Royal Court Theatre Looks at our Sex Lives in 'Big Idea'

Published on Mon 20 Jan 2014

The Big Idea continues at the Royal Court Theatre, with a new programme announced today (Monday 20 January) which investigates how we negotiate our sex lives, inspired by the breadth of ideas in Abi Morgan’s The Mistress Contract, which plays in the Jerwood Theatre Downstairs from 30 January to 22 March.

The Big Idea will take place on three days between 8 and 13 March, bringing together artists, activists and an anthropologist to interrogate the relationships we form and how we talk about them.

The programme includes five new short plays by Frances Ya Chu Cowhig, Rachel
De-lahay, Kieran Hurley, Rebecca Lenkiewicz and Tom Wells. The writers were asked to interrogate ‘unusual unions’, with the plays being staged in unlikely locations around the Royal Court Theatre building, both front of house and back stage. Nick Payne, whose piece Blurred Lines is currently playing at The Shed at the National Theatre, will be in conversation with Abi Morgan about what makes a feminist play, while The Big Debate asks whether we should contract our sex lives.

The Big Idea is a new strand of work at the Royal Court launched during last year’s Open Court festival, offering audiences radical thinking and provocative discussion inspired by the work on stage.

AlixPartners support The Big Idea at the Royal Court Theatre

Unusual Unions
by Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig, Rachel De-lahay, Kieran Hurley, Rebecca Lenkiewicz and Tom Wells.
Saturday 8 March 12.15pm & 5.15pm
Various locations around the Royal Court Theatre
Please note that this is a promenade performance and will involve walking, standing and stairs, with no seating available.
Tickets £15

Five new short plays about the bonds we form with each other, performed in five unusual spaces around our building.

Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig’s credits include The World of Extreme Happiness at the National Theatre, which will also be produced in Autumn 2014 by the Goodman Theatre, Chicago and the Manhattan Theatre, New York, 410[Gone] and Lidless, which won the Yale Series Drama Award and a Fringe First Award at the Edinburgh Festival.

Rachel De-lahay’s credits include Routes, for which she won an Evening Standard Award for Most Promising Playwright and her debut play at the Royal Court The Westbridge, which was awarded the Writers’ Guild Award for Best Theatre Play.

Kieran Hurley is an award-winning writer, performer, and theatre maker based in Glasgow whose work has been presented internationally and throughout the UK. His credits include Beats (awarded Best New Play at the Critics’ Awards for Theatre in Scotland), Rantin, Hitch and a number of short mini-plays including London 2012: Glasgow and Belcoo, as part of the Royal Court’s Open Court festival.

Rebecca Lenkiewicz is an award-winning writer who, in 2008, was the first living female playwright to have her work produced on the Olivier Stage at the National Theatre. Recent stage plays include That Almost Unnameable Lust, The Painter, The Turn of the Screw and An Enemy of The People. Rebecca’s screenplay Ida, co-written with Pawel Pawlikowksi, was recently awarded Best Film at the London, Warsaw and Gdynia Film Festivals as well as picking up multiple awards at international films festivals.

Tom Wells’ stage plays include Jumpers For Goalposts, Cosmic, Jonesy, The Kitchen Sink, which won a Critics Circle Award, Spacewang, Me, As A Penguin, About A Goth and Notes for First Time Astronauts. Ben & Lump, which Tom wrote as part of the Coming Up season (Touchpaper) was broadcast on Channel 4 in 2012.

The Big Debate: Should we Contract our Sex Lives?
Wednesday 12 March 6.15pm
Jerwood Theatre Downstairs
Tickets £5 (or free with a ticket to The Mistress Contract, bookable in advance)

Chaired by broadcaster, journalist and theatre critic Libby Purves, the panel debates how and why we form sexual partnerships. The panel includes playwright Alecky Blythe, anthropologist Professor Sophie Day (Goldsmiths, University of London), academic and
activist Lynne Segal and human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell.

Alecky Blythe is a playwright. Her credits include Where Have I Been All My Life, London Road and The Girlfriend Experience, as well as Friday Night Sex as part of the Royal Court’s Open Court festival in 2013.

Professor Sophie Day is an anthropologist who teaches at Goldsmiths (University of London) and holds an honorary chair at Imperial College London. She was awarded the Eileen Basker Prize and the Wellcome Medal for Anthropology as Applied to Medical Problems for her 2007 monograph, ‘On the Game: Women and Sex Work’.

Libby Purves is the presenter of BBC Radio 4’s Midweek. She is a major columnist for The Times, theatre critic (, broadcaster and author. As an author she has written a series of books on childcare and family life, as well as twelve novels, including most recently Shadow Child.

Lynne Segal joined Birkbeck as an Anniversary Professor to celebrate 175 years of Birkbeck College, in 1999. Her major publications have been in the area of in feminist theory and politics, shifting understandings of femininity, masculinity and sexuality, alongside more recent work on attachments, belongings, the work of memory, social conflict and, most recently, the psychic paradoxes of ageing.

Peter Tatchell is a prominent campaigner and activist for human rights, democracy, LGBT freedom and global justice. He is a member of the queer human rights group OutRage! and the Green Party. Peter is also the Green Party’s spokesperson on human rights. Through the Peter Tatchell Foundation, he campaigns for human rights in Britain and internationally.

Why Write a Feminist Play?
Thursday 13 March 6.15pm
Jerwood Theatre Downstairs
Tickets £5 (or free with a ticket to The Mistress Contract, bookable in advance)

Playwrights Abi Morgan and Nick Payne discuss the social, political and artistic imperatives of writing a play about feminism.

Abi Morgan’s The Mistress Contract runs in the Jerwood Theatre Downstairs at the Royal Court from 30 January to 22 March. Her theatre credits include 27, Lovesong, Skinned, Splendour and Tiny Dynamite. A BAFTA award-winning writer; on screen, her credits include The Invisible Woman, The Iron Lady, Shame, The Hour, Birdsong, White Girl and Sex Traffic.

Nick Payne’s credits include Blurred Lines, Constellations (which won the Evening Standard Best Play Award), Wanderlust, The Same Deep Water As Me and If There Is I Haven’t Found It Yet, which won the George Devine Award.

For more information, please contact Anna Evans on 020 7565 5063 [email protected]

Notes to Editors:

AlixPartners support The Big Idea at the Royal Court Theatre

The Royal Court offer radical thinkers and provocative voices a home, wherever they come from. The Big Idea series brings this to life by engaging the public in debate and discussion about civic, political, domestic and international issues. As a leading global business advisory firm of results-oriented professionals who specialise in creating value and enhancing performance, we share in this conviction to challenge pre-conceived standards and generate new ideas. AlixPartners is delighted to support the Royal Court in this exciting new programme.

Coutts is the Royal Court Theatre Innovation Partner

Coutts is the wealth division of the Royal Bank of Scotland Group. Coutts has a long history of supporting the arts going back 200 years, having looked after the financial affairs of many famous clients connected with the arts such as Bram Stoker, Charles Dickens and Chopin. In 1816, Thomas Coutts married Harriot Mellon, a popular actress of her day, and together they became partners of a number of London Theatres, including the Drury Lane and the Royal Opera House. Coutts has even featured in a number of artistic works including The Gondoliers by Gilbert and Sullivan, and Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic story Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. In the new millennium, this tradition has continued not only through Coutts managing the finances of many of today’s top writers, actors and musicians, but also through our arts sponsorship programme. We are delighted to support The Royal Court and its diverse range of ground-breaking performances.