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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

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.

Patreon Page

BECOME A PATRON!

Since I launched The Play Podcast in April 2020, I have managed to eschew any form of advertising or sponsorship, and I would like to continue to produce the podcast without doing so. I therefore invite you to help me to continue to make the podcast by becoming a Patron.
Additional benefits available to Patrons include Footnotes on the plays covered in the podcast, as well as exclusive access to The Play Review.

For details click here

Thank you very much for listening and for your support.
Douglas

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.

You might also be interested in …
080 – Long Day’s Journey into Night, by Eugene O’Neill

080 – Long Day’s Journey into Night, by Eugene O’Neill

Eugene O’Neill wrote his autobiographical magnum opus, Long Day’s Journey into Night, in 1941, but because of the personal revelations it contained he gave explicit instructions that it was not to be published until 25 years after his death and that it should never be staged. In the event his widow allowed both to occur in 1956, only three years after his death, when the play won O’Neill his fourth Pulitzer prize.

As we record this episode, a powerful new production of the play is playing in London, with Brian Cox and Patricia Clarkson heading the cast. I am delighted and privileged to talk with the production’s director, Jeremy Herrin, about O’Neill’s monumental play.

Photo by Johan Persson.

079 – The Hills of California, by Jez Butterworth

079 – The Hills of California, by Jez Butterworth

A new Jez Butterworth play is a theatrical event. The Hills of California is currently running at the Harold Pinter theare in London’s West End, directed by Sam Mendes. Do not be misled by the title, however, we are not in sunny California, but in the back streets of Blackpool, where four daughters come together to say goodbye to their dying mother. The play is a portrait of lost dreams, of deeply ingrained patterns of love and hurt within a family, and of suppressed and mutable memories.

I’m joined to explore this major new work by Sean McEvoy, author of Class, Culture and Tragedy in the Plays of Jez Butterworth.

078 – The Lover and The Collection, by Harold Pinter

078 – The Lover and The Collection, by Harold Pinter

We have a double-bill in this episode of two short plays written by Harold Pinter in the early 1960s: The Lover and The Collection, both of which explore sexual compulsion and the manipulation of truth within marriage or partnerships. As we record this episode a new production of both plays is playing at the Theatre Royal in Bath, directed by Lindsay Posner.

I’m delighted to welcome Lindsay back to the podcast to talk about these two Pinter gems.

Claudie Blakley and David Morrissey in The Lover
Photo by Nobby Clark

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

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.

Patreon Page

BECOME A PATRON!

Since I launched The Play Podcast in April 2020, I have managed to eschew any form of advertising or sponsorship, and I would like to continue to produce the podcast without doing so. I therefore invite you to help me to continue to make the podcast by becoming a Patron.
Additional benefits available to Patrons include Footnotes on the plays covered in the podcast, as well as exclusive access to The Play Review.

For details click here

Thank you very much for listening and for your support.
Douglas

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.

You might also be interested in …

080 – Long Day’s Journey into Night, by Eugene O’Neill

080 – Long Day’s Journey into Night, by Eugene O’Neill

Eugene O’Neill wrote his autobiographical magnum opus, Long Day’s Journey into Night, in 1941, but because of the personal revelations it contained he gave explicit instructions that it was not to be published until 25 years after his death and that it should never be staged. In the event his widow allowed both to occur in 1956, only three years after his death, when the play won O’Neill his fourth Pulitzer prize.

As we record this episode, a powerful new production of the play is playing in London, with Brian Cox and Patricia Clarkson heading the cast. I am delighted and privileged to talk with the production’s director, Jeremy Herrin, about O’Neill’s monumental play.

Photo by Johan Persson.

079 – The Hills of California, by Jez Butterworth

079 – The Hills of California, by Jez Butterworth

A new Jez Butterworth play is a theatrical event. The Hills of California is currently running at the Harold Pinter theare in London’s West End, directed by Sam Mendes. Do not be misled by the title, however, we are not in sunny California, but in the back streets of Blackpool, where four daughters come together to say goodbye to their dying mother. The play is a portrait of lost dreams, of deeply ingrained patterns of love and hurt within a family, and of suppressed and mutable memories.

I’m joined to explore this major new work by Sean McEvoy, author of Class, Culture and Tragedy in the Plays of Jez Butterworth.

078 – The Lover and The Collection, by Harold Pinter

078 – The Lover and The Collection, by Harold Pinter

We have a double-bill in this episode of two short plays written by Harold Pinter in the early 1960s: The Lover and The Collection, both of which explore sexual compulsion and the manipulation of truth within marriage or partnerships. As we record this episode a new production of both plays is playing at the Theatre Royal in Bath, directed by Lindsay Posner.

I’m delighted to welcome Lindsay back to the podcast to talk about these two Pinter gems.

Claudie Blakley and David Morrissey in The Lover
Photo by Nobby Clark