Claire Rushbrook as Maggie and Daniel Ryan as Gary
National Theatre 2022
Photo: Johan Persson
047 – Middle, by David Eldridge
It is 4:00am. Maggie can’t sleep. She is heating some milk on the hob.
Gary comes looking for her: “What’s wrong?”.
“I’m not sure I love you anymore”.
Maggie and Gary are nearing 50, and they have reached a moment of crisis in the middle of their marriage and their lives. As the dawn approaches they finally open up to each other about their separate unhappiness, asking questions about what they have done in their lives so far, what they wished they had done, and what more they now want. Their personal soul-searching encompasses many of the common anxieties of both their time of life and of our age.
This is David Eldridge’s new play Middle, which as we recorded this episode is live on the stage at the National Theatre in London. Middle follows David’s wonderful play Beginning, which ran in the same theatre in 2017 and which I was privileged to talk with David about in episode 11 of the podcast. Middle is not a direct sequel however; it is part of what David is calling a “triptych for the theatre”, in which he captures different epochal moments in the real-time lives of a couple’s relationship. I’m delighted to welcome David back to talk us through this next stage of the important dramatic trilogy he is building.
David Eldridge is widely regarded as one of the most important playwrighting voices at work today. His most recent play Middle opened at the National Theatre in May 2022. It follows on from Beginning, in what will be a “loose trilogy” of plays. Beginning premiered at the National Theatre in October 2017 before transferring to the Ambassadors Theatre in the West End in January 2018.
David’s other 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.
David is also a lecturer in Creative Writing at Birkbeck, University of London.
David recommended The Lodger by Robert Holman
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The Footnotes to our episode on Middle include the significance of Crouch End, the sources of our personal life goals, and what the musical selections in the play signal.
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