here: https://royalcourttheatre.com/podcasts/playwrights-podcast-transcript-of-jude-christian-talking-to-simon-stephens/

You can watch a livestreamed performance of Jude Christian’s Nanjing here: https://digital.berlinerfestspiele.de/stueckemarkt/nanjing
All readings/recordings will be available for 24 hours for the 18 May.

Full introduction by Simon Stephens:

Over the course of the last decade Jude Christian has established herself as one of the most exciting directors, dramaturgs, and theatre makers in British theatre. She has directed at most of the major theatres in London, staging new plays at the Royal Court Theatre and the Gate, and she has reimagined Shakespeare’s Othello and Macbeth at the Lyric Hammersmith; she has worked as a dramaturg at the Globe on the banks of the Thames and written and directed Dick Whittington, a raucous and magnificent panto, that peculiar Christmas extension of the popular music hall cabaret that defines the theatrical experience in the United Kingdom and entirely baffles the rest of the world. She was made Associate Director of Home in Manchester at the end of the last decade. I worked with her on the 2017 production of Chekhov’s The Seagull at the Lyric Hammersmith, where she was Associate Director. She was a collaborator of rigour, intelligence and imagination, with a searing sense of truth.

Over the course of the last decade she has written and developed and performed a quite shattering and unique piece of theatre. Nanjing dramatizes her own exploration of her own history. It is a moving portrayal of her discovery in her twenties of the atrocities that are in England described as the Rape of Nanking, that were carried out against the Chinese people of her grandparent’s generation. It is also a play about the last decade and how in that decade the world’s sense of its own history has on occasion dug its heels in to notions of simplicity when what was maybe needed was a human acceptance of contradiction. It is a play about the brutality of war in the last century that crystallises in a felt and powerful creed for the urgent need for peace as we embark on our third baffling decade of this one. She performs the piece herself with poise and clarity. It is one of the judges choices for this year’s Stückemarkt.

 

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yes no 50:26 Rosie Evans-Hill Yes no
Jammz and Nazareth Hassan in conversation https://royalcourttheatre.com/podcast/jammz-and-nazareth-hassan-in-conversation/ Sat, 08 May 2021 18:14:23 +0000 Joanne Stewart https://royalcourttheatre.com/?post_type=podcast&p=79316 Living Newspaper Clippings, is a series of conversations between some of the writers and artists who are creating Living Newspaper at the Royal Court Theatre.

Writers and musicians Jammz (Poet in da Corner) and Nazareth Hassan (VANTABLACK) discuss their work for Living Newspaper Editions 1 and 2, how they approached creating their pieces for Living Newspaper, the survival of club spaces during the pandemic, and where theatre and music intersect and divide.

You can watch extracts from Edition 1 and Edition 2 at royalcourttheatre.com/living-newspaper-clippings.

This conversation has been transcribed and can be accessed here.

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clean no 0:00 Joanne Stewart No no
Ruby Thomas and Chris Thorpe in conversation https://royalcourttheatre.com/podcast/ruby-thomas-and-chris-thorpe-in-conversation/ Wed, 05 May 2021 17:41:40 +0000 Joanne Stewart https://royalcourttheatre.com/?post_type=podcast&p=79154 Living Newspaper Clippings, is a series of conversations between some of the writers and artists who are creating Living Newspaper at the Royal Court Theatre.

Writers Ruby Thomas (Either) and Chris Thorpe (Victory Condition) wrote for The Weather Room of the Living Newspaper, in Edition 2 and Edition 1 respectively. In the Living Newspaper, The Weather Room is an installation designed to evoke changing weather states and is a space to contemplate our own impact on the climate crisis.

In this episode, Ruby and Chris discuss creating their pieces for Living Newspaper, and writing about the climate crisis and climate justice for theatre.

You can watch extracts from The Weather Room at royalcourttheatre.com/living-newspaper-clippings.

A written transcript of this conversation is available on our website.

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clean no 21:54 Joanne Stewart No no
Katherine Soper and Daniel York Loh in conversation https://royalcourttheatre.com/podcast/katherine-soper-and-daniel-york-loh-in-conversation/ Tue, 04 May 2021 10:39:52 +0000 Joanne Stewart https://royalcourttheatre.com/?post_type=podcast&p=79142 “One of the things that I was thinking about is that, conspiracies just tend to take on the kind of anxieties of the age that they’re conceived in.”

Living Newspaper Clippings, is a series of conversations between some of the writers and artists who are creating Living Newspaper at the Royal Court Theatre.

In this episode, writers Katherine Soper and Daniel York Loh talk about the the role of disinformation, conspiracy theories, and social media, and how this influenced their pieces in Edition 1 of Living Newspaper.

You can watch extracts from performances of The Con-Troll Room by Katherine Soper and hungry for a lie by Daniel York Loh at royalcourttheatre.com/living-newspaper-clippings.

A written transcript of this conversation is available on our website.

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clean no 21:02 Joanne Stewart No no
Emteaz Hussain and Jasmine Lee-Jones in conversation https://royalcourttheatre.com/podcast/emteaz-hussain-and-jasmine-lee-jones-in-conversation/ Sun, 21 Mar 2021 19:15:27 +0000 Joanne Stewart https://royalcourttheatre.com/?post_type=podcast&p=78233 Living Newspaper Clippings, is a series of conversations between some of the writers and artists who are creating Living Newspaper at the Royal Court Theatre.

In this episode, writers Emteaz Hussain and Jasmine Lee-Jones talk about the role of writing for self-reflection and transformation and how they responded to, and wrote for, the Obituaries section of the Living Newspaper.

The obituaries section of Living Newspaper is a site to remember, reminisce, and rejoice in the memory of people, places and things that may have been lost this year.

You can watch extracts from performances of Obituaries by Jasmine Lee-Jones (Edition 1) and Strawberries by Emteaz Hussain (Edition 2) at royalcourttheatre.com/living-newspaper-clippings.

A written transcript of this conversation is available on our website.

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clean no 21:18 Joanne Stewart No no
Anchuli Felicia King and Tife Kusoro in conversation https://royalcourttheatre.com/podcast/anchuli-felicia-king-and-tife-kusoro-in-conversation/ Sat, 20 Mar 2021 16:06:21 +0000 Joanne Stewart https://royalcourttheatre.com/?post_type=podcast&p=78211 Living Newspaper Clippings, is a series of conversations between some of the writers and artists who are creating Living Newspaper at the Royal Court Theatre.

Writers Anchuli Felicia King and Tife Kusoro discuss creating Aunties for Royal Court Living Newspaper Edition 2. Felicia’s ‘Protest Aunties’ and Tife’s ‘WhatsApp Aunty’ took over spaces of the Royal Court building to explore how different groups create alternative communities through disseminating (mis)information, using digital technologies, and taking to the streets to protest.

Watch excerpts from the scenes written by Anchuli Felicia King and Tife Kusoro at: https://royalcourttheatre.com/living-newspaper-clippings/

A written transcript of this conversation is available on our website.

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clean no 19:55 Joanne Stewart No no
Milli Bhatia and Temi Wilkey in conversation https://royalcourttheatre.com/podcast/milli-bhatia-and-temi-wilkey-in-conversation/ Thu, 18 Mar 2021 17:29:56 +0000 Joanne Stewart https://royalcourttheatre.com/?post_type=podcast&p=78196 Director Milli Bhatia and writer Temi Wilkey discuss creating the Horoscopes section in Edition 1 of the Royal Court Living Newspaper, and using astrology as a site for connection, intimacy and comfort .

Read excerpts from the horoscopes written by Temi and find out more about Living Newspaper here.

The Horoscopes section of the Living Newspaper is an interactive space which offers audience members a reading of what their future might hold.

A full transcript of this conversation can be accessed here.

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clean no 21:09 Joanne Stewart No no
Lisa Hammond and Tom Wells in conversation https://royalcourttheatre.com/podcast/lisa-hammond-and-tom-wells-in-conversation/ Mon, 15 Mar 2021 09:27:21 +0000 Joanne Stewart https://royalcourttheatre.com/?post_type=podcast&p=78160 Actor Lisa Hammond and writer Tom Wells discuss making ‘Ghosting’, the dating column in Edition 2 of the Royal Court Living Newspaper.

Watch excerpts from scenes discussed by Lisa and Tom and find out more about Living Newspaper here.

Royal Court-ing is the dating section of the Living Newspaper and is a space to congregate and witness as a new love blossoms each week in real life.

A full transcript of this conversation can be accessed here.

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clean no 19:22 Joanne Stewart No no
Mark Ravenhill and Shankho Chaudhuri in conversation https://royalcourttheatre.com/podcast/mark-ravenhill-and-shankho-chaudhuri-in-conversation/ Wed, 03 Mar 2021 13:58:52 +0000 Joanne Stewart https://royalcourttheatre.com/?post_type=podcast&p=77967 Writer Mark Ravenhill and designer Shankho Chaudhuri discuss working on the cartoon in Edition 2 of the Royal Court Living Newspaper.

Watch excerpts from scenes discussed by Mark and Shankho – Living Newspaper Edition 2 here.

For each edition of Royal Court Living Newspaper, a writer is invited to create a cartoon, and use the building space for satire through the lens of a newspaper cartoon – realising the piece through cut-outs, speech bubbles, timber, and found objects made in the scenery dock each week.

A full transcript of this conversation can be accessed here.

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S4 Ep6: Sabrina Mahfouz talks to Simon Stephens https://royalcourttheatre.com/podcast/s4-ep6-sabrina-mahfouz-talks-to-simon-stephens/ Fri, 24 Jan 2020 11:00:39 +0000 Rosie Evans-Hill https://royalcourttheatre.com/?post_type=podcast&p=68102 The following content may contain strong language.

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Full introduction by Simon Stephens:

I first met the playwright, poet, performer, presenter, screenwriter, anthologist and librettist Sabrina Mahfouz in the Houses of Parliament. In 2015 we had been invited by the theatre company Paines Plough to talk about the political nature of and political representation in British playwriting. It was a remarkable night which lingers in my head predominantly for that meeting and a rather daunting oil painting of former Tory Party Home Secretary Michael Howard. Four and a half years later I was thrilled by the energy and intelligence of her Royal Court debut show the gender obliterating dramatic lecture A History of Water in the Middle East. I have seen few shows in the past twelve months that more trippingly illustrated the political potential we were talking about on that odd night.

 The show marked her final production of a decade of quite extraordinary creative energy. She has written and produced up to twenty plays in the last ten years, it is genuinely hard to keep count. Her first play 2011’s Dry Ice was directed by David Schwimmer at the Underbelly Edinburgh before moving to the Bush Theatre.  Her 2013 play Clean won the Herald Angel Award when it played at the Traverse Edinburgh before moving off-Broadway. The following year’s  Chef was short listed for the Carol Tambor Award after being staged in the Brighton Fringe and at the Soho Theatre. Paines Plough produced the Stef O’Driscoll directed With a Little Bit of Luck at a sell out run at the Camden Roundhouse. Quite uniquely amongst all the writers I’ve spoken to in these conversations she has had a play performed at Wembley Stadium, her history of women’s football co-written with Hollie McNish, Offside. She has written for NT Connections, adapted Malorie Blackman’s celebrated Noughts and Crosses for Pilot Theatre and was one of the writers on the Wende Song Project her at the Court this year.

She has compiled anthologies of British Muslim Women’s writing, 2017’s The Things I Would Tell You and considerations of working class identity Smashing It published this autumn 2019. She wrote beautifully in Nikesh Shukla’s collection The Good Immigrant. She has published a novel as well as several celebrated collections of poetry; originated television; written a libretto for the Royal Opera House and worked and written about her working life in Mayfair Strip Clubs and the Ministry of Defence alike.

Her failed attempt to get Top Secret Security clearance while working at the MOD runs like a spine through A History of Water in the Middle East. From this spine she reaches outward to interrogate her own identities as a South London born Muslim woman of Egyptian heritage as well as lacerate the culpability of the British Government in the last hundred and fifty years of political turmoil, economic instability and bloodshed in the part of the world that her family came from.

It was a remarkable show. Defined by a pulsing musical score by Kareem Samara with operatic counterpoint by Laura Hanna it managed to both explore and explain British Imperialism and Mahfouz’s place within it. Mahfouz is a compelling performer, passionate and witty and savage and self-deprecating by turn. Her performance and her show seemed emblematic of an energy that has driven one of the most dizzyingly prolific and formally surprising careers in contemporary British Theatre.

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yes no 1:23:10 Rosie Evans-Hill Yes no
S4 Ep5: Jack Thorne talks to Simon Stephens https://royalcourttheatre.com/podcast/s4-ep5-jack-thorne-talks-to-simon-stephens/ Fri, 17 Jan 2020 11:03:10 +0000 Rosie Evans-Hill https://royalcourttheatre.com/?post_type=podcast&p=67970 The following content may contain strong language.

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Full introduction by Simon Stephens:

One of the challenges of hosting these podcasts is perfecting the art of concision and distillation. There are writers I have had the honour of interviewing whose careers have spanned four, five or even six decades and composing a pithy introduction or marshalling a career interview into an hour can be challenge.

This has never felt the case with a writer who has been writing professionally for a decade and a half.

Today, however, I am interviewing Jack Thorne.

Born in Bristol in 1978 Jack Thorne’s dramatic output in the past fifteen years has been simply breath taking. He has written with energy and tireless commitment for radio, television, film and stage alike. He has written the most popular play of the century.  He has written quite beautifully for the Royal Court.

It was here at the Court that I first met Jack when he joined an Introduction to Playwriting Group while I was writers tutor at the Young Writers Programme. I remember a tall, studious, shy writer with the occasional flash of a chuckle and grin. The plays I remember him writing at the time were defined by their darkness. It seemed as though he was making work that cast a fantastical shadow from the legacy of those writers who came out of this theatre at the end of the last century. Mark Ravenhill, perhaps. Sarah Kane or Anthony Nielson.

Some of this darkness lingered in his early work for theatre. When You Cure Me at the Bush in 2005, Fanny and Faggot at the Finborough in 2007 and Stacy at the Arcola in the same year.

But in the years that followed there seems to have been, to my eyes at least, a remarkable deepening and brightening in his work. It may be a coincidence that this deepening and brightening began at the same time as he began of one of the most remarkable careers in television writing of modern times.

Jack Thorne started writing for television, working on Shameless and Skins and co-creating Cast Offs. In the time since then he has gone on to win five Bafta Awards including for his series Shades and his remarkable collaboration with Shane Meadows that led to the This is England series 86, 88 and 90 and Thorne’s work co-writing The Virtues. His newest television creation, the adaptation of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials started last week and was the first TV drama that I’ve watched excitedly with my kids for about five years.

He has written successfully for film and radio.

In recent years, for theatre, has written new English language versions of Buchner’s Woyzeck and Durrenmatt’s The Visit. He has made a new musical, Junkyard with Stephen Warbeck. He also adapted Dickens Christmas Carol for the Old Vic, a production that is about to be re-mounted on Broadway.

His theatre work in recent years has been marked by a collaboration with one of this theatre’s Associate Directors, John Tiffany.

Together they adapted John Advide Linquvist’s masterpiece Let the Right One In. In 2016 their multi award winning Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, co-written with the Harry Potter creator JK Rowling, opened magnificently in the West End. And they have worked on beautiful, tender political studies here at the Court Hope in 2014 and the end of history… which played in summer 2019.

When I think about the darkness of the work that I read for the Young Writers Programme and see the work that has poured from that point, if there is one possible unity I notice in Jack’s work, it is a faith in the possibility of the sometimes redemptive, sometimes corrosive power of story. Whether that is the epic volte-face of Scrooge, the horror of Let The Right One In, the heroic yearning of Harry Potter or the political mythologies of the end of history…

It is a faith in and fascination with story that seems to have driven him with astonishing energy and that has underpinned one of the most important dramatic voices of the century.

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yes no 1:18:04 Rosie Evans-Hill Yes no
S4 Ep4: David Ireland talks to Simon Stephens https://royalcourttheatre.com/podcast/s4-ep4-david-ireland-talks-to-simon-stephens/ Fri, 10 Jan 2020 11:00:44 +0000 Rosie Evans-Hill https://royalcourttheatre.com/?post_type=podcast&p=67906 The following content may contain strong language.

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Full introduction by Simon Stephens:

David Ireland is a man whose family names makes writing short essays about his paradoxical national identity, biography and work tremendously complicated.

He was born and raised in Belfast at the start of the 80s. He trained, as a young man, as an actor in Glasgow at Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama. And it was in Glasgow, with the performance of a brilliant sounding one man show Tonight David Ireland will Lecture Dance and Box, preventing an anticipated return to Belfast, that his working life as a playwright began to take shape.

In 2010 What The Animals Say, a two hander that explored the relationship between two Northern Irish boys who, like their author, also moved to Scotland, they to engage in the contrasting worlds of frustrated acting and professional football was celebrated for the rattle of its dialogue and the heightened surrealism of its tone when it was staged at the City’s Oran Mor theatre,

Everything Between Us from the same year written for Belfast’s celebrated Tinderbox Theatre Company, explored the latent simmering psychoses underpinning the truth and reconciliation process in Northern Ireland. Summertime, an exploration of the psychosis of homophobia in contemporary Northern Ireland was also staged by Tinderbox.

He was made the Writer in Residence at the Lyric, Belfast.

His first play for the Lyric Can’t Forget About You from 2013 explored the fall out in a young man’s family when he falls in love with a woman twenty years his senior.

It was his 2016 play Cyprus Avenue directed by Royal Court Artistic Director Vicky Featherstone in a co-production between the Court and Dublin’s Abbey Theatre that propelled Ireland to international attention.

It crystallised those themes that Ireland had been returning to. It excavated the psychosis of religious extremism, not as an ideological flaw but as a genuine type of madness and how that psychosis skewers a Belfast family. Beautifully played by Stephen Rea it moved from the Jerwood Theatre Upstairs to the Jerwood Theatre Downstairs before being re-staged for a controversial run at the Public Theatre in New York. It won the Best Play at the Irish Times Theatre Awards 2017 and the James Tait Black Award.

Throughout this time, he has continued to act starring in DC Jackson’s Kill Johnny Glendening. As well as taking a part in episode one of the Derry Girls.

He updated Lorca’s Blood Wedding at the Dundee Rep.

2018’s Ulster American – winner of the Carol Tambor Best of Edinburgh Award – plays out the unsettling provocations of an Oscar Winning Hollywood actor taking a lead role in a West End play only to explode a series of moral hand grenades in the face of the plays English director and Irish writer.  It is one of those rare things, a compelling play about playwriting. Like peak David Mamet, a writer who Ireland sometimes remind me of, here he uses the ethics and processes of making theatre to consider the ethics and processes of making a culture.

The Royal Court’s relationship to Irish playwriting, from both sides of the border, is rich and fundamental to the theatre’s history. From Samuel Beckett to Conor McPherson and Marina Carr, the dramas produced on that landmass have captivated the imaginations of this institution. The question of whether or not people born in Ulster think of themselves or can be thought of as Irish at all runs like a thread throughout David Ireland’s work and is a question he has returned to mull on himself.

It seems a paradox befitting of the skewered identity politics and political discourses of our age that, with his sense of the psychosis of ideology and the madness of family, rattling dialogue and constant undertone of the deranged, Ireland might at one and the same time be the most striking example of Irish playwriting at this theatre in the last ten years and not in fact Irish at all.

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yes no 1:08:38 Rosie Evans-Hill Yes no
S4 Ep3: Stef Smith talks to Simon Stephens https://royalcourttheatre.com/podcast/s4-ep3-stef-smith-talks-to-simon-stephens/ Fri, 03 Jan 2020 11:00:17 +0000 Rosie Evans-Hill https://royalcourttheatre.com/?post_type=podcast&p=67748 The following content may contain strong language.

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Full introduction by Simon Stephens:

I sometimes think that our theatrical landscapes are defined as much by the shows we missed and deeply regret missing as they are by the shows that we’ve seen. Having not borne actual witness to the things they grow and develop in our imagination to become unthinkably brilliant.

Certainly, this is the case in my mind with the play that brought then recent Edinburgh University graduate Stef Smith to the attention of the world, her famously coruscating site specific dramatisation of the raw horrors of sex trafficking Roadkill. Audience members were taken on a bus through the edges of the various cities that the play was staged in to engage with the childlike protagonist who shared the bus with them, came to a stop at the site of her enslavement and experienced their culpability in the ongoing crime against humanity that their cities ignored. I never saw it. I very much wish I had. It lives with me.

It was the springboard for a working life that has over the last decade seen Smith become one of the UK’s most urgent theatre makers.

Her play for the National Theatre’s Connections series, 2015’s Remote, was staged throughout the country. The same year saw Swallow debut at the Traverse Edinburgh as part of the festival.

She made her Royal Court debut in 2016 with the chilling nightmare Human Animals, directed by Hamish Pirie, a surrealist exploration of an ecology in the throes of terrifying collapse.

She returned to dystopian futures with 2017’s Girl in the Machine. Staged at the Traverse, Edinburgh it charted the emotional nightmare of a species in the thrall of an untethered technology.

Her radical new version of Henrik Ibsen’s Dolls, House, Nora: A Doll’s House opened to rapturous reviews when it premiered at Glasgow’s Tramway Theatre produced by the Citizens Theatre. It will open in London at the Young Vic at the start of 2020.

In 2019 her most recent play for the Traverse, Enough became the fastest selling play in that theatre’s history.

As well as writing for film and television she has written for public art installations taking part in Edinburgh’s Love Letters to Europe in January 19 and written songs for the Song Project for Dutch singer Wende.

On her website she describes herself as “Scottish. Feminist. Restless.”

She presents the words in that order. All three characteristics clearly underpin her work. It is her concluding choice, her restlessness that sings through them most clearly. She is restless, it strikes me, not just in the face of her world’s deep grained political and economic injustices of the highest order but also in the capacity for conventional theatre forms to properly explore those injustices.

It is this restlessness that has driven and defined one of the most compelling theatrical biographies of the decade.

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yes no 1:19:06 Rosie Evans-Hill Yes no
S4 Ep2: Christopher Hampton talks to Simon Stephens https://royalcourttheatre.com/podcast/s4-ep2-christopher-hampton-talks-to-simon-stephens/ Fri, 27 Dec 2019 10:45:48 +0000 Rosie Evans-Hill https://royalcourttheatre.com/?post_type=podcast&p=67728 The following content may contain strong language.

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Full introduction by Simon Stephens:

I first came across the writing of Christopher Hampton by accident.

In the early 90s I was flicking though the television. This was in the five-channel days when television was something that was possible to feasibly flick through. I stumbled upon the beautiful English actor Jeremy Irons talking directly to the camera in what appeared to be the adaptation of a stage play. He appeared to be talking with wit and grief alike and excavating the remarkable world of Hollywood as a home for exiles in the Second World War. I’d not seen anything like it on television before.

I was transfixed.

It was, I discovered, the television adaptation of Hampton’s 1984 stage play Tales From Hollywood. A sharp and tender exploration of that world and the lives of Bertolt Brecht and his Austrian peer Odon Von Horvath as they made sense of their position within it.

From that point onward I paid particular attention to the name of Christopher Hampton wherever it appeared. I quickly discovered that it is a name that has appeared in many, many, many places.

Born in 1946, Hampton’s family moved around the world in his childhood. His father’s work for the CABLE AND WIRELESS company took him and his family from Alexandria to Zanzibar.

After what appears to have been a dramatic return to England, Hampton settled into a more conventional schooling at Lancing School in West Sussex where he was a contemporary of David Hare and won House colours in boxing.

He read German and French at New College in Oxford where he wrote and saw produced his first play When Did You Last See My Mother?

A tender exploration of the vitality of a gay love that was still illegal at the time, he sent the play to legendary theatre agent Peggy Ramsay. Ramsay loved it. She took the 19 year old writer onto her books. Sent the play to Royal Court Artistic Director Bill Gaskill who produced it at the Court before transferring it to the Comedy Theatre in the West End in 1966. England won the world cup and Hampton became the youngest playwright to have a play produced in the commercial theatre in the modern age.

Between 1968 and 1970 he was the resident dramatist and Literary Manager at the Royal Court.

Through the course of the seventies he wrote with great elegance and success for the theatre. His work for the Court is, to my mind, defined by a startling diversity of theme and world.

Total Eclipse 1967 is an exploration of the creative and sexual relationship between the great French symbolist poets Arthur Rimbaud and Paul Verlaine.

The Philanthropist 1968, a response to Moliere’s Misanthrope ran in the West End for four years won Evening Standard Award for Best Comedy and transferred to Broadway.

1973’s Savages dramatised the brutal decimation of the Cintas tribe by the Brazilian dictatorship in the previous decade.

Treats inspired by his work on adaptation of Ibsen’s Dolls House. Opened in 1974.

After a thirty-year break from the Court Hampton’s version of Chekhov’s Seagull was directed by then Artistic Director Ian Rickson in 2006 as part of the theatre’s fiftieth anniversary season. Kristin Scott Thomas played Hampton’s Arkadina in a beautiful production that transferred to the West End and Broadway.

It is fair to say that he wasn’t twiddling his thumbs in the intervening decades.

He has written widely for cinema, with over twenty credits to his name. He has thrived in the Hollywood he dramatised with such guile. He was nominated for an Academy Award for Atonement in 2007 after winning that most celebrated award in 1988 for his screen version of his stage play of Dangerous Liasons. He has collaborated with amongst others Andrew Lloyd Webber on musicals and Philip Glass on Opera.  He has written beautiful versions of plays by Ibsen and Chekhov, as well as more recently and with immense success, Yesmena Reza and Florian Zeller.

However wide his range and diverse his interests Hampton’s writing always has a clarity and poise and a formal exploration that moves me. It seems perverse to say of an Oscar winning screenwriter and a writer of several successful shows in the West End and Broadway that I think he is underrated. But I do. He reminds me of his hero Odon Von Horvath, a peer of the more bombastic Brecht, Von Horvath has a formal exploration and a human nuance that I find more complicated and satisfying than Brecht. I find Hampton’s writing, its uncertainty and its humanity, its formal reach and quiet daring to be similarly complicated and similarly rewarding. He is a writer I have immense respect for.

 

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yes no 1:23:38 Rosie Evans-Hill Yes no
S4 Ep1: Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti talks to Simon Stephens https://royalcourttheatre.com/podcast/s4-ep1-gurpreet-kaur-bhatti-talks-to-simon-stephens/ Fri, 20 Dec 2019 10:46:30 +0000 Rosie Evans-Hill https://royalcourttheatre.com/?post_type=podcast&p=67679 The following content may contain strong language.

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Full introduction by Simon Stephens:

The protest and controversy that surrounded the 2004 production of Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti’s play Bezhiti (Dishnour) at the Birmingham Rep Theatre had several wounding consequences. It kindled an anger and confusion around, towards and from the significant Sikh Community in that city; it left that theatre looking embarrassed by the haste and clumsiness with which it handled the play and then decided to close it early. It led to threats of violence against Kaur Bhatti and her family.

It also has distracted many people, I think from the fierce energy, honesty and clarity of her plays.

Born in Watford, Kaur Bhatti engaged in a theatre education at the Writers Group of the Birmingham Rep in the end of the 90s. At the same time as starting work writing for television and radio she wrote her first stage play Behsharam (Shameless) . It broke box office records at the Soho Theatre and Birmingham Rep when it played there in 2001.

She followed Behsharam with Behzti  three years later. A poised and unflinching consideration of the hypocrisies that lie underneath a local Sikh Community the play culminates in an unsettling dramatization of a rape in the grounds of a Sikh Gurdwara. This dramatic gesture was perceived as sacrilegious by many in the local Sikh community and led to protests outside the theatre. As the protests became increasingly angry and violent the Rep decided to close the play and Kaur Bhatti was advised by the police to go into hiding.

Bezhti is an honest, compassionate play that won the 2005 Susan Smith Blackburn Award and has been translated into French and Italian and enjoyed international success.

Behud (Beyond Belief) , staged at Coventry Belgarde and Soho Theatre in 2010 is an attempt to dramatise the issues that underpinned that controversy.

Kaur Bhatti made her Royal Court debut in 2014 with  the beautiful Khandan (Family). Elephant opened at Birmingham Rep in 2017.

She has continued to write for screen and radio in the decades of her career. She has written for  EastEnders and The Archers alike as well as making successful and warmly received single dramas for BBC and Channel 4.

As we speak she is preparing to go into rehearsal for her newest play A Kind of People, which opens in December of this year.

She has spoken about an early admiration for the passion and fury of Sean O Casey and Fedrico Garcia Lorca. A writer who she claims she is certain to be Punjabi. She shares with those writers a forensic honesty. Her insistent dissection of gender politics and the myths that ultimately sustain and paralyse families alike evokes, to my mind, Henrik Ibsen. Like those in Ibsen’s world her characters are defined by the lies that they tell and the stories they believe. She writes with elegance and force about those moments when the lies are revealed and the stories begin to crumble.

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yes no 1:12:12 Rosie Evans-Hill Yes no
S3 Ep6: Zinnie Harris talks to Simon Stephens https://royalcourttheatre.com/podcast/s3-ep6-zinnie-harris-talks-to-simon-stephens/ Fri, 08 Feb 2019 10:50:02 +0000 Rosie Evans-Hill https://royalcourttheatre.com/?post_type=podcast&p=61257 The following content may contain strong language.

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Full introduction by Simon Stephens:

“The first time I saw Zinnie Harris’s Royal Court debut play Nightingale and Chase I was in prison.  Specifically I was in Wandsworth prison in South London where I was representing the Royal Court as the theatre staged a production of her study of the injustices that underpin domestic violence to a hushed and clearly effected prison population.

While it was an experience I cherish Nightingale and Chase a forensic miniature is, I would argue, unrepresentative of Harris body of work.

She has been a presence in the new writing scenes of her home country of Scotland and in London alike. In that time I can think of no writer who has drawn so fully and with such imagination from the classical cannon of dramatic literature. Harris’s plays are creatures steeped in their dramatic past.

Although so established in the artistic terrain of Scotland that the 2017 Edinburgh International Festival Theatre Programme was built around a trio of her productions, she was born in Oxford and went on to study zoology at the University there. This is quite definitely a subject we will be returning to.

Her first professional production By Many Wounds was at the Hampstead Theatre in 1999.

Her Further Than The Furthest Thing was produced at the Tron in 2000 before a successful transfer to the National Theatre. I saw Further Than The Furthest Thing before I saw Nightingale and Chase. I saw it in an actual theatre, the National’s Cottesloe, rather than a prison wing. A writer just starting out on my working life I was inspired by the extremity of imagination and the wealth of her language as she dramatised the catastrophe of the 1961 volcanic eruption on the island of Tristan da Cunha.

She wrote a remarkable trio of plays for the RSC in the middle of the noughts. Solstice, Fall and the astonishing Midwinter. Midwinter, like Further Than The Furthest Thing is one of the most celebrated and widely produced plays of this century.

She directed the play herself and in so doing found a way of staging her suggestion that the play starts with her heroine dragging the carcass of a dead horse across the stage.  Direction, in the last decade has become an important strand to her work. She won the Critics’ Circle Scotland Award for Best Direction for her production of Caryl Churchill’s A Number.

She has won a fistful of awards for her writing as well as her direction. She has written for radio and television. She is a professor at the University of St Andrews.

She has written adaptations of Ibsen, The Dolls House at the Donmar Warehouse in 2008 and of The Master Builder, which she retitled The Fall of the Master Builder at Sheffield in 2017. 2019 will see the premiere of her adaptation of Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi. Her most enthusiastically celebrated recent work This Restless House in 2016 was a widely acclaimed adaptation of the Oresteia.

Classical heritage sits in her own original work as freshly as in those adaptations.

I was stunned by her first play in the Theatre Downstairs here at the Court, 2016’s How To Hold Your Breath. An inversion of the Faust myth it starred Maxine Peake as a woman fleeing into a crumbling Europe from the dead hands of the devil. Her most recent new play Meet Me At Dawn was staged at the Traverse as part of the International Festival in that “summer of Harris”. It took its cue from the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice as a couple try to make sense of the incomprehensibility of grief. I read it in a café in Shoreditch where it made me sob, actually sob big heavy shoulder sobs and cry tears down my face. She turned me into a dickhead in a room full of hipsters and I could never have felt more grateful.”

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yes no 01:12:01 Rosie Evans-Hill Yes no
S3 Ep5: Winsome Pinnock talks to Simon Stephens https://royalcourttheatre.com/podcast/s4-ep5-winsome-pinnock-talks-to-simon-stephens/ Fri, 01 Feb 2019 10:50:59 +0000 Rosie Evans-Hill https://royalcourttheatre.com/?post_type=podcast&p=61130 The following content may contain strong language.

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Full introduction by Simon Stephens:

“One of the pleasures of making these podcasts is exploring the work of those writers I am talking to. It is an embarrassing confession that until this month I was entirely ignorant of the plays of Winsome Pinnock. I understood her to be a figure of real significance in British playwriting over the last three decades but it happened that she was a writer that I hadn’t read.

Reading her plays has been little short of a revelation.

She is a writer with London deep in her veins. Born and educated in Islington she attended that borough’s celebrated Anna Scher Theatre School before studying English and Drama at Goldsmiths and taking an MA in Modern Literature at Birkbeck. She has said that she found a greater sense of self here at the Royal Court Young Peoples’ Theatre in the early 80s where she was taught by Hanif Kureishi amongst others. And, at the same time as having work supported by the Half Moon Theatre and the Women’s Playhouse Trust, it was while part of the Young Writers Theatre that she wrote her first full length play Leave Taking.

A scalding, tender study of a family in the emotional throes of the displacement and self-interrogation that immigration into London from the Caribbean has brought them, it was staged at the Liverpool Playhouse Studio and in 1988 at the National Theatre, making her the first black female playwright to have a play staged there, some twenty years after its opening. To date there have been only five others.

Her plays for the Royal Court include  A Hero’s Welcome with the Women’s Playhouse Trust and A Rock in Water with the Young People’s Theatre and 1991’s extraordinary Talking in Tongues. Talking In Tongues felt like a real discovery to me when I read it earlier this week. A play of formal daring and emotional honesty it charts the same existential diaspora of immigration as Leave Taking. A frank and often hilarious study of the emotional and sexual complexities of the black British assimilation into white London life in the first act it takes us, in its second act to the beaches of the Caribbean and exposes those same characters to the scorch of heat and the ferocity of a ruthless Capitalism as that cultural assimilation is reversed and we watch the cruelty and ignorance, pathos and perversions of the English abroad.

Talking In Tongues was followed in 1996 by Mules a play written for the seminal Clean Break theatre company, a company that establishes residencies in prisons for female playwrights and then commission those playwrights to write plays in response to their experiences. Mules is linguistically rangey, sharply observed and unflinching in its study of a globalised drug trafficking culture.

She has written for the Soho Theatre and the Tricycle; she has taught at Royal Holloway College; and Cambridge and Kingston Universities. If she has had a comparatively quiet decade on our stages in the past ten years she has continued to write with energy for radio and with this year’s revival of Leave Taking at The Bush there seems to be a renaissance of interest in her work.

The debt that recent years of black British playwrights owes to Pinnock has been celebrated and is unarguable. She was described by the Guardian as the Godmother of Black British Theatre. But I can’t help feeling that, while upholding and championing her cultural presence as a figure of enormous importance in the recent dramatising of Black experience in the country, it would be a mistake not to also celebrate her for her glorious formal audacity, the unapologetic articulacy of her world and the rigour and clarity with which she has dramatised the existential catastrophes brought about by capital and gender inequality as much as by the innate racism of the legacy of British colonialism.

I loved reading her plays for many reasons but what lingers with me most is the air and space which she allows her characters to speak and to listen to one another. At a time when other writers were refining the attack of rattling dialogue, Pinnock opened up the space for conversation and idea and while dramatising with incision and complexity those cultural structures that have restricted or damaged her characters she was, in her plays, able to give them a space to talk to one another, fully, fearlessly and with great compassion.”

 

 

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yes no 01.11.59 Rosie Evans-Hill Yes no
S3 Ep4: Peter Gill talks to Simon Stephens https://royalcourttheatre.com/podcast/s3-ep4-peter-gill-talks-to-simon-stephens/ Fri, 25 Jan 2019 10:45:05 +0000 Rosie Evans-Hill https://royalcourttheatre.com/?post_type=podcast&p=60892 The following content may contain strong language.

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Full introduction by Simon Stephens:

“There are a handful of figures in the history of the Royal Court Theatre that define the place. They carved the path that, whether they are aware of it or not every artist that has worked here after them is attempting to travel down. One of that handful is the Welsh actor, director and playwright Peter Gill.

Born in Cardiff in 1939, Gill came to London in his late teens and got work here at the Royal Court as an assistant director. He worked with those figures who established the theatre in its first decade. He worked with George Devine, Lindsey Anderson and Tony Richardson. He worked as a stage assistant with a Anthony Hopkins on the touring production of Look Back In Anger. He auditioned for Ann Jellicoe. He established his name as a director at the Court towards the end of the sixties when his seminal productions of DH Lawrence’s trilogy of plays established Lawrence as firmly as a dramatist as he was known as a novelist and prose writer.

Gill’s first plays were written in the same decade. They are amongst my favourite plays in post war British theatre. The formal inventiveness, compassion, honesty and linguistic poise of Small Change, Kick for Touch, Cardiff East and The York Realist slay me quite completely. I once earned what I can only describe as a hard stare from Guardian theatre critic Michael Billington when I told him that I considered Gill’s debut play The Sleepers Den to be as striking as its contemporaries, Edward Bond’s Saved and Harold Pinter’s The Homecoming.

Gill established the Riverside Studios in Hammersmith in 1976. He made the place one of the cornerstones of exploration and energy in London’s theatrical culture. His many landmark productions as director there included the still celebrated startling opening production of his own version of Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard and, at the start of the 80s he moved to become an Associate at the National Theatre where, in 1984, he established the National Theatre studio. The Studio became and remains a hothouse of exploration and invention for the leading theatre artists of its time. There are few if any buildings or institutions more fundamental to the last forty years of British theatre.

He has directed nearly a hundred productions across the UK and North American and continental Europe. He has directed Shakespeare and Sophocles, Turgenev, Pinter and Sam Shepherd.

It strikes me as a coincidence of the happiest possible order that, due to a variety of administrative problems we are unable to record this conversation in the usual confines of the sound studio on the theatre’s fifth floor. And so we find ourselves instead in a makeshift space here on the stage of the Royal Court Theatre Downstairs. There can be no more appropriate writer to christen this stage as a conversation space for these podcasts and no more appropriate place to record a conversation with a man whose soul runs so deep in this theatre.”

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yes no 01.12.38 Rosie Evans-Hill Yes no
S3 Ep3: David Eldridge talks to Simon Stephens https://royalcourttheatre.com/podcast/s3-ep3-david-eldridge-talks-to-simon-stephens/ Fri, 18 Jan 2019 10:34:33 +0000 Rosie Evans-Hill https://royalcourttheatre.com/?post_type=podcast&p=60758 The following content may contain strong language.

Click here to return to the main podcast page.
To subscribe via iTunes click here.

Full introduction by Simon Stephens:

“There is a clarity and unity of vision to the dramatic world of David Eldridge that seems to land him in a particular tradition of British playwriting that I cherish. Born and raised in Romford, Essex the dramatis personae of many of his plays seem to be born out of the same place and, on a deep level, informed by that world.  Whether it is the charming and furious Sonny and Nick from his 1996 debut Serving it Up, the market traders, schoolteachers, schoolkids and broken souls that populated M.A.D., Incomplete and Random Acts of Kindness, Under the Blue Sky and Market Boy throughout the last decade or the fragile defiant late night party goers of his recent smash hit at the National Theatre Beginning, Eldridge’s characters feel like they might have been born on adjoining streets. They feel like they might have gone to sixth form together, or bumped into each other at the Roman Road Market on a Saturday morning or in one of the newer gastro pubs that are dotted around Hackney Wick and Victoria Park, on their way to  the London Stadium to see his beloved West Ham United.

A prolific and successful television and radio writer and maker of elegant and forceful adaptations of European masterpieces he has, for me, defined himself as a dramatist with the force and clarity, humanity and capacity for contradiction with which he has built a dramatic version of London’s East End. As much as say Arnold Wesker, Alan Bennett or Roy Williams, David Eldridge has created a territory for his characters to play in that seems somehow shared.

He started writing plays at Exeter University and made his professional debut with Serving It Up at the Bush theatre in 1996. He was 23 at the time. Work at the Finborough, Stratford East, the Battersea Arts Centre and the Donmar Warehouse followed. By the time of his Royal Court debut, the full-hearted, exquisite Under The Blue Sky in 2000 he had before the age of thirty established himself as a playwright of real significance.

Under The Blue Sky was remounted in a successful West End run in 2008 by which time he had become one of the youngest playwrights ever to have a play produced at the National’s largest stage the Olivier, 2006’s Market Boy.  His plays for the Court are amongst his finest I think. I love the atomised alluring Incomplete and Random Acts of Kindness directed by Sean Holmes here in 2005 and his Chekhovian study of grief and recovery In Basildon, directed by Dominic Cooke in the Theatre Downstairs in 2012, as much as I had my heart filled and broken by The Knot of the Heart at the Almeida in 2011 and Beginning his magical two hander staged with real poise by Polly Findlay in 2017.

He has written for the Globe. He has written too for the intimate space of the Hampstead Downstairs. He has written new English language versions of Ibsen and Strindberg. He has adapted cinema to the stage with brilliant success, Festen opened at the Almeida in 2004 before transferring to the West End and then to Broadway. He has also written a play with me. Well, with me and our friend and mentor and nobody tell him but probably our hero, Robert Holman. 2010’s A Thousand Stars Explode in the Sky.

He is a celebrated teacher and has been an articulate and outspoken public thinker about theatre. He has written responses to critics in the Guardian, is clear-thinking and unapologetic in his own essays on theatre, is an outspoken champion of the artistic and structural rights of the playwright and has been a forceful presence in chat-rooms and on social media. I, for one, am old enough to remember his brilliant weekly blog One Writer and His Dog, a love letter to his mighty dog Rascal as much as a space to engage with eloquence and clarity on the contemporary debates around theatre that defined his work.

As much as any of my contemporaries I can think of, his plays offer a beautiful counterpoint between the mess and fragility, uncertainty and eloquence of his characters and the force, specificity and understanding of the political and economic world that he sets them against.”

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yes no 01.08.31 Rosie Evans-Hill Yes no
S3 Ep2: Laura Wade talks to Simon Stephens https://royalcourttheatre.com/podcast/s3-ep-2-laura-wade-talks-to-simon-stephens/ Fri, 11 Jan 2019 10:45:16 +0000 Rosie Evans-Hill https://royalcourttheatre.com/?post_type=podcast&p=60702 The following content may contain strong language.

Click here to return to the main podcast page.
To subscribe via iTunes click here.

Full introduction by Simon Stephens:

“There is something of a gesture of disguise to the plays of Laura Wade that I find to be as powerful as it is playful. Her 2005 play Colder Than Here might, for example, have looked like a familiar family drama but was in fact a play scorched in raw grief. Grief disguised as politeness. Her celebrated 2010 smash hit Posh managed to provoke right wing and left wing audiences alike into similar levels of enthusiasm, as in its unflinching portrayal of the kind of drinking club that various Tory Ministers from the last decade attended at University, it lacerated the privilege that some audience members believed it to be championing. Her most recent play, the brilliant, Home I’m Darling which played at the Dorfman Theatre at the National throughout this summer of 2018 has the veneer of a comedy of manners but, for me, skewers the self delusions and destructive yearnings of nostalgia that have driven England onto the cliff edge of economic self-immolation that leaving the European Union appears to be turning into.

Born in Sheffield she has written for stage since she was in sixth form. Her debut play Limbo being produced at her beloved Crucible Theatre there. After graduating from Bristol University where she first met and worked with long time friend and collaborators Tamara Harvey, Harvey directed Home, I’m Darling, Wade worked on a series of plays and adaptations for the children’s Theatre Company, Playbox in Warwick and made her London debut at the Finborough with her adaptation of WH Davies’ Young Emma.

It was around this time that I first met her when she enrolled on a group at the Young Writers Programme here at the Royal Court. I remember her intelligence and determination, her capacity for irony and her generosity to her peers in her group. It was while she was on the programme that she worked on Colder Than Here and shortly after she left that she wrote the dazzling and disturbing Escher print of a play Breathing Corpses.

Breathing Corpses played in the Royal Court Theatre Upstairs and won her the George Devine Award and Critics Circle Award for most promising playwright.

Posh followed Breathing Corpses here when it opened in the Theatre Downstairs. It was directed by Lindsey Turner, another director who Wade has returned to collaborate with again and again. It earned rhapsodic reviews, transferred to a successful run in the West End and was adapted to film under the new title of The Riot Club. It captured the sense of catastrophe as England, as a nation, was gripped in the pudgy adult hands of those entitled boys that the play so ferociously dramatised.

One of the things I most respect about Wade as a writer is the diversity of her work and the energy of her imagination. She has written for film, television and radio, but also written text performed with the Sidney Opera House. She has adapted novels, Alice from Alice in Wonderland for the Sheffield Crucible, Tipping the Velvet for the Lyric Hammersmith. Her newest play that will open at Chichester this autumn, is an adaptation and completion of Jane Austen’s final unfinished  novel The Watsons. It will be directed by her third long term collaborator the actor, director Sam West. West also happens to be her long-term partner and father to her kids.

Her plays return to formal inventiveness with wit and imagination. This inventiveness is counterpointed by an insistent fascination with England as it struggles to define itself in the face of accelerating redundancy. This counterpoint has led to what I believe to be one of the most exciting bodies of work in contemporary playwriting.”

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yes no 01.14.03 Rosie Evans-Hill Yes no
S3 Ep1: Jez Butterworth talks to Simon Stephens https://royalcourttheatre.com/podcast/s3-ep1-simon-stephens-talks-to-jez-butterworth/ Thu, 03 Jan 2019 17:44:51 +0000 Rosie Evans-Hill https://royalcourttheatre.com/?post_type=podcast&p=60518 The following content may contain strong language.

Click here to return to the main podcast page.
To subscribe via iTunes click here.

Full introduction by Simon Stephens:

“One of the most important figures in the recent history of the Royal Court is the playwright Steven Jeffreys who for fifteen years worked as the Literary Associate here throughout the nineties and the start of this century. He was the mentor to a generation of playwrights including myself and the champion and agitator to his Artistic Directors Steven Daldry and Ian Rickson. He was also one of the most searing readers of new plays I have met.

He tells the story of one script meeting here at the theatre. Steven Daldry was struggling to find plays to programme. While there was an increasing sense that a generation of writers like Sarah Kane, Joe Penhall and Rebecca Prichard were energising the form Daldry needed a play for the Theatre Downstairs. Steven Jeffreys walked into the weekly script meetings one Friday morning with a script in his hand. He declared that he had found it. The play that would run in the theatre downstairs for the summer. A guaranteed hit. The first time a debut play would play in the Theatre Downstairs for a generation.

The play, Mojo, was written by a young writer called Jez Butterworth and Steven Jeffreys’ brilliance as a reader was proven. Mojo, a play set in a fifties Soho of violence and sex and rock and roll was a massive success. At a time when many theatres were closing for the summer the Royal Court had a hit on their hand and directed by Ian Rickson, the Court had in Butterworth an arresting and brilliant new voice. The qualities that astonished and sparkled in Mojo, a linguistic verve and audacity of observation that crackled in tension with a dramaturgical assurance have defined Butterworth’s plays.

After a seven year break from playwriting in which he established himself as a screenwriter of note in the US and the UK alike he returned to the Royal Court in 2002 with the brilliant Night Heron. 2005’s the Winterling also debuted at the Court. In 2008 his haunting Parlour Song opened at the Atlantic Theatre in New York and in 2009 it was given its European premiere at the Almeida. All of the plays were directed by Ian Rickson.

But it was the play he opened at the Court that summer that arrived like a thunderbolt into the heart of English playwriting. Jerusalem, was a vibrant dramatisation of the defiant last stand against rural petty officialdom of alcoholic, drug addled, poet, charmer, mystic and myth maker Johnny “Rooster” Byron. It starred Mark Rylance in a multi award winning performance that articulated the verve and honesty, brutality, wit and sadness of Butterworth’s play with humanity and directness. It played for a year in the West End and was a soaring success on Broadway.

I loved the unnerving arrest of his next play The River in 2012 and was left reeling by 2017’s The Ferryman. A play that was ostensibly an interrogation of the Northern Irish troubles of the early eighties, was to me more a play about commitment. Commitment not only to an ideological organisation, but to a marriage or a family and the political and psycho-spiritual obstructions that dog that commitment at all turns. For all its epic scope and hinterland of magic The Ferryman was, for me, an astonishing play of breadth and ferocity about a man trying to be good.

Jez Butterworth hasn’t written prolifically for theatre. In fact he has written seven stage plays in nearly twenty five years but four of those plays have played sell out runs in medium scale theatres on both sides of the Atlantic and three of them have been, arguably, the defining plays of their decade.”

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yes no 01.17.09 Rosie Evans-Hill Yes no
BONUS TRACK! S2 Ep16: Simon Stephens talks to Anoushka Warden and Emily Legg https://royalcourttheatre.com/podcast/bonus-track-s2-ep16-simon-stephens-talks-anoushka-warden-emily-legg/ Fri, 09 Mar 2018 10:15:23 +0000 Anoushka https://royalcourttheatre.com/?post_type=podcast&p=56352 I first met Simon Stephens in 2011. I was an intern here at the Court and was tanning in the garden in my lunchbreak. Simon was here with his play Wastwater and was taking a moment’s break from rehearsals. I had watched a preview the night before. So I asked him about the ending which left me needing to know for sure whether the character of Jonathan was up to no good or not. I didn’t want to decide, I wanted the facts, and here was the writer himself. Simon graciously told me what I needed to know. I now realise after several years of working at the Court (and getting to know many writers) how potentially annoying my question was and how generously Simon answered it – a truly accurate representation of this mighty writer.

By his own admission Simon stumbled into adolescence as a lanky specy nerd in Stockport. By the time he arrived at York Uni to study history in the late 80s he had reinvented himself as a lean contact lens wearing indie kid from Manchester. His natural progression from Uni was to join a band, obvs. And he became the bassist in The Country Teasers where they recorded such classics as Hairy Wine and Go Away from the Window.

Failing to achieve the worldwide domination they so richly deserved Simon opted to study for a PGCE at the Institute of Education which began his career in teaching. I don’t know what went down there but in 1997 Simon wrote his first professional play Bring me Sunshine which premiered at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Over the next 2 decades he wrote shitloads more – plays as varied as Bluebird and Birdland, Port and Punk Rock, on the Shore of the Wide World and Carmen Disruption, Pornography and Motor Town, Harper Regan and Herons, Wastewater and Nuclear War, Fatherland and Heisenberg: The Uncertainty Principle. As well as his adaptations of The Curious incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, A Doll’s House, The Cherry Orchard, I Am the Wind and The Seagull.

Many of his original plays have premiered at the Royal Court.

He was writer’s tutor here for the Young Writers’ Programme from 2001-2005 and has held artistic positions at Paines Plough, the Court and the Lyric Hammersmith. He’s won some awards too.

All of Simon’s plays, despite their differences in form, focus on the ferocity and fragility of being human. He excels at the presentation of small moments of behaviour which have huge theatrical impact. Fascinated by transgression, violence, fear and our great capacity for love he has proven himself to be a prolific and provocative voice central to modern theatre culture.

Part of this centrality lies in his whole-hearted support and encouragement of other writers. From his time at the Royal Court as leader of numerous writing workshops his enthusiasm and influence have inspired several generation of writers.

A testament to this is the range of writers who have appeared on this podcast willing to be interviewed by him.

Now it’s his turn.

In the Country Teasers song Golden Apples there’s a lyric that says “Simon can’t walk properly he has trays instead of feet” but luckily for us all his fingers aren’t tea cups. And, oh yeah, in case it wasn’t clear music has influenced everything he has ever done EVER.

Simon Stephens welcome to your own podcast.

 

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yes no 01:16:15 Anoushka Yes no
S2 Ep15: Timberlake Wertenbaker talks to Simon Stephens https://royalcourttheatre.com/podcast/s2-ep15-timberlake-wertenbaker-talks-simon-stephens/ Fri, 02 Mar 2018 10:30:10 +0000 Anoushka https://royalcourttheatre.com/?post_type=podcast&p=56324 The plays of Timberlake Wertenbaker have been a presence in British theatre since the turn of the 1980s. Since that time she has produced work that is as defined by its sense of poetry and linguistic precision as it is by her characters’ yearning for justice or a sense of a home.

Born in New York she was raised in the Basque fishing village of Cibure. She arrived in the fringes of London theatre when her first play, the brilliantly titled This Is No Place for Tallulah Bankhead, was produced at the King’s Head Theatre in 1978. She made her Royal Court debut in 1984 with her play Abel’s Sister. She became the theatre’s resident dramatist in 1985 when her play The Grace of Mary Traverse also opened here winning her the Plays and Players Most Promising Playwright Award, the first of the many awards that have graced her work.

She was at the vanguard of a generation of female playwrights championed by the theatre’s then Artistic Director Max Stafford Clark who also directed two of her most celebrated plays.  1992’s searing parody of the London Art World Three Birds Alighting On A Field transferred from the Royal Court into the West End and was then remounted in New York at the Manhattan Theatre Company but it was her play from 1988 – her adaptation with Stafford Clark of Tomas Kennealley’s novel The PlaymakerOur Country’s Good that she is most famous for. It is a remarkable play. As searching as it is eloquent, in its dramatization of the impossibility of articulating experience in language and the isolation of the displaced it typifies many of Wertenbaker’s key themes. She claims that it is her most often remounted plays because it is about theatre and theatre producers like plays about theatres. I think that while there may be truth in this it is also a play that is remarkable for the eloquence of its celebration of the defiance in the human capacity to tell stories.

Revived at the National Theatre in 2015 it is a contemporary classic and as a staple of drama teaching in schools it is many peoples first introduction to contemporary playwriting.

Her work at the Royal Court continued into this century with 2001’s Credible Witness. Her 2015 Royal Shakespeare Company production The Ant and the Cicada visited the Theatre Upstairs in 2015. She is one of only a handful of playwrights to have had her work produced at the Royal Court in four different decades. She has written for theatres throughout the country, for radio and for opera producing a body of work that is frankly unarguable. Her most recent play Winter Hill opened this summer at the Bolton Octagon.

As I enter my third decade of writing for stage I find the longevity of any playwright inspiring. It is difficult to sustain a career writing for theatre. For female playwrights working in patriarchy it requires a particular sense of determination and a voice of clarity and force. Such characteristics define Timberlake Wertenbaker’s plays.

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clean no 01:10:13 Anoushka No no
S2 Ep14: Chris Thorpe talks to Simon Stephens https://royalcourttheatre.com/podcast/s2-ep14-chris-thorpe-talks-simon-stephens/ Fri, 23 Feb 2018 10:30:39 +0000 Anoushka https://royalcourttheatre.com/?post_type=podcast&p=56228 There are very few writers I have interviewed or will interview in these podcasts whose curriculum vitae is longer than mine. And certainly none of those are some years younger than me. In this sense, in both his remarkable youth and strikingly prolific output Chris Thorpe has, over the past seventeen years, proven himself quite spectacular.

The founding member of Unlimited Theatre and Artistic Associate of Third Angel, he established himself when there seemed to be a clear, sometimes strident distinction between theatre makers and playwrights. And in that establishment asked, for me, quite thrilling questions about the function of the writer in the making of theatre. He was a writer who was also a performer and a quite brilliant one at that. He was a playwright with a clear and singular voice who was also a collaborator and celebrated co-author.

Collaborations have been at the centre of his most striking work. He made The Oh Fuck Momenta and I Wish I Was Lonely with poet Hannah Jane Walker; and the extraordinary Torycore with Lucy Ellinson for Forest Fringe (setting key extracts from conservative policy to death metal). He has worked with Rachel Chavkinfron of New York’s TEAM Theatre Company; written a version of Beowulf for young audiences at the Unicorn Theatre; worked regularly with Chris Goode and has an ongoing collaboration with Portuguese company Mala Voadora.

I first came across him when I saw There has Possibly been an Incident at the Soho Theatre Company. It was a striking play. Chilling in the detail of its excavation of singular acts of political defiance, precise in its wit and insight and ferociously bold in its form. It has been produced widely throughout Europe and lives with me but, although one of my favourite experiences in my career has been seeing Chris perform Incident himself at the Berlin Stuckmarkt, it is a piece that is not dependent on his presence as a performer. Like with his brilliant play Victory Condition – depending on when you hear that Vicky Featherstone is about to direct in the Theatre Downstairs or it has opened with brilliant acclaim or instigated such ferocious controversy that it has brought about the closure of the entire Royal Court – and with Incident, he proved himself not just a great writer, an intelligent political explorer, a startling and charismatic performer of his own work but also a dramatist of range and imagination.

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yes no 01:09:38 Anoushka Yes no
S2 Ep13: Alecky Blythe talks to Simon Stephens https://royalcourttheatre.com/podcast/s2-ep13-alecky-blythe-talks-simon-stephens/ Fri, 09 Feb 2018 11:38:21 +0000 Anoushka https://royalcourttheatre.com/?post_type=podcast&p=55885 Few playwrights can claim to have defined a theatrical form or process with quite the same conviction as Alecky Blythe. While she has never claimed to have invented the synthesis of verbatim theatre and the recorded delivery of text, in which actors receive lines through an earpiece and perform immediately in reception of the line, a synthesis that has been present throughout her work, she certainly established its definition.

She started her theatrical career as an aspiring actor. She studied at the vibrant Theatre Studies course at Warwick University before doing a post graduate degree in acting at Rose Bruford. It was while working as a receptionist at the Actors Centre in 2002 that she attended a course on paperless drama led by the centre’s Artistic Director Mark Wing Davey. It was evidently something of a revelation.

She took her microphone and recorder out into the streets of Hackney in 2003 and recorded the testimonies of the witnesses of that years Hackney Siege and edited and formed those testimonies into her breakthrough piece Come Out Eli. The play premiered at the Arcola Theatre that year and won the Time Out Award for Best Fringe Production before transferring to the Battersea Arts Centre.

Provocative, urban and formally radical the play excited the attention of the broader theatre community and commissions for the Bush Theatre, the National Theatre and the Royal Court followed.

The plays that followed Come Out Eli took Blythe into an array of worlds with a shared energy of enquiry. Whether looking into the Wimbledon Tennis Championship crowd for All The Right People Come Here in 2005, the ageing folk of the dating Market in Cruising for the Bush Theatre in 2006 or the lives of displaced Georgian survivors of the 2008 August War in Do We Look Like Refugees, her work is defined by what she describes as a “nose for a story” and strikes me as a nuanced tension between a capacity to listen completely and the sense to ask a question of real penetration.

Her debut for the Royal Court 2008’s Girlfriend Experience looked at the lives of English sex workers in an industry increasingly dominated by globalised labour. It was a touching and funny study of sex and the market place and like many of her plays felt carved out of a quintessence of England.

A Londoner of real confidence, the 2011 riots in the capital led to both a documentary film and 2014’s Little Revolutions at the Almeida. The tension that seems to run in Blythe’s work – a fascination with the intricacies and anomalies of human behaviour and an interrogation of the notion of community crystallised in her most celebrated piece, 2011’s London Road at the National Theatre.

Working with composer Adam Cork she found a musicality and nuance to the way in which an English community is decimated by the serial killings of sex workers in Ipswich at the end of the last decade. It is a piece that is widely regarded as having reinvented musical theatre at the National and, for me, is one of the most successful articulations of the poetry of documentary theatre.

She is fearless at locating herself in her documentaries, something that British verbatim artists before her avoided. A gesture of acknowledgement that culminated in her playing herself in Little Revolutions and in that acknowledgement of the presence of the author Blythe asks as many questions of the authenticity of documentary theatre as she has celebrated and extended the form.

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yes no 56:06 Anoushka Yes no
S2 Ep12: Leo Butler talks to Simon Stephens https://royalcourttheatre.com/podcast/s2-ep12-leo-butler-talks-simon-stephens/ Fri, 02 Feb 2018 10:05:02 +0000 Anoushka https://royalcourttheatre.com/?post_type=podcast&p=55442 I was the Writers Tutor here at the Royal Court Theatre in 2001 when Leo Butler, fresh from a beautiful elegiac theatre debut in the 2000 Young Writers Festival with his play Made of Stone, was given a three month residency and shared his office with me. We drank a lot of tea together and ate a fair few biscuits and talked at length about the plays we had read and hoped to write. And one Friday he told me he was going to spend the weekend in the office. He was going to stay there from Friday night and work all weekend and try and write a new play. I thought he was bonkers and wished him luck and went home. When I turned up on Monday morning the office was a thick fog of cigarette smoke. Leo was grinning through it as he handed me his new play. It was a play called Redundant. I read it that morning and it changed my writing life.

Having been told as an under graduate at the end of the eighties that male writers couldn’t really write women roles I’d assumed that to be the case and so considered it best not to try. But here was a writer in his early twenties, who with Redundant created a character in 17 year old Lucy that was complicated and heart-broken, full of contradictions and driven by desire and apathy alike. It was an arresting play. It led me directly to change the gender of the protagonist of the play I had been stuck on for a few months and then went on to be called Port and then to create characters like Harper Regan and the old lady at the end of Pornography. Redundant won the George Devine Award in 2001 and was produced here in the Theatre Downstairs barely five months later.

The years that followed Redundant have seen Butler carve a particular and fundamental place in British playwriting. He took on the role of Writers Tutor in the Young Writers Programme when I left the post and for seven years became a fundamental mentor and teacher to the most exciting crop of first time playwrights to emerge for a generation. Nick Payne, Polly Stenham, Alice Birch and Anya Reiss are among the playwrights who have sung his praises in these conversations.

And the plays he has produced in that time have been startling in their range and arresting in their force. He followed Redundant at the Court with 2004’s brilliant and upsetting Lucky Dog, a savage excavation of a marriage in psychosis. And in 2008 with Face In The Crowd, a tender and yearning play about the damage of debt and the breaks of love. He has written the epic historical expressionistic I’ll Be The Devil for the RSC and collaborated with choreographers and songwriters alike. His 2016 play Boy at the Almeida was a fragile and astonishing thing. In collaboration with the director Sacha Wares he created a world of isolation in contemporary London following a boy’s journey around an entire city as he stares into its damaged soul. It was my favourite play last year and a glorious example of Butler at his best.

For me Butler is a poet of the human damage of poverty. His language is terse and fractured. He reminds me as much of Emily Dickinson as he does of many playwrights. He is, I think, as close as English theatre has come to the master of Bavarian naturalism Franz Xavier Kroetz. Leo Butler, welcome to the Royal Court

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yes no 01:07:49 Anoushka Yes no
S2 Ep11: Penelope Skinner talks to Simon Stephens https://royalcourttheatre.com/podcast/s2-ep11-penelope-skinner-talks-simon-stephens/ Fri, 26 Jan 2018 10:23:19 +0000 Anoushka https://royalcourttheatre.com/?post_type=podcast&p=55293 The experience of watching a play that seems in some way to speak directly or resonate in a way that feels disarmingly personal has lead many playwrights to write for the first time. So it was with Penelope Skinner whom, in 2004, was so startled and moved by Jack Thorne’s When You Cure Me at the Bush theatre that, having spent years writing, as she puts it “the first chapters of novels and bad poems and a diary” she started writing her first play. The play she wrote Fucked was a striking success. Its production at the Old Red Lion in 2008 not only lead to a successful revival at the next year’s Edinburgh Fringe but brought her to the attention of London’s new writing theatres. She joined the Royal Court Young Writers Programme, saw early plays Don’t Look Back produced at the Young Vic and Eigengrau produced at the Bush and co-wrote the National Theatre’s exploration of the dangers of climate change, Greenland.

I first came across her writing when her beautiful noir play The Sound of Heavy Rain was produced by Paines Plough on their first Roundabout Season. It was an underrated piece. A play of as much humanity and fearlessness as it had literary wit. But it was her first play for the Royal Court The Village Bike that won her the George Devine Award and the Evening Standard Award for Most Promising Playwright and really brought her to international attention. In the years since that play she has written with success for film, co-writing How I Live Now, and TV as a writer on Fresh Meat. She has also seen her theatre produced with real success on both sides of the Atlantic. Her relationship with Manhattan Theatre Club echoes her increasingly important relationship with the Royal Court. Here, her play Linda was a forceful and eloquent examination of that startling injustice of a structural patriarchy, the ageing process. A writer of remarkable formal confidence and striking anger, what I loved abut Linda, my favourite of her plays to date, was its capacity to dramatise that injustice with a confidence and panache that released its rage rather than diluting it.

At what has felt like a thrilling time for new women writers she has been described by the Independent as Britain’s “leading young feminist writer”.  For my money she is a writer of searing formal elegance, clear compassion and piercing, honest humour and it is a pleasure to have her here.

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clean no 01:05:22 Anoushka No no
S2 Ep10: Roy Williams talks to Simon Stephens https://royalcourttheatre.com/podcast/s2-ep10-roy-williams-talks-simon-stephens/ Fri, 19 Jan 2018 10:20:08 +0000 Anoushka https://royalcourttheatre.com/?post_type=podcast&p=55238 When Roy Williams’ first play No Boys Cricket Club launched him into the London theatre world in 1996 it was celebrated for the audacity and range of its theatrical imagination. At a time when new playwrights were often being encouraged to write simple plays for studio theatres, Roy Williams wrote a play that travelled across oceans, across continents and back in time charting the life of a woman inspired by his own mother. He was part of a generation of playwrights, many of whom wrote with different agendas and with different perspectives, who together re-energised British playwriting forever. The play was the start of a career that has been defined by its prolific energy, dramaturgical range and insistent interrogation of the existential nature of identity.

His early plays for the Royal Court Lift Off in 1999 and Clubland in 2002 marked a bold and compelling interrogation of young London men trying to make sense of their relationship to their own race. Compassionate and flinty by turns they established Roy as a writer of real significance. But it was his next play for the Royal Court, the coruscating Fallout, a dramatic investigation of the policing of hate crime and his plays Sing your Hearts out for the Lads for the National Theatre and Days of Significance for the Royal Shakespeare Company that saw him stretch the political and formal considerations of his work write, in the space of a few years, three of the most significant political plays of the last decade.

Roy Williams marked himself as a dramatist who looked as unflinchingly at nationalist politics as he did at the brutality of militarisation, at violence in policing, as he did at murder on London streets and at the pathos and failure of Kevin Keegan’s management as he did at the possibility of tenderness in a city defined by violence.

The following decade has seen his search expand. He has written adaptations of films and novels for theatres on both sides of the Atlantic. He has also written for young actors and a musical biography of soul legend Marvin Gaye. His most recent play produced by the Royal Court, the ferocious and tender Sucker Punch, brilliantly directed by Sacha Wares in 2010, saw his typical tenderness and savagery staged with a deftness and ambition that matched his writing.

He is a writer compelled by many ideas and many worlds and has, also,  been celebrated for the honesty and dignity with which he has dramatized Black Britain. His presence as a role model for young Black theatre artist has seen him lauded at international level.  But for me it his insistent fascination with the same existential questions that define his early plays, with our sense of self when our identities sit so harshly at odds with the cultural constructs of what we’re meant to be like whether those constructs are established on racial, gender, sexual, economic or professional lines that unify his work and make him one of my generations most important playwrights.

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yes no 01:07:01 Anoushka Yes no
S2 Ep9: EV Crowe talks to Simon Stephens https://royalcourttheatre.com/podcast/s2-ep9-ev-crowe-talks-simon-stephens/ Fri, 12 Jan 2018 10:15:50 +0000 Anoushka https://royalcourttheatre.com/?post_type=podcast&p=55144 There is a steel and intelligence at the heart of the plays of EV Crowe that has defined her as one of the most arresting of the exciting group of writers to have emerged out of the Young Writers Programme at the Royal Court in the past decade.

She studied a masters course in playwriting at the University of East Anglia, one of the most renowned creative writing masters course in the UK. I first worked with her towards the end of my tenure as Writers Tutor here at the Young Writers Programme. My memories are of a student whose intelligence was articulated with a wry and warming scepticism and whose commitment to her form was unarguable.

She was chosen to be in the now legendary 2009 Supergroup with Penny Skinner and Nick Payne and Alia Bano. Led by Leo Butler it was a brilliantly curated group of writers and her work there propelled her into the focus of the theatre.

She made her debut here in the Theatre Upstairs the following year with Kin, a startling study of pre-pubescent sexuality in an English Public School. She returned to the fictional forum of the sexuality of education and to the Theatre Upstairs with Hero in 2012 – a humane plea for honesty in the sexuality, this time, of schoolteachers. She has spent time with the Schauspielhaus in Frankfurt and has written for the Yard Theatre, the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Unicorn Theatre.

Her Sewing Group, directed by Stewart Laing at the end of 2016 was the play of hers that most lives with me. A historical study of pre-industrial work that is set in an imaginary future, it looked with rigour and insistence at the dehumanising nature of what occasionally feels like late capitalism. Laing found, for me, a means of releasing the poetry in Crowe’s sharp, gnarly language.

She is a writer of conviction and eloquence and the wryness and warming scepticism I remember from our work in 2006 continues, I think, to define her theatre today.

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yes no 01:01:36 Anoushka Yes no
S2 Ep8: Nathaniel Martello-White talks to Simon Stephens https://royalcourttheatre.com/podcast/s2-ep8-nathaniel-martello-white-talks-simon-stephens/ Fri, 05 Jan 2018 10:07:10 +0000 Anoushka https://royalcourttheatre.com/?post_type=podcast&p=54950 In some ways Nathaniel Martello-White is, of all the writers I’ve spoken to on these podcasts, the least experienced. He has only had two plays produced professionally. Both of them to massive critical acclaim. But in other ways he is far more experienced than all of us.

Martello-White has made his name over the past decade as one of the most compelling and young stage actors in Britain. Nuanced, poised performances in August Wilson’s Joe Turner’s Come and Gone and Terel McRany’s The Brothers Size at the Young Vic were matched by work of equal assurance in Romeo and Juliet at the National Theatre and Marat/Sade and A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Royal Shakespeare Company.  He has a lengthy and impressive film and television CV including, and this is exciting for me, a credit for Horrible Histories. He lingers most in my mind’s eye for the detail care and force of his performance as in Duncan Macmillan’s People Places Things at the National Theatre and in the West End.

But, for somebody so near the beginning of his writing career, it is his writing that most compels me. His first paly Blackta, in 2012, was a searching satire on the racial politics of the acting industry he has worked in with such success. His second play Torn, produced in 2016 down the corridor here in the Royal Court Theatre Upstairs, was one of my favourite plays of the last few years. Taking and then demolishing the notion of forum theatre, brilliantly directed by Richard Twyman and designed by Ultz, it explored the hidden histories of a family of mixed ethnicity ripped apart by sexual and psychological abuse. Linguistically rich and dramatically tense it was the way Martello-White used the structure of the play to carry the ideas of disintegration that I found most startling. For any play it was impressive. For a second play it was breath-taking.

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yes no 01:06:59 Anoushka Yes no
S2 Ep7: Anupama Chandrasekhar talks to Simon Stephens https://royalcourttheatre.com/podcast/s2-ep7-anupama-chandrasekhar-talks-simon-stephens/ Fri, 29 Dec 2017 10:30:52 +0000 Anoushka https://royalcourttheatre.com/?post_type=podcast&p=54936 Anupama Chadrasekhar was born and raised in Chennai in India’s East Coat, in the heart of the Bay of Bengal. She started writing for theatre in the second half of the last decade when her early plays Closer Apart was produced in her hometown and her next, the self-directed Acid, was produced in Mumbai.

She first came to British attention through her debut play Free Outgoing. Directed in 2007 upstairs at the Royal Court by Indhu Rubasingham it charted the psychological and emotional fallout for a single mother living in an Indian home when her daughter is found to have had a sex tape sent with viral consequences as a text message into the internet. One text message, as the theatre had it at the time, led to one girl being hated by a nation. The play charted with wit and grace and honesty the fallout of her family’s attempts to deal with that.

It was a huge success and transferred to the Theatre Downstairs as part of the Upstairs Downstairs season and was produced in the 2008 Edinburgh Fringe Festival at the Traverse.

Her next play for the Court Disconnected was defined by a similar sense of wit and honesty but was perhaps wider in range. Set in a call centre in Chennai the play dramatised the efforts of the centre workers to field the debts and inquiries, despairs and idiocies of the largely American callers to a US credit card company. It found a humanity in the geographical disconnection of our globalised call centre culture.

She has been produced and translated in several different languages and staged throughout Europe and India, been shortlisted for theatre awards including the Charles Wintour Prize in 2008, the Susan Smith Blackburn Award and the John Whiting Award. Her play The Snow Queen, an Indian Adaptation of the Hans Christian Anderson story, was produced at the Unicorn and remounted by Trestle Theatre Company to tour India and the UK.

And this year Anupama is the National Theatre’s first ever International-Playwright-In-Residence. A writer of caustic wit and wry compassion, building plays that often attempt to deal with the consequences of others’ actions, she is a writer who has constantly found humanity in a world cleaved by technology.

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yes no 01:09:29 Anoushka Yes no
S2 Ep 6: Mike Bartlett talks to Simon Stephens https://royalcourttheatre.com/podcast/s2-ep-6-mike-bartlett-talks-simon-stephens/ Fri, 22 Dec 2017 10:25:07 +0000 Anoushka https://royalcourttheatre.com/?post_type=podcast&p=54932 I’m not sure I remember the very first time I met Mike Bartlett. I know he was a participant in one of the Young Writers Groups that I ran at the Royal Court in the early years of the last decade. After a few weeks I became quietly aware of his wry humour and quiet but forensic and determined intelligence. I do remember one early encounter with his work very clearly. I was sitting outside The Site in the back garden having a cigarette and reading students plays. By this stage Mike was in what we called the Invitation Group.  He had delivered an early draft of his newest play. I opened it to read and was slightly taken aback and then thrilled that Bartlett seemed to have written a play imagining the future life of Prince William. A life, in my vague memory, of political edge and sexual adventure. I was struck by its audacity and its daring. At a time when most students were handing in repeddlings of Sarah Kane or Leo Butler plays here was a writer who was writing with wit and insight, compassion and audacity about major political themes and containing that within the unlikely gesture of a play about an imagined future of our Royal Family.

Sometimes, in jobs like mine, you just now you’re in the presence of something special. Well I think it is fair to say that Prince William has let those of us who read Mike’s early play down by avoiding a career of political edge and sexual adventure. Mike Bartlett very much hasn’t.

Over the last ten years he has established himself as one of the most confident and authoritative voices of his generation. He has written widely and with great success for television and film and become a playwright of international significance.

He was the Resident Dramatist at the Royal Court in 2007 where his play My Child restructured the Theatre Downstairs. And while he went on to write brilliantly for the Hampstead Theatre and the Young Vic (his play Bull is one of my favourites of all his work); the National (Earthquakes in London and 13 at the Olivier provoking widespread acclaim). He has returned again and again to the Royal Court. His play Artefacts turned the third floor rehearsal room into a tense and taut reimagining of an office space. Paines Plough’s Love, Love , Love was a historical drama charting the shifting entitlements of a generations of a family formed in 1968 and Cock, a masterpiece of a chamber play – a tender three hander exploring the agonies and difficulties of love and commitment.

Bartlett won two Olivier Awards in the same year and he has directed with great success. He has seen his plays produced all over the world. But, I think the achievement of his I most envy is the review he got in the Daily mail for the sparkling television reimaging of Charles 3rd. They described it as “”shameful, vile, pathetic tosh”.

I think if those are the kind of notices the Daily Mail are giving you then you are definitely doing something roundly, resiliently, brilliantly right.

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yes no 01:06:44 Anoushka Yes no
S2 Ep5: Abi Morgan talks to Simon Stephens https://royalcourttheatre.com/podcast/s2-ep5-abi-morgan-talks-simon-stephens/ Fri, 15 Dec 2017 11:07:31 +0000 Anoushka https://royalcourttheatre.com/?post_type=podcast&p=54714 Abi Morgan is one of the most prolific and celebrated dramatists of her generation. While she has reached international acclaim for her startling television and film work she began her trade in the theatre and has, over the course of the past two decades, made plays of formal confidence, emotional incision and darting theatricality.

There are few screenwriters of such importance to have emerged in the UK this century. Bafta and Emmy winning work includes the television drama Sex Trafficked, a single film that launched her screen career. White Girl, Tsunami and The Royal Wedding followed. Her work reached its highest range with the multi award-winning series the Hour at the turn of the last decade. For cinema Morgan has written about sex addicts and neo-liberal tyrants alike in Shame and The Iron Lady.

Morgan was born into a family which was almost the stereotype of a theatrical family. Her father Gareth Morgan was the Artistic Director of the Gulbenkian Theatre in Newcastle and her mother Pat England was a successful repertory actor.

She made her debut for the stage with Skinned at Nuffield Theatre, Southampton in 1998. Fast Food at the Manchester Royal Exchange studio in 1999 was followed by Splendour for Paines Plough in 2000 and revived at the Donmar Warehouse in 2015. 2001’s Tiny Dynamite saw the start of a collaboration with Frantic Assembly that has graced both her career and the life of that company while that year’s Tender at the Hampstead Theatre earned her a nomination for Most Promising Playwright.

Her most recent collaboration with Frantic Assembly Lovesong opened in 2011 at the Plymouth Drum before touring internationally with that company. She made her Royal Court debut on the opening season of Vicky Featherstone’s Artistic Dirctorship with her sharp study of sexual mores, The Mistress Contract in 2014. Adapted from an anonymously published set of recorded conversation between a couple in the throes of a decade long affair, it bore many of the hallmarks of Morgan’s stage writing. A dramatization drawn from an actual event, it was formally searching and unflinching in its examination of sexuality and sexual politics. It placed the vicissitudes of identity and empowerment against the complicated backdrop of human relationships.

In an Abi Morgan drama the humanity and the disempowering nature of ideological structures are in a dance of constant tension with one another.

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yes no 01:13:16 Anoushka Yes no
S2 Ep4: Nick Payne talks to Simon Stephens https://royalcourttheatre.com/podcast/s2-ep4-nick-payne-talks-simon-stephens/ Fri, 08 Dec 2017 10:20:19 +0000 Anoushka https://royalcourttheatre.com/?post_type=podcast&p=54597 The playwright Nick Payne started his professional career in London theatre in one of the most vital and fertile hotbeds of theatrical creativity in the city. Working at the National Theatre bookshop. He started writing at York University but it was after moving to the city and working at the bookshop that he wrote his first plays. Flourless and Lay Down Your Cross enjoyed readings at Soho theatre and the Royal Court respectively and SWITZERLAND was produced at the 2008 Hightide Festival.

It was 2009 that saw the production at the Bush theatre of the beautiful and beautifully titled If There Is I Haven’t Found It Yet. I saw the play in its opening production and, directed by Josie Rourke, it broke my heart. It is a play of real intelligence and real humanity as two brothers struggle to make sense of their differences and make sense of their lives under the shadow of an encroaching ecological catastrophe. How do you live a life with grace when the world is edging closer to its end? It asked its questions with rigour and compassion. It is a beautiful play and was revived by Michael Longhurst in New York City a couple of years later starring Jake Gyllenhaal.

Payne followed If There Is with his debut production for the Royal Court Wanderlust directed by Simon Godwin the following year. He adapted Maurice Maeterlink’s Interior for the Gate, wrote one of the 66 Books in response to the King James Bible for the Bush and had his One Day When We Were Young staged at the Paines Plough Roundabout in its opening season in 2010.

But it was 2012’s Constellations, again directed by Michael Longhurst, and starring Sally Hawkins and Rafe Spall that really brought Payne to international attention. It charts the simple and moving story of two characters as they meet and fall in love, become a couple and deal with her terminal illness. But the play’s genius lies in its continual re-invention as, investigating the ideas of a theoretical multiverse, it stops and re-starts, positing re-imagined possibility after possibility. It is a play that is as funny as it is intelligent, as formally bold as it is emotionally truthful. It was produced in the West End and enjoyed a soaring revival on Broadway again with Gyllenhaal and Ruth Wilson.

Payne has performed his own work, the startling monologue The Art of Dying at the Royal Court in 2014 a brave consideration of the nature of our mortality. His plays Elegy and The Same Deep Water as Me saw him reunited with Josie Rourke, this time at the Donmar Warehouse. Incognito, a formally playful and inventive exploration of the relationship between the human brain and human behaviour, was staged at the Hightide Festival and then at the Bush Theatre and, along with the entire oeuvre of Ali MacDowall, marks yet another play that my eldest son Oscar prefers by some distance to anything I’ve ever written.

Payne has written for television, film and radio. He is a writer of rare compassion and boldness and it is a real pleasure to welcome him here to the Royal Court.

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yes no 01:22:04 Anoushka Yes no
S2 Ep3: Bola Agbaje talks to Simon Stephens https://royalcourttheatre.com/podcast/s2-ep3-bola-agbaje-talks-simon-stephens/ Thu, 30 Nov 2017 10:20:31 +0000 Anoushka https://royalcourttheatre.com/?post_type=podcast&p=54500 The career of Bola Agbaje launched with one of the most confident and exciting debut swaggers in playwriting this century. Another of the graduates of Leo Butler’s energetic Young Writers programme here at the Court in 2007,  Agbaje’s Gone Too Far followed two young brothers raised in two different continents – one, Yemi, in London and his elder brother, Ikudayis, raised a Yoruba speaker Nigeria. The play charts the tension of the cultural clash when Ikudayisi moves to live with Yemi in London. And then throws them out into a multi cultural capital that lacerates any notion of a shared black identity while celebrating the complicatedness of their humanity.

It was produced at 2007’s Young Writers Festival, won Agbaje an Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in an Affiliated Theatre and was transferred to the Theatre Downstairs in 2008.

Agbaje followed Gone Too Far with 2010’s morality study Off The Endz. It charted the effects of Ashley Waters’s David returning from jail to explode the life of his middle class childhood friend Kojo. The play was received with real admiration for the rigour and honesty of Agbaje’s examination of the emotional consequences of structural racism and the way that can define and paralyse the lives of her protagonists.

2012’s Belonging, commissioned by British African theatre company Tiati Fahodzi, saw Agbaje move her focus into the world of Nigerian politics and the possibility of corruption and dignity alike in that country.

In the past five years Agbaje has written widely for theatre. She has seen her work staged at the Tricycle, the Riverside Studios, Oval House and Trafalgar Studios. Her most recent play Bitches, written for the National Youth Theatre, was performed at the Finborough. Over the past five years she has also established herself as a screenwriter of increasing confidence. A series of short films culminated in the feature release of her own adaptation of Gone Too Far. She has suggested that her ultimate ambition as a writer lies in writing for film.

Taking inspiration from the dramatic axis that spins from Nigeria to London – and her parents settling in England in the 80s – Agbaje is engaged in a bracing moral interrogation of the tensions between compromise and aspiration. As her characters make sense of what home is or how it is ever possible to live at home or leave it, Agbaje has become an iconic dramatist for an entire generation of young playwrights.

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S2 Ep2: Howard Brenton talks to Simon Stephens https://royalcourttheatre.com/podcast/s2-ep2-howard-brenton-talks-simon-stephens/ Fri, 24 Nov 2017 10:10:08 +0000 Anoushka https://royalcourttheatre.com/?post_type=podcast&p=54441 The following content may contain strong language.

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Full introduction by Simon Stephens:

I first encountered the plays of Howard Brenton right at the beginning of my life as a playwright. Before I’d properly written anything of my own I saw a student production of his 1984 play Bloody Poetry. A dramatic and haunting consideration of the relationship between Percy and Mary Shelley and Lord Byron and Claire Clairmont, it was a play unlike any I’d seen at that time. It took a story that was familiar and infused it with a startling sense of linguistic urgency and political interrogation. It was a revelation to me as an eighteen year old that playwriting could synthesise such elements with such force.

Bloody Poetry is according to Wikipedia one of the fifty plays that Howard Brenton has written since his debut Ladder of Fools, completed while still an undergraduate at Cambridge in 1965. For half a century he has returned to the theatre with inspiring energy and imagination. At the end of the 60s he was part of the touring company Portable that brought new plays to areas of the country that had little engagement with them before. In Brassneck and Pravda he wrote, with David Hare, two of the great collaborative plays of the last few decades. Collaboration with other writers is something he has returned to. He was also an early collaborator with Max Stafford-Clark when his Joint Stock Company produced Epsom Downs in 1977.

Brenton was fundamental to the foundations of the National Theatre – Hare directed his Weapons of Happiness as the first commissioned play in the Lyttleton. In 1980, his Romans In Britain earned the ire of moral campaigner Mary Whitehouse and the play’s director was nearly taken to trial under the obscenity laws.  Brenton has returned repeatedly to this theatre over the course of the last fifty years. He has written new English language translations of masterpieces by Buchner and Brecht; Goethe and Strindberge. His plays have often dramatized lives that are known. While Bloody Poetry looked at Shelley his early Christie in Love remains a startling study of the killer John Christie.

In recent years, for the National Theatre, he has considered the lives of the apostle Paul and Harold Macmillan in Paul and Never So Good respectively. Brenton’s latest play The Blinding Light has just opened at the Jermyn Street Theatre and explores the desires and creative madness of August Strindberg.

He is a writer of linguistic steel and intellectual interrogation and a constant and searching voice in the territory of political drama. He was also one of the originating writers on television crime drama Spooks.

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yes no 01:17:54 Anoushka Yes no
S2 Ep1: Alice Birch talks to Simon Stephens https://royalcourttheatre.com/podcast/s2-ep1-alice-birch-talks-simon-stephens/ Fri, 17 Nov 2017 13:50:01 +0000 Anoushka https://royalcourttheatre.com/?post_type=podcast&p=54313 The following content may contain strong language.

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To subscribe via iTunes click here.

Full introduction by Simon Stephens:

“The play that lives with me most this year, as I talk in August 2017,  is Alice Birch’s remarkable Anatomy of a Suicide. Produced in the late spring here at the Royal Court Theatre Downstairs and directed with exquisite detail and elegance by Katie Mitchell, in its humane and fearless study of despair and love it feels like a thrilling continuation and extension of Alice Birch’s first seven years in playwriting.

Raised in the Birchwood Hall Commune in the Malvern Hills, Alice’s parents gave her and her sister the name Birch in honour of the celebrated Mansion community home. She first came to my attention in 2010. I was working with David Eldridge on A Thousand Stars Explode in the Sky and he was raving about the most brilliant debut play he’d read in some time. A play called Little Light by a writer fresh out of University, Alice Birch. I met Alice at 1000 Stars. She sent me Little Light. And David was right. It was a play of extraordinary poise and wit; of real anger and strangeness. Her eye for alarming stage direction was matched only by the taut poise of her dialogue.

That play remained criminally unproduced for five years but she made her professional debut the following ear with the similarly arresting Many Moons at the Theatre 503. In the following years she wrote Astronaut in collaboration with the much vaunted Islington Community Theatre, wrote Little on the Inside for Clean Break and adapted Malcom Saville’s Lone Pine Club for Pentabus Theatre.

But it was the electric Revolt she Said, Revolt Again, written for the Royal Shakespeare Company, that saw her work reach outside of the studio theatres of London. A play that sparkled with savage wit and formal explosion and culminated in one of the most viscerally anarchic scenes I’ve seen at the Theatre Upstairs here, at the point when it visited in 2015, it marked the arrival on the national stage of a writer of real confidence. Her collaboration with Rash Dash We Want you to Watch was produced at the Temporary Space at the National Theatre and in 2015 she made the first of three shows with her hero and mentor Katie Mitchell. The poised, searing consideration of the sexual politics and isolation at the heart of Hamlet, Ophelia’s Zimmer was co-produced by Berlins Schaubuhne and the Royal Court. Alice’s adaptation of Elfriede Jelinek’s Shadow (Eurydice Speaks) was produced last year at the Schaubuhne and then in the spring, Anatomy of a Suicide.

Her work has been produced widely throughout Europe and recently at the urgent and super cool Soho Rep in New York.

Alice is a writer of exquisite poetry and unerring savagery. She returns again and again to excavate the violence of patriarchy in its many forms. She is also a writer of real wit and humanity and formal exploration and it is a real pleasure to welcome her here.”

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yes no 01:06:44 Anoushka Yes no
S1 Ep12: Tanika Gupta talks to Simon Stephens https://royalcourttheatre.com/podcast/episode-12-tanika-gupta-talks-simon-stephens/ Fri, 24 Feb 2017 10:00:04 +0000 Anoushka https://royalcourttheatre.com/?post_type=podcast&p=23450 The following content may contain strong language.

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To subscribe via iTunes click here.

Introduction by Simon Stephens:

The plays of Tanika Gupta are as defined by a vitality and spirit of intelligent transgression as much as they are a piercing observation of the mores and tropes of the worlds that surround her. Born in 1963 in Chiswick, she studied History at Oxford University before working in a women’s shelter in Manchester and as a community worker in Islington. Throughout her childhood, her university and working life she continued to write. It was in 1996, when her play Skeleton was commissioned by the Soho Theatre Company, that she was able to commit to turning writing into her career. The following twenty years has seen a prolific explosion of work.

She has written or adapted over twenty plays and seen those plays staged in all of the major theatres in the United Kingdom: the National Theatre, The Royal Shakespeare Company, the Young Vic, Hampstead Theatre, Birmingham Rep and Sheffield Crucible amongst others. Her East End-based Bollywood musical play Wah Wah Girls played at Sadler’s Wells. This year she worked with new Globe Artistic Director Emma Rice as dramaturg on A Midsummer Night’s Dream. She has written consistently for television and taught playwriting throughout the world.

Her 2006 play Sugar Mummies opened here at the Royal Court; a provocative and searching exploration of female sex tourism in the Caribbean. It is a play defined, I would argue, by three characteristics that return to her work. By examining the sub-culture of wealthy white women who tour developing economies in search of sex in exchange for financial favour, it subverted conventional narrative, put female characters in the centre of the stage and interrogated the extent to which identity is defined by or in defiance of race and ethnicity. She is a writer with a wily eye for bullshit and wily ear for dialogue who has dramatised England for a generation.

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yes no 01:16:29 Anoushka Yes no
S1 Ep11: Robert Holman talks to Simon Stephens https://royalcourttheatre.com/podcast/episode-11-robert-holman-talks-to-simon-stephens/ Fri, 17 Feb 2017 10:00:02 +0000 Anoushka https://royalcourttheatre.com/?post_type=podcast&p=23441 The following content may contain strong language.

Click here to return to the main podcast page.
To subscribe via iTunes click here.

Introduction by Simon Stephens:

I am often asked who my favourite playwright is. It’s an odd question that I have fielded from students and audiences and friends and peers alike over the past decade or so. I find it tricky to answer because my enthusiasms shift from place to place and time to time. I sometimes try not to answer it. I sometimes try to impress people by talking about Euripedes or Chekhov or Sarah Kane. Three writers I adore and three writers whose work has deeply influenced my own but neither are my favourite playwright. Partly because the notion of a favourite playwright is ridiculous and partly because they are such celebrated and recognised figures they could never attain the level of the secret crush of fandom that the term implies. A favourite playwright needs to be a more private passion. A treasured discovery. The answer that comes closest to being the most truthful, for me, is that my favourite playwright is Robert Holman.

I first met Robert Holman when we shared script meetings here at the Royal Court in 2000, when I was Resident Dramatist and he had been invited in to the building to join in the discussions advising the then artistic director Ian Rickson. I met him before I read him and I’m glad I did because I don’t think I would have been so relaxed around him if I’d read his work first. It was Ian Rickson, in fact, who suggested I have a look at Robert’s plays while I was writing Herons and Port. They astonished me. I had never come across a play with a triptych as its form like 1988’s beautiful Making Noise Quietly. I had never read a play that combined scorching psychological incision with extraordinary heightened reality like his 1990 play Rafts and Dreams. The play with the best opening scene I’ve read. The play with the best monologue I’ve read. I’ve never come across anything as obliteratingly cruel and fragile as the destroying of an egg in Across Oka. As I got to know Robert more, through working with him on a collaborative play, 2010’s A Thousand Stars Explode in the Sky, written with our friend, the mighty David Eldridge, I came maybe to revere him less – thinking of him more as a colleague and collaborator than a hero. But my admiration has never dimmed.

Born in 1952 in Guisborough in the North East of Yorkshire, a village he took myself and David to while we were planning A Thousand Stars, he wrote his first plays for local theatres at the age of 20. He moved down to London in 1973. His first play at the Royal Court, Mud was produced in 1974 and the four decades since then have seen him write, in my opinion, several of this country’s best plays since the Second World War. His most recent play in 2015, A Breakfast of Eels, was a devastating, fragile study of grief and love between two half brothers – a play, in my opinion, as rangey and rich as any he has written in the past. His compassion is matched only by his sense of formal boldness; his linguistic precision matched by his sense of stage imagery and honesty. It’s a great pleasure to talk to him today.

 

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S1 Ep10: Anya Reiss talks to Simon Stephens https://royalcourttheatre.com/podcast/episode-10-anya-reiss-talks-simon-stephens/ Fri, 10 Feb 2017 10:00:03 +0000 Anoushka https://royalcourttheatre.com/?post_type=podcast&p=23134 The following content may contain strong language.

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Introduction by Simon Stephens:

“Anya Reiss’ debut play Spur of the Moment opened upstairs at the Royal Court Theatre in 2010 when she was 18 years old and in the throes of the weeks leading up to taking her A Levels. A spiky and tender excavation of the need and inability of parents to acknowledge the awakening sexuality of their daughter when a new lodger comes to stay; it felt like the arrival of a startling new voice. It was a huge success, receiving the TMA Award for best new play that year and the Evening Standard and Critics Circle Awards for most promising playwright.

The daughter of a former Canon at Westminster Abbey she first came to the Royal Court when she was 14 to take part in a half term playwriting course she was protected and developed by the theatre and by the Young Writers Programme there and exemplifies the generation of writers first produced at the theatre by Dominic Cooke. Along with Polly Stenham, Bola Agbojee and Rachel De-lahey, she was part of what felt like a bracing new generation of writers for stage.

She followed Spur of the Moment in 2011 with The Acid Test, also in the Theatre Upstairs. A play re-interrogating the pain and embarrassment of the relationships between kids and their parents this time from the perspective of a woman in her early twenties whose night in with her housemates is interrupted by the arrival of her recently evicted father.

She has spoken frankly about her complicated relationship with her school life.  Her public decision to not go to University but instead to pursue her career as a writer struck me at the time that I learnt about it as an impressively confident gesture of defiance to Tony Blair’s fantasy of a pan-graduating Britain.

The years following The Acid Test have seen her make a confident and successful foray into writing versions of classic plays. Her sparkling version of Frank Wedekind’s classic study of teenage despair Spring Awakening was produced successfully by Headlong Theatre Company and, more strikingly perhaps, her versions of Chekhov’s masterpieces The Seagull, Uncle Vanya and Three Sisters saw her relocate those plays into a contemporary England of Land Rovers and iPads and receive widespread approval, not only from national theatre critics and my own son who much preferred her versions of Chekhov to mine, but also David Hare in the recent introduction to his collected Chekhov versions.

She has also written regularly and with real range and success for Eastenders. Including, I am told by a very excited producer, Anoushka, the New Years Eve episode of Eastenders of 2016.

A writer of vitality, wit and compassionate tenderness she makes a natural translator for Chekhov. She identified in him the capacity to create characters defined by their complexity of grace and cuntishness and she captures that contradiction with as much vitality as any of her peers.

She’s not even 25 years old. I hate her very much indeed.”

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yes no 01:09:00 Anoushka Yes no
S1 Ep9: Anthony Neilson talks to Simon Stephens https://royalcourttheatre.com/podcast/episode-9-anthony-neilson-talks-simon-stephens/ Fri, 03 Feb 2017 10:00:10 +0000 Anoushka https://royalcourttheatre.com/?post_type=podcast&p=4677 The following content may contain strong language.

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To subscribe via iTunes click here.

Introduction by Simon Stephens:

“It strikes me that, while it may be true that all artists are defined by their contradictions, few playwrights are defined by contradictions quite so thrilling as Anthony Neilson is. Over the last 25 years he has proved himself to be one of the most consistently surprising and exciting playwrights working in British theatre.  His work, carved as it often is, from the rigorous playground of a rehearsal room in the development of devising is always alert and never boring but it is, for me, most fascinating in its capacity to take me by surprise than just to entertain. His plays from the 90s, most famously Penetrator which opened at the Traverse in Edinburgh before transferring to the Royal Court Theatre Upstairs in 1994 and 1997’s Censor that transferred to the Court when it was in temporary residency at the Ambassadors in the West End, are both celebrated for their shocking imagery and visceral force but they are, to my mind, defined more by their tenderness and capacity to celebrate love.

His career this century has been even more richly blindsiding. His exquisite love story Stitching from 2002 was described as “sick” and banned by the Maltese Government resulting in a change in the censorship laws of that country. His lengthy, heart breaking study of mental instability The Wonderful World of Dissocia is one of the most playful and alive theatrical shows I’ve seen. His study of the drear of a daily mundanity Realism is, in my opinion, spectacular by its capacity to excite and stimulate. Undermining any specious notions of high or low art; on the stage he has directed Opera and also written Christmas shows and best selling farces. He is unusual in my interviewees in these Podcasts because while I am speaking to him he has a play in production here at the Court. Unreachable in itself has proven a rich contradiction. Like all great plays it has inspired confusion and adulation alike.  I saw it in preview and on one hand was at times distracted by the scripts that actors carried in their hands or concerned about their uncertainty, warned as I was by a speech by Anthony at the top of the play that it wasn’t really ready. On the other hand, it got under my skin and has lived with me since. Like every writer I have ever spoken to who has been labelled as being part of the stupidly named “in-yer-face” theatre generation he has dismissed that label as meaningless. To me, Unreachable, is a fine and thrilling example of the polar opposite; of theatre that might rather be described as “back of your head”. It has sat in my consciousness for three weeks and grown there. It is, I think, a startling play.”

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yes no 01:06:44 Anoushka Yes no
S1 Ep8: Lucy Prebble talks to Simon Stephens https://royalcourttheatre.com/podcast/episode-8-lucy-prebble-talks-to-simon-stephens/ Fri, 27 Jan 2017 09:59:18 +0000 Anoushka https://royalcourttheatre.com/?post_type=podcast&p=4675 The following content may contain strong language.

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To subscribe via iTunes click here.

Introduction by Simon Stephens:

One of the most enjoyable periods in my working career was the five years I spent between 2001 and 2006 working as the Writers’ Tutor at the Royal Court Theatre’s Young Writers Programme. It was great fun because I worked with great people like the legendary Ola Animashawun, who set up and ran the Programme, and the staff he put together. It was great fun because I got to be part of the Royal Court’s staff for five years but it was also great fun because of the writers I got to work with there over the course of that half a decade. I think I worked with about 800 writers in various capacities. I worked with young offenders and 12 year old school children, business executives and international aspiring artists. Some of the writers I worked with have gone on to work in theatre, some to write professionally and some, a handful of who I will be talking to in these podcasts, have gone onto dazzling success. When that happens I often find myself thinking about the first time they came into the Site across the alleyway from where we are here, in what is described as the “Red Rehearsal Room” on Level 1 of the Royal Court with the window open; you can hear the noise coming in from the alleyway, The Site, across the alleyway from the Court where I used to run the groups. It is always fascinating to ask myself if I had noticed anything in the spirit of say Jack Thorne, for example, or Mike Bartlett, Laura Wade or Chloe Moss that even in their early career marked them out as likely to succeed.

With the case of Lucy Prebble my answer is unequivocal. Some writers have a spark of vitality about them from the start that marks them out as exceptional. She came to the Young Writers programme in the autumn of 2002, shortly after her play Liquid had won the Most Promising Playwright Award at National Student Drama Festival. I worked with her for ten weeks and at the end of those ten weeks she handed in the first draft of her next play The Sugar Syndrome. It was a startling read; alert and sexy, dark and searching. It explored the humanity of paedophilia and the transgressive nature of trust and tenderness. It was quickly programmed by the Court, opening in November 2003, winning her a handful of awards and launching her to national attention. The following decade saw her write with great success for television and also for computer games. Notably for television with a TV series she has confessed to a complicated relationship with, The Secret Diary of a Call Girl, and my 14 year old’s favourite first person shooter, a game that I’m not allowed to name for contractual reasons. She didn’t write a third play, though, for some six years. In 2009 Headlong Theatre launched her extraordinary Enron at the Chichester Festival before it transferred to the Court Downstairs. A theatrically audacious study of the corruption and fragility at the heart of the collapsed Enron organisation, by the time it opened it felt like a searing interrogation of the 2008 economic collapse. It ran for a year in London’s West End and for a week on Broadway. She followed it up with the play that I think is her most brilliant; The Effect is a heart breaking exploration of the nature of emotion. It is a play that sits in the space between its formal clarity and the deep level of feeling in the writing, asking brave questions about what it is to experience love. It opened at the National Theatre in 2012 and at New York’s beautiful Barrow Street Theater earlier this year.

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yes no 01:16:39 Anoushka Yes no
S1 Ep7: Alistair McDowall talks to Simon Stephens https://royalcourttheatre.com/podcast/episode-7-alistair-mcdowall-talks-simon-stephens/ Fri, 20 Jan 2017 10:00:05 +0000 Anoushka https://royalcourttheatre.com/?post_type=podcast&p=4673 The following content may contain strong language.

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To subscribe via iTunes click here.

Introduction by Simon Stephens:

“One of the experiences I have enjoyed most as the Writers’ Tutor here at the Royal Court, or later as Associate at the Lyric Hammersmith and back here at the Court again, is the experience of reading a very early play by a writer largely unknown to the world outside their immediate peers and friends and finding something extraordinary in it. It’s happened a few times but never with more force than the first time I read the plays of a young North Eastern playwright I met at the 2009 Manchester Evening News Awards, Alistair McDowall. We had both, I think this is right, been nominated for an award that year and at the drinks ceremony afterwards he gave me a copy of a collection of short plays he had written. The plays, largely monologues in form, crackled with an energy and a darkness that was legible. We started a correspondence. I don’t start correspondences with every writer who gives me their play but I did with Ali. I had a hunch he might write something special one day. That potential was legible in the next few plays of his I read, Plain Jane and Jennifer Jane, but it was in the fourth play of his, or the fourth that I read at least, Brilliant Adventures, that the potential was unleashed. A play that starts off like an excellent example of British social naturalism, a study of two brothers living in a Middlesbrough Council House, has its head blown off and its heart blown open by the revelation that one of these brothers has invented a working time machine. A nuanced, compassionate, political play exploded into a wild and humane exploration of the way in which poverty decimates potential and the emotional pull of families holds together the most broken souls. These themes have returned in his subsequent plays. I have rarely cried so openly in a theatre as I did sitting with my son watching McDowall’s devastating monologue Captain Amazing produced by Newcastle Live Theatre that I saw at Soho theatre in 2014. His next play Pomona originally written for the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama was brilliantly directed by Ned Bennett at the Orange Tree in 2015 and largely considered to be one of the year’s most thrilling plays. It moved to the Temporary Space at the National Theatre earlier this year. He made his Royal Court debut as part of the Open Court season in 2013 with Talk Show, a tender exploration of a teenage fantasist. His most recent play X enjoyed massive success in the Royal Court Theatre Downstairs earlier this year.

For me, there is a fundamental tension in Ali McDowall’s writing that renders it extraordinary. A compulsive cinephile and reader of comic books, he is fascinated by genre. Whether he is writing plays under the shadow of time travel, superheroes, HP Lovecraft-esque horror or science fiction though this genre fascination is always counterpointed by a tender understanding of the heart breaking grip of family and a genuine political rage at the injustices of poverty in England.

An auto-didactic scholar of contemporary playwriting he is a compulsive reader and a hugely prolific writer. Few writers have the heat around them as he does around him this year. He remains to this day, and to my intense irritation, my son’s favourite playwright.”

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yes no 01:12:15 Anoushka Yes no
S1 Ep6: Rachel De-lahay talks to Simon Stephens https://royalcourttheatre.com/podcast/episode-6-rachel-de-lahay-talks-to-simon-stephens/ Fri, 13 Jan 2017 10:00:06 +0000 Anoushka https://royalcourttheatre.com/?post_type=podcast&p=4671 The following content may contain strong language.

Click here to return to the main podcast page.
To subscribe via iTunes click here.

Introduction by Simon Stephens:

“The career of Rachel De-lahay might be described as the platonic form of a young Royal Court playwright’s career in the 21st century. She joined the Court’s Unheard Voices Programme in 2010, an initiative led by the theatre’s long-term Artistic Associate; the massively under-rated and massively important Ola Animashawun, committed, like much of his work, to representing voices too rarely represented on the Court’s stage. Out of that group came her first play The Westbridge; an energised, explosive, exploration of the complexities and contradictions of racial identity in Britain’s urban spaces. It premiered not at the Court but in Peckham at the Bussey Building as part of the Court’s initiative to take work out of the confines of the rarefied spaces of Sloane Square. It was remounted in the Theatre Upstairs and won that years Writers’ Guild Award for Best Theatre Play and that year’s Alfred Fagon Award. Her second play Routes in 2013, a beautifully poised and charged study of the mess of identity in Britain’s immigrant community and the drive that brings people to this country, won her the 2013 Charles Wintour Award for Most Promising Playwright. In 2014 she returned to her home city of Birmingham with her play Circles, a tender exploration of love and self-hatred from the perspective of the city’s Number 11 bus – until recently the longest urban bus journey in Europe. She’s written for radio and television, has developed work for film and was one of the writers on the 2015 internet drama The Last Hours of Laura K.

She is a writer widely celebrated for her ear for urban idiom. But it is, I think, her inherent capacity to find humanity and vulnerability in those characters, often demonised by the urban experience, that her talent becomes extraordinary. That, and her structural boldness. The energy of her plays for me, lies as much in their structures as in the fizz and crackle of her idiom.”

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yes no 01:02:10 Anoushka Yes no