S2 Ep1: Alice Birch talks to Simon Stephens

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:

“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.”