Hampstead Theatre announces further performance dates for 2021 

HAMPSTEAD THEATRE 2021 Performances

Hampstead Theatre has announced further live productions for 2021.  Tennessee Williams’ The Two Character Play will run from 17 July until 28 August.  Sam Yates will direct this innovative, psychological thriller by one of the world’s great dramatists which originally premiered at the theatre in 1967.  Yates is making a highly anticipated return to the theatre following his Olivier-nominated production of The Phlebotomist (2019).  The world premiere of Big Big Sky,by Tom Wells will also run from 30 July until 11 September at Hampstead Downstairs.  This beautifully tender new play which explores nature’s influence on love, friendship and family will be directed by Tessa Walker, Hampstead Theatre’s new Associate Director.  Both productions will remain as originally sold, with reduced capacity and social distancing, for the duration of their runs should national restrictions be lifted. Tickets will go on sale from Thursday 20 May at 1030am at

Roxana Silbert, Artistic Director and Joint Chief Executive of Hampstead Theatre said:

Hampstead Theatre has historically embraced playwrights at all stages of their careers. 

Tennessee Williams was at the height of his when he chose to offer the world premiere of The Two Character Play, a very personal play, to James Roose Evans to direct.  It speaks volumes of the regard in which he held Hampstead as a leading artistic space for experimental work and I am excited by Sam’s vision for this gem from our Originals series.   

Tom Wells’ play is a very different theatrical voice: naturalistic, understated, bursting with humour and humanity.  I’m thrilled he has also trusted us with his Hampstead debut, the world premiere of Big Big Sky, which continues his longstanding collaboration with Hampstead’s newly appointed Associate Director, Tessa Walker.

Sam Yates, director of The Two Character Play said: 

I am honoured to be returning to Hampstead Theatre to direct Tennessee Williams’ play.  I am excited to present this production to audiences following the show’s cancellation last year.  The Two Character Play is form-busting and unique, celebrating the very process of making theatre.  The Company and I look forward to presenting our interpretation of Tennessee’s daring play this summer. 

Tom Wells, playwright of Big Big Sky said:

I’m really delighted to be working again with Tessa Walker – our first time together at Hampstead Theatre – with Big Big Sky.  It feels properly special to be making theatre again, and making it with such a brilliant director. 

The play is set in Kilnsea, where I grew up and where my Mum and Dad still live. It’s a small village on the very edge of East Yorkshire, windswept and sea-nibbled, but it has its own beauty, I think – a bit peaceful, a bit restorative.  Fingers crossed Big Big Sky can bring a bit of this to audiences in Hampstead.  Also a few jokes about oat slice, and some line dancing.  I think probably we need those at the moment too. 

Tennessee Williams, one of the foremost playwrights of the twentieth-century, spent over ten years writing the partly autobiographical The Two Character Play and called it ‘the very heart of my life’.  It first premiered at Hampstead Theatre in 1967 directed by the theatre’s founding Artistic Director James Roose-Evans.

Sam Yates will direct The Two Character Play making a highly anticipated return to Hampstead Theatre following his Olivier-nominated and critically acclaimed production of The Phlebotomist (2019).  Yates’ recent theatre credits include A Separate Peace by Tom Stoppard (online, 2020); Incantata by Pulitzer prize-winning poet Paul Muldoon (Galway, Dublin, New York, 2018- 2020); Glengarry Glen Ross (2017-2018) starring Christian Slater and The Starry Messenger (2019) starring Matthew Broderick and Elizabeth McGovern (London’s West End).

Designer, Rosanna Vize; lighting designer Lee Curran; sound designer, Dan Balfour; video designer, Akhila Krishnan, movement director, Malik Nashad Sharpe and assistant director, Lizzie Manwaring will complete the creative team for The Two Character Play.

Big Big Sky by Tom Wells is a beautifully tender new play which explores nature’s influence on love, friendship and family – the belief that anyone who’s lost can be found, even in the remotest of places.  Set in his hometown of Kilnsea, in East Yorkshire, Wells’ touching drama draws on the beauty of his local coastal landscape whilst also subtly highlighting the vulnerability of nature and the need for better care.

Tom Wells’ theatre credits include The Kitchen Sink, winner of Most Promising Playwright Critics Circle Award (2011) and George Devine Award (2012), Ghosting (Royal Court), Drip, which premiered as part of Hull UK City of Culture 2017 (Script Club/Boundless) and Cinderella; Dick Whittington And His Cat and Jack and the Beanstalk (all Lyric Hammersmith).  Other theatre credits include Folk (Birmingham Rep/ Hull Truck /Watford Palace) and About a Goth (Paines Plough / Play Pie and a Pint) which were directed by Tessa Walker.  Big Big Sky will be Wells’ debut at Hampstead Theatre.

Tessa Walker is Hampstead Theatre’s newly appointed Associate Director.  Big Big Sky will be Walker’s directorial debut at Hampstead Theatre and her fourth collaboration with Tom Wells.  Recent directing work includes The Snow Queen (Sherman Theatre), Jekyll And Hyde (Birmingham Rep) and The Whip Hand  (Traverse Theatre/Birmingham Rep).  She has also been the Literary Director at Paines Plough and a Literary Associate at the National Theatre of Scotland.

Walker will be joined by designer Bob Bailey, lighting designer Jai Morjaria and sound designer Laura Howard.

Acclaimed actors, Jennifer DaleyJessica JolleysMatt Sutton and Sam Newton will perform in Big Big Sky, all making their debut at Hampstead Theatre.

Jennifer Daley will play the role of Angie.  Recent theatre credits include Sing Yer Heart Out for the Lads by Roy Williams (Chichester Festival Theatre) and Edward Albee’s The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia? (Theatre Royal Haymarket).  Daley also plays the role of Amy Franks in BBC Radio 4’s longstanding drama series The Archers.   

Jessica Jolleys will play the role of Lauren.  She is a recent graduate of Rose Bruford College (2019).  Theatre work includes Jack and the Beanstalk (Theatre Clwyd).

Sam Newton will play the role of Ed.  Recent theatre credits include playing the main character, and narrator in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (National Theatre Productions, 2017, 2019), Phil Porter’s Sometimes Thinking (Frantic Assembly) and Nigel Slater’s memoir, Toast (The Lowry / The Traverse).

 Matt Sutton will play the role of Dennis.  Recent theatre credits include James Graham’s The Culture – a Farce in Two Acts, (Hull Truck/Hull UK City of Culture), Deborah Bruce’s The House They Grew Up In (Headlong / Chichester Festival Theatre) and Richard Bean’s The Hypocrite (Royal Shakespeare Company, Hull Truck Theatre. and Hull UK City of Culture 2017).

Both productions will remain as originally sold, with reduced capacity and social distancing, for the duration of their runs should national restrictions be lifted.  In the event of the productions being postponed due to UK Government advice, full refunds or credit vouchers will be offered.

Hampstead Theatre will reopen from 28 May 2021 with Alfred Fagon’s darkly compelling, The Death of a Black Man (until 10 July) and the world premiere of Raya, by Deborah Bruce from 11 June until 24 July.  Dawn Walton, former Artistic Director of Eclipse Theatre Company, will direct The Death of a Black Man which originally premiered at the theatre in 1975.  Raya will be directed by Hampstead Theatre’s Artistic Director Roxana Silbert.


David Eldridge, Playwright Interview: “If you don’t want to change people, even a tiny bit, through the experience of your writing then don’t write.”

 Playwright David Eldridge

David Eldridge ( Picture credit – Keith Pattison/Royal Court Theatre 2012)

Questions: Carl Woodward
Answers: David Eldridge (Obviously)
David Eldridge is a prolific playwright. His work has been seen on our country’s biggest stages (The National, Donmar Warehouse, Hampstead theatre and The Royal Court to name a few.
He was busy marking essays but agreed to talk to me for a few minutes.
Just don’t get him started on cooking…

Hello! Where are you and what are you up to? 
Right now it’s 8.30am and I’m at home in north London. I’ve just had a bowl of porridge and I’m catching up on a few emails before I head to my office to crack on for the day. Not a writing day today though. I’ve a pile of plays to grade as I teach part-time at Birkbeck College, University of London.

Your work has been commissioned by the National, The Royal Court, Bush, Hampstead, Almeida theatres and many more. Do you ever pinch yourself? 
All the time. I always remember vividly a time in my early twenties when I was living at my mum and dad’s after Uni and working in the evening in the hotchpotch old extension at home. As I was writing I could hear the sound of my dad outside in the garden shed tapping heels in to women’s shoes at 10p or 20p a pair a time to earn a bit more extra money for him and mum and by extension me. I always think about that when I’m struggling with what I’m writing. I never want to be that writer that signs a card to a friend “David Eldridge”. In a sense Dominic Dromgoole is right about me in his book. I’m incredibly serious about what I do and totally committed. But there’s another part of me that could not give a fuck. Having a play on at one of those theatres is great but it’s always the audience that makes the play, wherever it’s on and much of a writer’s life is quite lonely and boring. I’d be quite happy cooking full time (I write now on a laptop on the kitchen table) and the best days are days spent cooking and writing. Last May I spent a Sunday when my girlfriend was away making a Dal Makhani (which has to be cooked very slowly and with real care) and writing. It was perfect. Being a parent is the most important and fulfilling thing in my life. What’s making a play compared to raising a child and trying to be a good dad?

 I was chatting to a writer recently and she said that a lot of the writing process is about when the planets align, when that perfect moment comes along. Do you work to that principal or do you have a knack to force the planets into alignment?
I can see a bit of truth in that. Just this autumn I had an unexpected gap partly because a film company couldn’t get together a meeting for a few weeks to give notes on a draft of a screenplay I’ve written. My fingers were itchy and I couldn’t sit still and I wrote a play I’d been wanting to write for ten years, but never found the right moment until then. On the other hand I think when we talk about planets aligning it makes me cringe a bit. No disrespect to the other writer but I believe more in screenwriter William Goldman’s approach “Writing is finally about one thing: going into a room alone and doing it. Putting words on paper that have never been there in quite that way before. And although you are physically by yourself, the haunting Demon never leaves you, that Demon being the knowledge of your own terrible limitations, your hopeless inadequacy, the impossibility of ever getting it right. No matter how diamond-bright your ideas are dancing in your brain, on paper they are earthbound.” Its work, writing. I think you get the first draft out. And then you rewrite until its ready to share. Managements never see anything less than my third draft. I think a lot of young and new writers are crazy to show managements their first drafts. Your third or fourth draft should be the managements first draft. It’s play-WRIGHT. Do the graft. That’s not to say you don’t collaborate and often you rewrite a lot more. But do your job first.

Which other writers would you recommend at the moment?
Oh God. There are so many brilliant playwrights, we’re very lucky in the UK. I think Penelope Skinner, debbie tucker green and Annie Baker are the bees knees. Anna Jordan and Chris Urch both wrote wonderful Bruntwood Award winning plays. Gary Owen has had a great year as has Jack Thorne, both of whom I admire hugely. How does Caryl Churchill still do it? I said to someone recently she’s “our Picasso, our Pankhurst, our Bowie, our Orbach” and I believe that. Robert Holman is a great playwright and fortunately not such a secret pleasure any more after the last few years. But my mind is full this morning of Leo Butler’s “Boy” which I saw last night. It’s fantastic and brave and true and unlike anything else. He’s not always had a great luck (his Royal Court downstairs debut premiered on 9/11) but this play is a reminder he’s one of our best and most thoughtful playwrights painting on a big canvass. Really Rufus Norris should commission him to write for one of the big spaces at the NT. While Rufus is at it he should try and persuade screenwriter Sarah Phelps to write for theatre again. She’s ace.

What would be the worst way to die?
My paternal great-grandmother was burned alive in a house fire. I don’t want to go that way and I don’t want any of my nearest and dearest to go that way.

Easy question: what’s the best play ever written?
Yeah, right do one mate. Seriously you’ve got to be kidding. I’m a play geek. You could get a dissertation length answer. For me, this morning it’s Shakespeare’s “King Lear”. I don’t think that can ever change for me because it’s the play that turned me on to theatre aged 17.
What word do people incorrectly use to describe your work?
It seems that you’re quite ambitious in terms of wanting your work to make an impression. 
If you don’t want to change people, even a tiny bit, through the experience of your writing then don’t write. If I was running a theatre I would not programme or commission writers that are merely wanking or getting the next play on the shelf.
If for some reason I had to ban you from making theatre is there something else you’d like to do?
Well I’d write for TV or film (as I am already) or write a novel which I want to write, or I might get to spend enough time on some of my poems so they’re good enough to actually show someone one day. But as I say I’d be happy cooking. I’d be happy being a full time dad.
Anything you’d like to add? 
Writing for performance is an odd endeavour as its all collaboration in the end. But you have to be independent (and absolutely not dependent on others) and do your job and know yourself and your work as much as possible to be the best you can be in that collaboration. A collaboration that often starts with you alone one morning, wasting time on social media in your PJ’s and ends several years later in a little theatre above a pub in W12 with an audience. You don’t make the best work if the writer gets lost along the way.