047 – Middle, by David Eldridge

047 – Middle, by David Eldridge

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?”.
Silence
“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

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. 

Recommended Play

David recommended The Lodger by Robert Holman

David in rehearsal for Middle
Photo by Johan Persson

The Texts

If you are interested in buying the play text or other related books, we’d be delighted if you choose to purchase them from our selected partners Bookshop.org and Blackwell’s. Not only will you be supporting independent booksellers, we will also earn a small commission on every book you purchase, which helps to keep the podcast going. Click on the cover to buy from our chosen partner. Thank you.

Photo © Marc Brenner
We have footnotes for this episode …

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.

You might also be interested in …
048 – Much Ado About Nothing, by William Shakespeare

048 – Much Ado About Nothing, by William Shakespeare

Much Ado About Nothing is rightly renowned for the “merry war” of wits between the reluctant lovers Beatrice and Benedick, but alongside their brilliant partnership, there is also a darker story of misogyny and betrayal that gives the play a more complex and challenging character. Lucy Bailey, director of the joyous production currently running at the Globe Theatre in London joins me to review this romantic rollercoaster.

047 – Middle, by David Eldridge

047 – Middle, by David Eldridge

David Eldridge’s new play Middle, now playing at the National Theatre, follows on from his 2017 play Beginning. It is the second in what will be a “triptych for the theatre”, capturing epochal moments in couples’ relationships. I’m delighted to welcome David back to talk about the important dramatic trilogy he is building.

046 – All My Sons, by Arthur Miller

046 – All My Sons, by Arthur Miller

Arthur Miller’s breakthrough play All My Sons is both a searing family tragedy and an exploration of the moral challenges that Miller believed were inherent in the American Dream. Douglas Rintoul has recently directed a wonderful production of this devastating play at the Queen’s Theatre in Hornchurch.

David Eldridge

David Eldridge

David Eldridge

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. 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.

Photo by Johan Persson

Recommended Play(s)

In episode 11 David recommended Across Oka by Robert Holman,
and in episode 47 he recommended another Robert Holman play, The Lodger.

 

 

 

011 – Beginning, by David Eldridge

011 – Beginning, by David Eldridge

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

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.

Recommended Play

David recommended Across Oka by Robert Holman.

Portrait by Claire McNamee
Lumb Bank, 2019

The Texts

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.

Photo © Marc Brenner

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.

You might also be interested in …

048 – Much Ado About Nothing, by William Shakespeare

048 – Much Ado About Nothing, by William Shakespeare

Much Ado About Nothing is rightly renowned for the “merry war” of wits between the reluctant lovers Beatrice and Benedick, but alongside their brilliant partnership, there is also a darker story of misogyny and betrayal that gives the play a more complex and challenging character. Lucy Bailey, director of the joyous production currently running at the Globe Theatre in London joins me to review this romantic rollercoaster.

047 – Middle, by David Eldridge

047 – Middle, by David Eldridge

David Eldridge’s new play Middle, now playing at the National Theatre, follows on from his 2017 play Beginning. It is the second in what will be a “triptych for the theatre”, capturing epochal moments in couples’ relationships. I’m delighted to welcome David back to talk about the important dramatic trilogy he is building.

046 – All My Sons, by Arthur Miller

046 – All My Sons, by Arthur Miller

Arthur Miller’s breakthrough play All My Sons is both a searing family tragedy and an exploration of the moral challenges that Miller believed were inherent in the American Dream. Douglas Rintoul has recently directed a wonderful production of this devastating play at the Queen’s Theatre in Hornchurch.