Sam Troughton and Justine Mitchell in Beginning at the National Theatre – Photo Johan Persson
011 – Beginning, by David Eldridge
Danny is the last guest remaining at Laura’s flat warming party. They have been eyeing each other up from afar all night, and now that they are left alone, Laura makes it clear that she wants Danny to stay. Surprisingly Danny does not immediately seize his chance. His confidence has taken a knock following an unhappy divorce, and the stakes and tension escalate for him when Laura declares that she is ovulating!
This is the simple, but deeply engaging premise of David Eldridge’s play Beginning, which premiered at the National Theatre in October 2017 before transferring to the Ambassadors Theatre in the West End in January 2018. Justine Mitchell as Laura and Sam Troughton as Danny rightly received critical acclaim for their performances, as did the play. It is funny, piercingly perceptive and profoundly moving in its portrait of two lonely people’s lives that have not yet turned out as hoped or promised. Perhaps this will be the beginning of something. The play’s author, David Eldridge, joins us to explore the how Danny and Laura came to life, and how their date night unfolds.
David Eldridge is widely regarded as one of the most important playwrighting voices at work today. His plays include Under the Blue Sky which premiered at the Royal Court in 2000 and was revived in the West End in 2008 with Chris O’Dowd, Catherine Tate and Francesca Annis in the cast; and Festen, an adaptation of the film of the same name that premiered at the Almeida in 2005 before transferring to the West End and Broadway. He has also often written about Essex, where he originally comes from, in plays such as In Basildon which premiered at the Royal Court in 2012, as well as M.A.D. from 2004, and Market Boy in 2006, which were both partly informed by his childhood working on a stall at Romford market. The Knot of the Heart, which was produced by the Almeida Theatre in 2011, powerfully portays the terrible price of addiction wrought on a family. David has also successfully adapted classics from Ibsen and Strindberg, including The Wild Duck, John Gabriel Borkman and Miss Julie. He has also written for TV, including the screenplay for The Scandalous Lady W on BBC, and he lends the experience and expertise he has gained in his impressive career to his role as a lecturer in Creative Writing at Birkbeck, University of London, and in his teaching screenwriting for the Arvon Foundation.
If you are interested in buying the play text or other related books, we’d be delighted if you choose to purchase them by following the links below. We will earn a small commission on every book you purchase, which helps to keep the podcast going. You will also be supporting an independent bookseller. Thank you.
We have footnotes for this episode …
Our Footnotes to the episode on Beginning include observations on what the epigraphs signal about the play, measuring ourselves on the property ladder, the language of sex, and how standing in your underwear is the ultimate honesty.
Suggest a play
We’re always open to suggestions about plays to talk about, so if you’d like us to discuss a favourite of yours, please email us at email@example.com. Let us know why you think we should cover it, and if you know anyone who’d be excited and qualified to talk about it with us (even yourself if modesty permits!).
You might also be interested in …
This episode is a recorded ragbag of selected extra Footnotes that we’ve compiled during the research and conversations from our first eleven episodes. You’ll hear trivial titbits of information in the best tradition of footnotes, as well as pithy observations on all of the plays that we’ve covered so far.
Photo: Marc Brenner
Mike Bartlett’s major new play Albion is a funny and moving portrait of an individual family coping with grief and life’s big challenges, as well as a reflection on issues consuming the nation at the height of the Brexit debate. Joining us to review the reverberations of this rich play are the two leading players in its recent Almeida production: Victoria Hamilton and Nicholas Rowe.
Nigel Slater’s Toast is an innovative dramatisation of the award-winning memoir of the same name, that described the life-changing events of the author’s childhood through his nostalgic diary of his favourite foods. Henry Filloux-Bennett’s funny and heart-warming play not only brings food to life in the theatre, it tells the inspiring story of a young boy who has the courage to follow his own recipe in life.
The two authors of Nigel Slater’s Toast, Henry Filloux-Bennett and Nigel Slater himself, join us to share the unlikely story of how a catalogue of childhood foods became a hit play.
Before the theatres went dark this month I was lucky enough to see Caryl Churchill’s A Number at the Bridge, and spend more than seven hours in thrall to Robert Lepage’s Seven Streams of the River Ota at the National. Plus, some thoughts on what we miss when there is no theatre.
Another great mix of shows this month, from Tom Stoppard’s new play, to Ibsen, Beckett and newer plays in smaller London venues.
The January roundup included both classic plays, such as The Duchess of Malfi, Uncle Vanya and Three Sisters, as well as recent musicals Dear Evan Hansen and Girl from the North Country …