Playwrights' Playwrights at the Duke of York's Theatre

Published on Wed 20 Jun 2012
Four of the UK's leading playwrights will direct one of their all-time favourite plays in a series of one-off afternoon readings from 29 June at the Duke of York's Theatre in a special event supported by The Ambassador Theatre Group.



As part of the current three-play Royal Court at the Duke of York’s Season with Posh by Laura Wade, Jumpy by April De Angelis and Constellations by Nick Payne, four of the UK’s leading playwrights will direct one of their all-time favourite plays in a series of one-off afternoon readings from 29 June at the Duke of York’s Theatre in a special event supported by The Ambassador Theatre Group.

Nick Payne, Polly Stenham, Roy Williams and David Eldridge will select their favourite plays and will have less than two days to bring their vision to life with a full cast to be announced for staged readings on Friday afternoons this summer.

The line-up for Playwright’s Playwrights is as follows:

Nick Payne (Constellations, Wanderlust) directs Kenneth Lonergan’s The Starry Messenger on Friday 29 June at 2pm
Polly Stenham (Tusk Tusk, That Face) directs John Osborne’s Look Back in Anger on Friday 6 July at 2pm
Roy Williams (Sucker Punch, Sing Yer Heart Out for the Lads, Clubland, Fallout) directs Barrie Keeffe’s Abide with Me on Friday 13 July at 2pm
David Eldridge (In Basildon, Market Boy, Under the Blue Sky) directs Robert Holman’s Across Oka on Friday 20 July at 2pm

The first Playwright’s Playwrights was staged in 1999 by then Artistic Director Ian Rickson at the Duke of York’s Theatre during the Royal Court’s residency there when its Sloane Square base closed for a major refurbishment project. The aim was to give audiences an insight into the influence and taste of leading writers and allow audiences to hear readings of powerful, sometimes unknown, plays.

The first season included Speed the Plow by David Mamet, directed by Joe Penhall, which inspired a full West End production directed by Peter Gill and starring Patrick Marber. A second season followed later that year and again in 2004.

In 2008, in celebration of Caryl Churchill’s 70th birthday and in recognition of her long and successful association with the Royal Court, ten playwrights, including Martin Crimp, April De Angelis, debbie tucker green, Zinnie Harris, Joe Penhall, Winsome Pinnock, Mark Ravenhill, Wallace Shawn, directed one-off readings of a favourite Caryl Churchill play.

Artistic Director of the Royal Court, Dominic Cooke, said:
“Playwrights’ Playwrights offers audiences a unique opportunity to experience landmark plays from a completely new perspective. Playwrights often make fine directors of other writers’ work and here four Royal Court writers are given free rein to choose a play from any era. It’s always fascinating to see which play they choose and to contemplate how that play may have been influential on their writing.

“This summer’s programme sees an eclectic range of plays from contemporary theatre classics Osborne’s Look Back in Anger and Holman’s Across Oka to Barrie Keeffe’s evocative Abide with Me, to the gem of a play The Starry Messenger by Kenneth Lonergan, as yet unperformed in the UK. To see these plays brought to life in the West End is remarkable and is testament to ATG’s commitment to the Royal Court at the Duke of York’s season.”

Ambassador Theatre Group, joint CEO and Creative Director, Howard Panter said:
“We are thrilled that the collaboration between the Royal Court and Ambassador Theatre Group continues to bring such exciting projects to the West End. The Playwrights’ Playwrights programme truly is the icing on the cake of a fantastic season at the Duke of York’s, showcasing the best theatre has to offer. We are delighted to be supporting it.”

Friday 29 June, 2pm
The Starry Messenger
by Kenneth Lonergan directed by Nick Payne

“Kenneth Lonergan is one of the most humane, thoughtful and quietly intelligent writers working today. I adore his plays – and The Starry Messenger, as yet unperformed in the UK, is a shining example of everything I admire about his work.”
Nick Payne

The humdrum life of astronomy lecturer Mark Williams takes an unexpected turn following a chance encounter in his weekly class at the planetarium. In The Starry Messenger, Kenneth Lonergan asks questions about life and death, friendship and marriage, and the Solar System in this funny and moving play. It was first performed in 2009 in New York starring Matthew Broderick.

“It re-establishes Mr Lonergan as a possessor of all the crucial parts of a good dramatist’s anatomy: a critical mind, an empathetic heart and a musical ear that hears whole lives in sentences.”
New York Times, Ben Brantley, 24 November 2009 on The Starry Messenger

Kenneth Lonergan’s Lobby Hero made its London premiere at the Donmar before transferring to the New Ambassadors where it was nominated for an Olivier Award for Best Play. This Is Our Youth had a very successful run at the Garrick Theatre with four major casts including Hayden Christensen, Matt Damon, Colin Hanks, and Chris Klein as Dennis, Jake Gyllenhaal, Casey Affleck, Kieran Culkin, and Freddie Prinze Jr. as Warren, and Anna Paquin, Summer Phoenix, Alison Lohman, Heather Burns as Jessica. Lonergan is based in New York where his productions include Medieval Play (Signature Theatre), The Starry Messenger (New Group), Lobby Hero (Playwrights Horizons, John Houseman Theatre, Drama Desk Best Play Nominee, Outer Critics Circle Best Play and John Gassner Playwriting Nominee, included in the 2000-2001 Best Plays Annual), The Waverly Gallery (Williamstown Theatre Festival, Promenade; 2001 Pulitzer Prize finalist), and This Is Our Youth (Drama Desk Best Play Nominee). He co-wrote the film Gangs of New York which garnered a WGA and Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay. His film You Can Count on Me, which he wrote and directed, was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Screenplay, won the Sundance 2000 Grand Jury Prize and The Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award, the NY Film Critics Circle, LA Films Critics Circle, Writers Guild of America and National Board of Review Awards for Best Screenplay of 2001, the AFI Awards for Best Film and Best New Writer, as well as the Sutherland Trophy at the London Film Festival. The film Margaret, which he wrote and directed, was released in 2011.

Nick Payne won the prestigious George Devine Award in 2009 with his play If There Is I Haven’t Found It Yet. This was produced at the Bush Theatre in October 2009, directed by Josie Rourke and will be produced by the Roundabout Theatre Company in New York in Autumn 2012 starring Jake Gyllenhaal. Payne was a member of the Young Writers Programme at the Royal Court and made his debut at the Court in September 2010 with Wanderlust. He is currently under commission at the Donmar Warehouse, the Royal Court and Manhattan Theatre Club. Payne’s acclaimed play Constellations will be staged at the Duke of York’s as the third play in the Royal Court season following its debut in the Jerwood Theatre Upstairs at the Royal Court.

“[Payne’s] work can stand comparison with Tom Stoppard, Michael Frayn and Caryl Churchill at their best.”
Daily Telegraph, Charles Spencer, 20 Jan 2012

Friday 6 July, 2pm
Look Back in Anger
by John Osborne directed by Polly Stenham

“I chose Look Back because it was the beginning. The beginning of the Court, of modern theatre as we know it. We are in debt to this play.”
Polly Stenham

Holed up in a cramped flat in a large Midlands town with his wife Alison and friend Cliff, Jimmy Porter has got something to say. Look Back in Anger rocked theatre and society in the summer of 1956, and blasted open the doors for a generation of angry young men.

“What the play did do, though, was give youth a voice, stimulate other dramatists and liberate audiences. It certainly changed my life.”
Guardian, Michael Billington, 7 February 2012

“I doubt if I could love anyone who did not wish to see Look Back in Anger. It is the best young play of its decade.”
Observer , Kenneth Tynan, 13 May 1956

John Osborne (1929 -1994) premiered many of his plays at the Royal Court Theatre over his lifetime. These include: Look Back in Anger, The Entertainer, Epitaph for George Dillon, Luther, The Blood of the Bambergs, Inadmissible Evidence, A Patriot for Me, Hotel in Amsterdam, Time Present, West of Suez.

He was also a successful television and screen writer. He has been nominated for numerous Olivier and Tony Awards. He was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain.

Polly Stenham wrote the 2007 theatrical hit That Face at just 19 years old. It was produced at the Jerwood Theatre Upstairs, Royal Court. It was later transferred to the Duke of York’s Theatre in 2008 by Sonia Friedman Productions and like the original production starred Lindsay Duncan and Matt Smith. Awards for That Face include: Winner of the Evening Standard Award for Best New Play 2007, Winner of the Most Promising Playwright Award, Critics’ Circle Awards 2008, Nominated for Best New Play, Olivier Awards 2009. Her second play Tusk Tusk sold out the Jerwood Theatre Upstairs, Royal Court in May 2009.

Polly is currently working on a new commission for the Royal Court and is under commission to the Donmar Warehouse. She is also working on two film projects – one is an adaptation of Tusk Tusk for Film4/Origin Pictures that is due to shoot July 2012, and the other is a project called Dope Girls and is also with Film4; both projects will be directed by Adam Smith.

“Stenham seemed ridiculously young to have pulled such an assured first play out of the bag”
Guardian, Andrew Haydon, 1 May 2008

Friday 13 July, 2pm
Abide with Me
by Barrie Keeffe directed by Roy Williams

“When I was a teenager, I was looking out for stuff that spoke to me; in the 1980s, most TV drama was ladies in petticoats and posh kids with hockey sticks. Barrie Keeffe wrote about being young and working-class, and gave me a sense of self. His work taught me that theatre was the place to hear original voices. His plays are gritty and, although there is a lot of anger, they are not overly political. They tell a good story that makes you laugh and cry, and taught me that an audience needs to be left with a multitude of emotions, rather than be dictated to.”
Roy Williams

It’s the Cup Final. Factory workers and ardent United fans Jan, Louis and Paul wait outside Wembley Stadium, desperate for tickets. Uncle Harold has promised to get them in, but will he turn up? Feelings run high and events are in danger of spiralling out of control.

Abide with Me is the second play in Barrie Keeffe’s Barbarians trilogy and was first produced in 1976.

“A timely reminder of the effects of youth unemployment”
Guardian, Lyn Gardner, 13 April 2012

Barrie Keeffe has written more than forty plays for theatre, which have been produced in 26 countries including: Only a Game, Scribes, Gem, Coming Apart, A Certain Vincent, A Sight of Glory, Gotcha, Up the Truncheon, Killing Time, In the City, Getaway, Gimme Shelter, Barbarians, A Mad World, My Masters, Frozen Assets, Sus, She’s So Modern, Black Lear, Bastard Angel, Chorus Girls, A Gentle Spirit, Better Times, King of England, My Girl, Wild Justice, Not Fade Away, I Only Want To Be With You, Shadows on Sun, Still Killing Time, Abide With Me.

Television includes: No Excuses, Gotcha, Nipper, Waterloo Sunset, King.

Radio includes: Pigeon Skyline, Good Old Uncle Jack, Only a Game, Self Portrait, Heaven Scent, Frozen Assets, Paradise, On the Eve of the Millennium, Tales 2000, Feng Shui and Me.

Keeffe’s film The Long Good Friday was voted at number 21 in the British Film Institute’s list of the top 100 British films of the 20th century, and provided Bob Hoskins with his breakthrough film role.

Roy Williams began writing plays in 1990 and is now arguably one of the country’s leading dramatists. In 2000 he was the joint-winner of The George Devine Award and in 2001 he was awarded the Evening Standard Award for Most Promising Playwright. He was awarded the OBE for Services to Drama in the 2008 Birthday Honours List. His plays include Sucker Punch (Royal Court Theatre, nominated for Olivier Award & Evening Standard Theatre Awards for Best Play, Joint winner of the Alfred Fagon Award for best play 2010, and winner of the Writers Guild Best Play Award 2011 ), Category B (Tricycle Theatre), Angel House (Eclipse Theatre, UK Tour), Days of Significance (RSC), Joe Guy (Tiata Fahodzi/Soho Theatre), There’s Only One Wayne Matthews (Polka Theatre), Baby Girl (NT Connections), Absolute Beginners (Lyric Hammersmith), Little Sweet Thing (Nottingham Playhouse), Slow Time (NT Education), Fallout (Royal Court Theatre), Sing Yer Heart Out For the Lads (NT), Clubland (Royal Court Theatre), The Gift (Birmingham Rep/Tricycle Theatre), Local Boy (Hampstead Theatre), Souls (Theatre Centre), Lift Off (Royal Court) , Starstruck (Tricycle, Winner of John Whiting Award, Alfred Fagon Award & EMMA Award for Best Play), Josie’s Boy (Red Ladder Theatre Co) and The No-Boys Cricket Club (Theatre Royal, Stratford East).
His work for television and film includes Let It Snow (Endor Productions/Sky), Fallout (Company Pictures/ Channel 4, Screen Nation Award for Achievement in Screenwriting), Offside (BBC, Winner of BAFTA Children’s Film & TV Award for Best Schools Drama), Babyfather (BBC) and he co-wrote the new feature film Fast Girls.

For radio, his work includes adaptations of ER Braithwaite’s A Choice of Straws and To Sir With Love and original plays, Tell Tale, Homeboys and The Interrogation.

“As usual with Williams, the dialogue is crisp and bespoke: motives are mixed, nobody is a hero, nothing is just black and white.”
The Times, Dominic Maxwell, 21 June 2010

Friday 20 July, 2pm
Across Oka
by Robert Holman directed by David Eldridge

“It’s one of my desert island plays, that sings with truth, and is a beautifully humane meditation on thawing relations between East and West as the cold war ends, our capacity for self-destruction, and how the future is always in the hands of the young.”
David Eldridge

Holman’s modern classic follows sixteen year old Matty from the North East of England to the wilds of the Oka reserve on a journey to try and save the Siberian crane from extinction. Across Oka was first performed in 1988 in an RSC production.

“It sends you out of the theatre at peace with yourself, as if you’ve only just realised what a truly wonderful thing our species is in all its warped and damaged humanity.”
Guardian by Lyn Gardner, 8 October 2008

Robert Holman has been Resident Dramatist at the Royal National Theatre and the Royal Shakespeare Company. For the Royal Court his credits include: Mud, Other Worlds, The Overgrown Path, Rafts and Dreams.

Other theatre includes: The Grave Lovers, Progress in Unity, Coal, The Natural Cause, Outside the Whale, Émigrés, German Skerries, Tooting, The Estuary, Chance of a Lifetime, Today, This is History Gran, Across Oka, Rafts and Freams, Bad Weather, Holes in the Skin, Jonah and Otto, 1000 Stars Explode in the Sky, Making Noise Quietly.

David Eldridge’s credits for the Royal Court include: In Basildon, Incomplete and Random Acts of Kindness, Under the Blue Sky (& Duke of York’s). Other theatre includes: Miss Julie (Royal Exchange, Manchester); Something, Someone, Somewhere, MAD, Serving it Up (Bush); The Knot of the Heart (Almeida); Festen (Almeida, Lyric West End & Broadway); The Stock Da’wa, Falling (Hampstead); The Lady from the Sea (Royal Exchange); A Thousand Stars Explode in the Sky (with Robert Holman & Simon Stephens, Lyric Hammersmith); Babylone (Belgrade, Coventry); John Gabriel Borkman, The Wild Duck, Summer Begins (Donmar Warehouse); Market Boy (National); A Week with Tony, Fighting for Breath (Finborough); Thanks Mum (Red Room); Dirty (Stratford East); Cabbage for, Tea, Tea, Tea! (Platform 4, Exeter).

Television includes: Killers, Our Hidden Lives. Film includes: The Nugget Run.
Radio includes: Michael and Me: Stratford, Ilford, Romford and all Stations to Shenfield, Festen, The Picture Man, Like Minded People, The Secret Grief.

Awards include: 2001 Time Out Live Award for Best New Play in the West End for Under the Blue Sky, 2005 Theatregoers Choice Award for Best New Play for Festen, 2008 Prix Europa Best European Radio Drama for The Picture Man, 2009 Theatregoers Choice Award for Best New Play for Under the Blue Sky, 2012 Off West End Award for Best New Play for The Knot of the Heart.

“Eldridge has a sharp and witty ear for demotic dialogue and a cracking plot.”
Daily Telegraph, Charles Spencer, 23 Feb 2012

Notes to editors:

Previous Playwrights’ Playwrights seasons include:

Summer 1999 at the Duke of York’s
Speed the Plow by David Mamet, directed by Joe Penhall
Votes for Women by Elizabeth Robins, directed by Stephen Jeffreys
Antigone by Sophocles, translated by Timberlake Wertenbaker, directed by Rebecca Prichard
Our Late Night by Wallace Shawn, directed by Caryl Churchill.

Autumn 1999 at the Duke of York’s
The Technicians by Olwen Wymark, directed by Ayub Khan-Din (East Is East)
Old Times by Harold Pinter, directed by Martin Crimp, starring Stephen Dillane
Our Betters by Somerset Maugham, directed by Patrick Marber, starring Rufus Sewell

2004 at the Royal Court
The Mother by Bertolt Brecht, directed by Mark Ravenhill,
Icecream by Caryl Churchill, directed by Lucy Prebble
Dealing with Claire by Martin Crimp, directed by Joe Penhall
Glengarry Glen Ross by David Mamet, in an all female version directed by April De Angelis

2008: A celebration of Caryl Churchill’s 70th birthday
Owners, directed by April De Angelis
Light Shining in Buckinghamshire, directed by Mark Ravenhill
Vinegar Tom, directed by Winsome Pinnock
Top Girls, directed by Nicholas Wright
Three More Sleepless Nights, directed by debbie tucker green
Icecream, directed by Wallace Shawn
The Skriker, directed by Zinnie Harris
Blue Heart, directed by Marius von Mayenburg
Far Away, directed by Martin Crimp
A Number, directed by Joe Penhall

Box Office and Ticket Information:
Ticket prices: £10, £8. (Concessions £6). No booking fees.

Address: Duke of York’s Theatre, St. Martin’s Lane, London WC2N 4BG 0844 8717 627

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