Update on talks, discussions, interviews, events, screening, debates offering the chance to learn more about the National theatre’s work and the arts in general

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Playwright, David Eldridge interview: “There’s less procrastination when you’re a dad.”

As David Eldridge’s new play Beginning opens at the National Theatre’s Dorfman, he talks about his son, ticket prices, inspirations and success.

We meet in his office at Birkbeck University, London, where he lectures in Creative Writing. Chatting with Eldridge about his career opens up other windows on his experience. For instance: he’s a dad (“I always think about my son Bertie when I write, and he spurs me on”) For instance: despite having written landmark plays like Under The Blue Sky, Market Boy and In Basildon, he remains very grounded. (His best mate is a fireman in Essex, where he grew up). For instance: his new play Beginning was written unsolicited, but with the National Theatre in mind (“I wrote the play and then decided the NT would be a good home for it and sent it to Rufus Norris. Luckily for me he agreed”.)

His new play explores what it means to be lonely in a big city, features two actors and has no interval. “Beginning is a real actors’ piece,” says Eldridge emphatically. “The two characters in the play are on stage for the whole evening without a break. We were looking for people who didn’t just feel absolutely right in terms of the casting but who had the technical ability, personality and guts to do it. On-and-off that casting process took seven months, much of that due to director Polly Findlay’s availability, but we wanted to be absolutely sure.”

What are the particular pressures of writing for the National Theatre? “I’m not sure that applies to Beginning because it’s the first play I’ve written in ages that wasn’t a commission for a particular management,” he says. “I think opening a play in any of the major playhouses is incredibly stressful. On the Olivier stage at the National (where Market Boy was produced in 2006) just selling the 1,150 seats for every show used to give me nightmares. I think animating the larger stages at the NT is a craft in itself and both the Olivier and the Lyttleton eat story, so you need lots of narrative red meat and actors who are on the front foot.”

I wonder how he will measure success with Beginning. “I just want to feel happy that the play has gone as well as it possibly can and that audiences have got something out of it,” he states.

“It’s nice when you can see an audience laughing and crying and reflecting upon the action of a play. But it’s also very rewarding when audiences get in touch.” He references his play The Knot of the Heart, which premiered at the Almeida in 2011. “I kid you not, every day an audience member communicated with me in person, by letter, card, email or via social media to tell me how in some way their life had been touched by addiction. It was exhausting. But beautiful and humbling,” he recalls. “Everyone wants to have nice reviews for posterity and to help encourage audiences to see the show. But I’m much less neurotic about them than I was in my twenties.”

Which fellow writers inspire him, I ask? “Robert Holman has been one of the most inspiring playwrights in my writing life,” he replies, “Robert taught me how to be a playwright in many ways; but his own work, his sense of place, theatricality and commitment to the truth of his characters is always inspiring. Caryl Churchill, as Sarah Daniels says, is “our Picasso” and she seems to reinvent the wheel with every play. Her work always pushes me to try new things and to be bold. Edward Albee inspires me to fulfil John Osborne’s aspiration to give audiences “lessons in feeling”. And I learned a lot from adapting Ibsen. I think the work I did on three of his plays helped strengthen the storytelling in my own plays.”

He reckons that the economics of theatre tickets are out of line. “Theatre going has become too expensive. There’s also a part of me that’s still the slightly chip-on-shoulder, scholarship-and-assisted-place Romford kid at the posh school; who resents how much of British theatre is still occupied by privileged white middle-class men. I think the theatre has got a bit better on that score over my writing life, but it’s still a world that can be too dominated by clever posh white people and far too preoccupied with who’s in and who’s out,” he says bluntly. “It’s why I’ve always preferred to make most of my friends outside the theatre.”

We talk about the differences in writing for television. “On screen you’re cutting away to the next scene all the time and often the cut tells the story”, he explains. “On stage you’re trying to sustain the action. Too many scene changes, inelegantly done, make for a tiresome evening in the theatre. I think TV writing, like writing for a large theatre space, eats story and you really have to pique an audience’s interest the whole time. Otherwise people just switch off and look at their smartphone or change channel.”

On the bookshelf there are various framed photographs of his little boy. How has being a dad changed his writing? “You know,” he smiles. “It’s made me more uncompromising.”

But Eldridge is acutely aware of the legacy of putting pen to paper. “I always have this gut feeling that I never want him to read or see my work when he’s older and feel his dad could have done better. I push myself. Although he doesn’t live with me, we spend a lot of time together, and that means like most writers who are parents, I organise when I write accordingly and use the time much more efficiently. There’s less procrastination when you’re a dad.”

Beginning is at the National Theatre’s Dorfman stage, London, until 14 November. Box office: 020-7452 3000.

Polly Findlay and David Eldridge will take part in NT Platform on Thursday 19 Oct, 6pm.

Now you know. 

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Upcoming Platforms, events, debates and exhibitions at National Theatre

National Theatre

PLATFORMS

An eclectic programme of talks, discussions and interviews, offering the chance to learn more about the National’s work and the arts in general. Running time 45 minutes unless stated.

21 November, 6pm, Dorfman, James Hayes: Shouting in the Evenings

22 November, 6pm, Lyttelton, The Jocelyn Herbert Lecture Rae Smith – 3D Imagination

23 November, 6pm, Lyttelton, Alan Bennett: Keeping On Keeping On

25 November, 5.15pm (1hr), Olivier, A Poem for Every Night of the Year

13 December, 5.45pm (1hr), Lyttelton, An Evening with Private Eye

16 December, 5.30pm, Lyttelton, The Theatre Quiz with Emma Freud

4 January, 6pm, Dorfman, Alexander Zeldin on LOVE

11 January, 5.45pm (1hr), Olivier, Lucian Msamati on Amadeus 

17 January, 6.30pm, Dorfman, Carly Wijs on Us/Them

20 January, 5.30pm, Olivier, Sally Cookson on Peter Pan

23 January, 3pm (1hr), Lyttelton, Ruth Wilson on Hedda Gabler

27 January, 5.45pm, Cottesloe Room, Peter Pan – archetypal adolescent

31 January, 6pm, Lyttelton, Ivo van Hove and Patrick Marber on Hedda Gabler

3 March, 6pm, Lyttelton, Lindsey Ferrentino and Indhu Rubasingham on Ugly Lies the Bone

10 March, 4.30pm, Dorfman, Improbable on Lost Without Words

14 March, 6.30pm, Dorfman, Pádraig Cusack and Rufus Norris on My Country; a work in progress

21 March, 6pm, Olivier, Simon Godwin on Twelfth Night

24 March, 3pm (1hr), Olivier, Tamsin Greig on Twelfth Night

31 March, 6pm, Olivier, Redressing the Balance: Gender in Shakespeare

12 April, 6pm, Dorfman, Roger Michell on Consent

26 April, 6pm, Dorfman, A Question of Consent 

EVENTS

Theatre Dialogue Club

Thu 17 Nov and Thu 26 Jan,

7-8.15pm, £3

This works like a book group: see a performance in your own time, then

Return to the NT to discuss it with other audience members.

Course: How to begin Playwriting

Tue 17 Jan – 28 Mar6.30-8.30pm, £400/£350

A ten-week course on how to begin writing a play. Available by application, please see

website for details

In Depth: Adapt or Die – Adaptations from the NT

Tue 31 Jan, 10.30am – 4.30pm, £50/40

Lightbulb Walks

Sat 18 Feb, 2pm and 5pm (1hr), meet in the Dorfman Foyer

Tonic Celebrates: Inspirational Women in Theatre

Thu 23 Feb, 7.30pm (2hrs) Dorfman, £10

Theatre’s leading female artists in conversation with Lucy Kerbel.

The Culture of International Women’s Day

Wed 8 Mar, 11.30am and 6.15pm, £3

Cultural Agenda of Wellbeing

Mon 13 Mar, 5pm £6/£5

Exploring the role of arts and creativity in healing.

In Context: How Do We Remember 

Thu 16 Mar2-5pm, £25/20

Inspired by themes in Lost Without Words

Twelfth Night on stage and screen

Fri 21 Apr, 6pm, £6/£5

 

NATIONAL DEBATES

24 November, 5.45pm (1hr) Dorfman, Death – final matters

30 March, 5.45pm (1hr) Lyttelton, Return from Duty – the road to recovery

On Screen                                                                                                    

Linked to programmes on our stages.

Emil and the Detectives (dir. Milton Rosner, U)

and Red Balloon (dir. Albert Lamoirsse, U)

Sat 12 Nov, Cottesloe Room, 10.30am £3.50

Wind in the Willows (dir. Rachel Talalay)

Sat 19 Nov Cottesloe Room, 10.30am £3.50

Cathy Come Home (dir Ken Loach, PG)

Fri 9 Dec, Cottesloe Room, 5.30pm, £5

Dark Days (dir. Marc Singer, 15)

In collaboration with Homeless Film Festival

Mon 12 Dec, 5.30pm, Cottesloe Room, £5

Spirit of the Beehive (dir. Victor Erice, 1973, PG)

Mon 30 Jan, 5.30pm, Cottesloe Room, £5/£3

Ganashatru (dir. Satyajit Ray,1989, U)

Thu 9 Feb, 5.30pm, Cottesloe Room, £5/£3

Family On Screen: Bill (dir. Richard Bracewell, 2015, PG)

Sat 11 Feb, 11.30am, Cottesloe Room, £3.50

Family On Screen Relaxed: Bill (dir. Richard Bracewell, 2015, PG)

Sat 18 Feb, 11.30am, Duffield Studio, £3.50

Amour (dir. Michael Haneke, 2012, 12)

Sat 4 Mar, 2pm, Cottesloe Room, £5/£3

Family On Screen: City of Ember (dir. Gil Kenan, 2008, PG)

Sat 18 Mar, 11.30am, Cottesloe Room, £3.50

Exhibitions

Free, open daily.

Concrete Reality: Denys Lasdun and the Architecture of the National Theatre 

Olivier Circle Gallery

Explore the radical designs and raw impact of architect Denys Lasdun’s masterpiece in this exhibition.

Adapt or Die 

Lyttelton Lounge

Revealing how adaptations have influenced programming at the NT throughout its history.

Art of Make Believe: Staging Children’s 

Wolfson Gallery, from 14 Nov

A playful exhibition exploring how children’s classics stories have been transformed into extraordinary theatre.

Exhibition Insight and Archive Handling Sessions in the Lyttelton Lounge

25 Nov, 27 Jan, 24 Feb & 31 Mar, 12.30pm (30 mins tour and 30 mins handling session). Free but booking required.

Join the exhibition curators or archivists for a 30 minute walk around the Lyttelton Lounge exhibition, followed by a drop-in handling session.

National Theatre launches a new series of National Debates

The National Theatre is launching a new series of topical panel discussions this autumn centred on Youth, Nationhood and Death. The discussions will respond to issues raised by the repertoire or affecting the nation as a whole, will last for 1 hour, and tickets cost £6 (£5 concessions).

Youth – culture & identity 

Thu 29 September, 6pm, Dorfman

What’s it like to be young in the 21st century? A panel discuss the influences, pressures, challenges, opportunities and threats encountered by young people as they explore identity, cultural place, global politics and media, to try and understand the state of the young nation.

The panel:

Jennifer Blake, a youth worker and former gang leader, who has run an award-winning charity, Safe’N’Sound, based in Peckham in South London, for the past 12 years, helping young people nationally to get out of gangs, drugs and abuse. http://www.snsyouth.co.uk/

Juno Dawson (formerly known as James), an author and activist. She was voted Queen of Teen in 2014, and writes YA fiction and non-fiction, tackling puberty, sex, relationships, and LGBT and mental health issues in a frank and funny fashion. She contributes to Attitude, GT, Glamour and the Guardian and to news items concerning sexuality, identity, literature and education on Woman’s Hour, Front Row, This Morning and Newsnight. She is a School Role Model for the charity Stonewall@junodawson http://www.junodawson.com/

James Massiah, performance poet, lyricist and music producer, who focuses on relationships with youth culture, religion, sexuality and ethics. He has worked for the BBC, the Guardian and Nike, has performed at Tate Modern, The Southbank Centre and the Houses of Parliament and was part of Shakespeare reCITED at Selfridges, a series of music and art performances from grime and spoken word artists in collaboration with cult streetwear brands, in his case, British designer Liam Hodges. @JamesMassiah http://www.jamesmassiah.com/

Barbara Ntumy, a recent graduate in International Relations, Peace and Conflict from London Metropolitan University, she sits on the National Executive Council of NUS and is currently Deputy President of London Met Students’ Union. She is founder of the political apparel line, Sassy Tees, which she has channelled into her political work.

@BarbaraNtumy @BarbaraMetSU http://sassytees.co.uk

Chaired by Ayshea Buksh. a reporter for BBC News and BBC London News since 2007. She also works for BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour, reporting on issues such as competitive robotics in schools, parenting, and most recently, knife crime. @AysheaBuksh

Nationhood – Ireland and Scotland

Thu 3 November, 5.45pm, Dorfman

The National Theatre has recently staged classic and modern drama from Ireland (The Plough and the Stars) and Scotland (Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour). Four months after the UK made the momentous decision to leave the EU, and while it is re-examining its sense of citizenship, belonging and neighbourhood, relating to both geography and community, a panel discusses national identity and cultural responses to the idea of nationalism.

Guests include David Greig, playwright and Artistic Director of Edinburgh’s Royal Lyceum Theatre, who has emerged as a significant political commentator in contemporary Scotland, intervening in the debates over Creative Scotland in 2012 and proving an advocate of Scottish independence in the run-up to the Referendum in 2014.

Death – final matters

Thu 24 November, 5.45pm, Dorfman

Death is a subject that society finds difficult to discuss, but a panel will attempt to do just that, by looking at questions such as the language we use when dealing with disease and illness; the impact on those left behind; the digital legacy; end of life and hospice care; and euthanasia and dignity in dying choices.

Guests include Dr Kathryn Mannix, Consultant in Palliative Medicine at Newcastle Hospitals, and Andrew McDonald, Chair of the Board of disability rights charity Scope, and former CEO of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA).

Chaired by Nick Robinson, journalist and presenter of BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

 

To book tickets, and for more information, visit the National Theatre Website

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National Theatre announces Flints Theatrical Chandlers as Workshops Partner

Flints Theatrical Chandlers Team

The National Theatre today announces Flints Theatrical Chandlers, the major retailer of theatrical goods in the UK, as a Workshops Partner with the National Theatre.

As part of the partnership, Flints will provide apprentice welcome toolkits to a number of apprentices joining the NT in 2016-2017. The kits will contain craft-specific equipment to aid the apprentices with their work. This is an exciting first for the National Theatre and Flints, and there are plans to extend the partnership into subsequent years.

 Flints Theatrical Chandlers Team

Flints Theatrical Chandlers Team

The NT launched its apprenticeship and trainee programme in 2012. The programme provides opportunities for people who might not otherwise have considered a career at the NT or in theatre, and helps to address issues of diversity in theatre more generally. An apprentice studies for a qualification- usually at Level 2 or Level 3- with an appropriate learning provider, and has an opportunity to put those college lessons into practice in the workplace, guided by some of the best practitioners in the country. Currently, the NT has apprentices working in a variety of departments, including Costume/Tailoring, Lighting, Prop-Making, Scenic Carpentry and Metal Fabrication, Learning Events, Wigs, Hair & Make-up, IT and Marketing.

Darren Joyce, Head of Construction at the NT, said: ‘We are delighted to welcome Flints to the NT as our Workshops Partner. The toolkits will make an enormous difference to the apprentices we have joining our departments, giving them the best start possible to a career in theatre production. Flints are equipping the creative craftspeople of the future.’

Alasdair Flint, Managing Director of Flints Theatrical Chandlers, said: ‘I’m delighted that Flints is now the Workshops Partner to the NT. Having supplied the theatre industry for over 35 years with backstage hardware and paints, it’s great to be able to put in place this kind of partnership to help support theatre-makers to reach their potential. 

We’re excited to be supporting the workshops apprentices at the NT with special tools and safety wear to help them get the most out of their time with the NT. The NT has a fantastic attitude towards engaging young people and inspiring future generations of theatre-goers and creators. We feel very passionate about this element of the NT at Flints so it’s wonderful to have the opportunity to support them in a way that’s more relatable to us, with a behind-the-scenes focus. The workshops partnership is a lot more creative than a typical corporate partnership and one that we hope to continually develop and build on over time.’

Two of the apprentices to receive toolkits are Laura Wigan, Scenic Carpentry Apprentice and Syeda Bukhari, Prop-Making Apprentice.

Laura Wigan, Scenic Carpentry Apprentice, said: ‘I’m very grateful that a company as prominent as Flints wants to support the apprenticeship scheme at the NT and the apprentices themselves. It’s reassuring and important to me that both the NT and Flints are interested in giving me the best training possible and I’m certainly in the right place for it.’

Syeda Bukhari, Prop-Making Apprentice, said: ‘My apprenticeship at the NT has equipped me with valuable prop-making skills and knowledge. It has also made me grow into a much more confident and outgoing person, and this has allowed me to participate in activities that I would not have dared to try before. The tool-kit that Flints has kindly provided will help me start my career as a prop-maker. I am so thankful for the help and support I have received from everyone at the NT and at Flints.’

Kathryn Geraghty, Apprenticeship Manager at the NT, said: ‘Since we began our Modern Apprenticeships programme in 2012, we have been thrilled at the new talent we have brought into the NT. Our apprentices come from all kinds of backgrounds and life experience and the attitude and outlook they bring helps us to ensure that our thinking remains fresh, whilst also ensuring that there is a growing pool of skilled people ready to enter the creative sector. We are justifiably proud of our former apprentices and are watching their progress into the sector with delight, which in turn strengthens our commitment to take on more.’

As a further part of the partnership, the NT will product test for Flints, and ‘NT approved’ products will be available in the Flints 2017 catalogue and on the Flints website.

Update on talks, discussion, interviews, debates, screenings and events organised by National Theatre

National Theatre - Platform and events

PLATFORMS

An eclectic programme of talks, discussions and interviews, offering the chance to learn more about the National’s work and the arts in general.

14 Sept, 6.30pm – Sue Laurie and Alexander Technique in the Theatre, Dorfman

15 Sept, 6pm – Jonathan Kent in conversation, Olivier

21 Oct, 6pm – Jeremy Herrin and Sean McEvoy in conversation, Lyttelton

25 Oct, 6pm – NT: 40 Years as a Space for Plays, Lyttelton

27 Oct, 6pm – Bryony Kimmings in conversation, Dorfman

31 Oct, 6pm – Michael Longhurst in conversation, Olivier

1 Nov, 5.45pm – Staging Suez: The 60th Anniversary of the Suez Crisis, Lyttelton

7 Nov, 6pm – David Hare and John Simenon in conversation, Lyttelton

9 Nov, 6pm – The Nick Darke Writers’ Award Ceremony, Dorfman

22 Nov, 6pm – The Jocelyn Herbert Lecture – Rae Smith, 3D Imagination, Lyttelton

23 Nov, 6pm – Alan Bennett: Keeping on Keeping On, Lyttelton

25 Nov, 5.15pm – A Poem for Every Night of the Year with Helena Bonham Carter, Helen McCrory and Allie Esiri, Olivier

13 Dec, 5.45pm – An Evening with Private Eye, Lyttelton

16 Dec, 5.30pm – The Theatre Quiz with Emma Freud, Lyttelton

4 Jan, 6pm – Alexander Zeldin in conversation, Dorfman

11 Jan, 5.45pm – Lucian Msamati in conversation, Olivier

20 Jan, 5.30pm – Sally Cookson in conversation, Olivier

23 Jan, 3pm – Ruth Wilson in conversation, Lyttelton

27 Jan, 5.45pm – Peter Pan – archetypal adolescent with Ann Yeoman

31 Jan, 6pm – Ivo van Hove and Patrick Marber in conversation, Lyttelton

 

EVENTS

Short debates, and in-depth explorations in the Clore Learning Centre:

12 Sep, 5.45 – 6.45pm – In Focus: Cult Fiction on Stage

15 Sep, 10.30am – 4.30pm – In Depth: Rattigan Returns

21 Sep, 6pm – In Focus: Theatre in Scotland – A Field of Dreams with Joyce McMillan

24 Sept, 10.30am – In Depth: The Dublin Plays, Clore Learning Centre

26 Sept, 2pm – In Context: Chekhov, the early work

6 Oct, 1pm – Lightbulb Walks with Artists Helen Stratford and Idit Nathan

2 Nov, 10.30am – 3.30pm – In Depth: Devising and Performance Explored

2 Nov, 10.30am – In Depth: Devising for Performance Explored

3 Nov, 5.30pm – In Focus: Amadeus, the music

10 Nov, 11.30am & 6.15pm – Sharp Shots: The State of the States

16 Jan, 2pm – In Context: Shaffer at the NT

16 Jan, 6pmIn Focus: Designing for The Red Barn

17 Nov, 7pm – Theatre Dialogue Club sparks up at the NT

15 Dec, 5.30pm – In Focus: Performing without a Home

27 Jan, 5.45pm – Peter Pan – archetypal adolescent

31 Jan, 10.30am – In Depth: Adapt or Die – adaptations from the NT

10 Feb, 2pm – In Context: Recreating Ibsen’s Women

 

NATIONAL DEBATES

A new series of panel discussions in the Dorfman Theatre responding to issues raised by the repertoire or affecting the nation as a whole:

29 Sep, 6pm – Youth – culture and identity

3 Nov, 5.45pm – Nationhood – Ireland and Scotland

24 Nov, 5.45pm – Death – final matters

 

FILM SCREENINGS

In the Clore Learning Centre and linked to the programme on our stages:

12 Nov, 10.30am – Emil and the Detectives and Red Balloon

9 Dec, 5.30pm – Cathy Come Home

12 Dec, 5.30pm – Dark Days in collaboration with the Homeless Film Festival

19 Nov, 10.30am – The Wind in the Willows

 

EXHIBITIONS

Free, and open daily

Concrete Reality: Denys Lasdun and the Architecture of the NT – Olivier Circle Gallery

Adapt or Die – How adaptations have influenced programme at the NT – Lyttelton Lounge from 7 Oct

The Art of Make Believe: Staging Children’s Stories – Wolfson Gallery from 14 Nov

Exhibition Walk Around and Archive Handling Session – Lyttelton Lounge on 28 Oct, 25 Nov, 27 Jan, 24 Feb at 12.30pm

Further information on Learning at the National Theatre – nationaltheatre.org.uk/learning