Royal Court Theatre commits to transitioning to Carbon Net Zero throughout 2020

  •  Audiences attending the Spring/Summer Season will support and collaborate in the theatre’s transition into a Carbon Net Zero Arts Venue.
  • Nine productions for Spring/Summer 2020 on sale now to supporters.

The previously announced Open Court: Climate Emergency scheduled for March 2020 will be a catalyst for complete organisational transition towards net zero.

From energy to food, cleaning to materials, air quality to working hours, transport to waste, the theatre will push every part of their practice into a circular economy that reduces, offsets and neutralises their climate impact.

The operational changes will begin in the Site, which in recent years has become a third performance space for experimental work, during Open Court: Climate Emergency in March. These will be applied to the main building as it transitions to a net zero arts venue through 2020 and onwards.

Led by Executive Producer Lucy Davies, the Royal Court Theatre will share how it achieves this to inspire and influence others.

Artistic Director Vicky Featherstone said;

While thinking about how to approach Open Court: Climate Emergency, which is scheduled for March, we realised that so many of our writers and artists are already writing through the lens of the climate emergency and it is represented in many ways in our programme.

Lucy and I had given ourselves the challenge of turning the Site into a net zero space for March and then asked the obvious question – why aren’t we doing it across the whole building and what are we waiting for? Let’s just get on with it.

We will make mistakes, we will move fast and change as the technology and information changes. We will use the time in March to take stock, to hear from people we do not normally hear from in the cultural discussion and to work out new structures and ways of functioning to enable this to happen. We will share all of our learnings – successes and failures. Basically everyone coming into our building from March onwards, in any context, will be contributing to this vital commitment to our climate emergency.”

More information about the public events during Open Court: Climate Emergency (2-30 March 2020) will follow in early 2020.
Tickets for the Spring/Summer 2020 season are now on sale for supporters and go on sale to Friends on Friday 25 October at 10am and to the general public on Tuesday 29 October 2019 at 10am at 020 7565 5000 /

The Spring/Summer 2020 programme icludes (in chronological order);

 Shoe Lady by E.V. Crowe
Rare Earth Mettle by Al Smith

two Palestinians go dogging by Sami Ibrahim
The Song Project concept by Chloe Lamford and Wende
A Fight Against… by Pablo Manzi
The Glow by Alistair McDowall
Purple Snowflakes and Titty Wanks by Sarah Hanly

Is God Is by Aleshea Harris
by Jude Christian

Cast announced for Caryl Churchill’s Glass. Kill. Bluebeard. Imp. including Toby Jones and Deborah Findlay

Kwabena Ansah, Caelan Edie, Deborah Findlay, Louisa Harland, Toby Jones, Patrick McNamee, Tom Mothersdale, Rebekah Murrell, Sarah Niles, Leo Rait and Sule Rimi have been cast in the world premiere of Glass. Kill. Bluebeard. Imp., four plays written by Caryl Churchill and directed by James Macdonald. With set design by Miriam Buether, costume design by Nicky Gillibrand, lighting design by Jack Knowles and sound design by Christopher Shutt.

The four plays will be performed back to back and will run in the Royal Court Jerwood Theatre Downstairs, Wednesday 18 September 2019 – Saturday 12 October 2019, with press night on Wednesday 25 September 2019, 7pm.

“I can see her just. Most people can’t see her at all.”

A girl made of glass. Gods and murders. A serial killer’s friends. And a secret in a bottle. Four stories by Caryl Churchill.

Caryl Churchill’s most recent play Escaped Alone, opened at the Royal Court to critical acclaim and transferred to New York. Many of her plays which first premiered at the Royal Court are now considered modern classics including Top Girls, A Number and Far Away.

Director James Macdonald’s recent work for the Royal Court includes One For SorrowThe Children (and New York), Escaped Alone(and New York), and The Wolf From The Door.



Other characters played by – Kwabena Ansah, Louisa Harland, Patrick McNamee

A girl made of glass – Rebekah Murrell


People – Caelan Edie/Leo Rait

Gods – Tom Mothersdale

Bluebeard’s Friends

Company – Deborah Findlay, Toby Jones, Sarah Niles, Sule Rimi


Dot – Deborah Findlay

Niamh – Louisa Harland

Jimmy – Toby Jones

Rob – Tom Mothersdale



Caryl Churchill (Writer)

At the Royal Court: Escaped Alone, Pigs & Dogs, Love & Information, Seven Jewish Children, Drunk Enough To Say I Love You?, A Number, Far Away, This is a Chair, Blue Heart, Mad Forest, Ice Cream, Serious Money, Fen, Top Girls, Cloud 9,Traps, Light Shining In Buckinghamshire, Owners.

Other theatre includes: Here We Go, The Skriker (National).

Music theatre includes: Lives of the Great Poisoners, Hotel (both with Orlando Gough).

Caryl has also written for radio & television.

James Macdonald (Director)

For the Royal Court: One For Sorrow, The Children (& MTC/Broadway), Escaped Alone

(& BAM, NYC), The Wolf From The Door, Circle Mirror Transformation, Love &

Information (& NYTW), Cock (& Duke, NYC), Drunk Enough to Say I Love You? (&

Public, NYC), Dying City (& Lincoln Center, NYC), Fewer Emergencies, Lucky Dog,

Blood, Blasted, 4.48 Psychosis (& St Ann’s Warehouse, NYC/US & European tours),

Hard Fruit, Real Classy Affair, Cleansed, Bailegangaire, Harry & Me, Simpatico,

Peaches, Thyestes, Hammett’s Apprentice, The Terrible Voice of Satan, Putting Two &

Two Together.

Other theatre includes: The Night of the Iguana, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, The Father, Glengarry Glen Ross, The Changing Room (West End); True West

(Roundabout/Broadway); The Way of the World, Roots (Donmar); John, Dido Queen of Carthage, The Hour We Knew Nothing of Each Other, Exiles (National); Wild, And No More Shall We Part, #aiww – The Arrest of Ai Weiwei (Hampstead); The Father (Theatre Royal, Bath/Kiln); Bakkhai, A Delicate Balance, Judgment Day, The Triumph of Love (Almeida); The Chinese Room (Williamstown Festival); Cloud Nine (Atlantic, NYC); A Number (NYTW); King Lear, The Book of Grace (Public, NYC); Top Girls (MTC/Broadway); John Gabriel Borkman (Abbey, Dublin/BAM, NYC); The Tempest, Roberto Zucco (RSC); Troilus und Cressida, Die Kopien (Schaubuehne, Berlin); 4.48 Psychose (Burgtheater, Vienna); Love’s Labour’s Lost, Richard II (Royal Exchange, Manchester); The Rivals (Nottingham Playhouse); The Crackwalker (Gate); The Seagull (Crucible, Sheffield); Miss Julie (Oldham Coliseum); Juno & the Paycock, Ice Cream/Hot Fudge, Romeo & Juliet, Fool for Love, Savage/Love, Master Harold & the Boys (Contact, Manchester); Prem (BAC/Soho Poly).

Opera includes: A Ring A Lamp A Thing (ROH); Eugene Onegin, Rigoletto (Welsh

National Opera); Die Zauberflöte (Garsington); Wolf Club Village, Night Banquet (Almeida Opera); Oedipus Rex, Survivor from Warsaw (Royal Exchange,

Manchester/Hallé); Lives of the Great Poisoners (Second Stride).

Film includes: A Number.

James was an Associate and Deputy Director at the Royal Court for 14 years and was also a NESTA fellow from 2003 to 2006.


Kwabena Ansah (Glass)

Theatre includes: Start Swimming (Young Vic Parallel).

Television includes: The Athena, Enterprice.

Film includes: #Haters, Limbo.

Caelan Edie (Kill)

Theatre includes: Tina – The Tina Turner Musical, The Bodyguard (West End).

Film includes: The Intent 2: The Come Up.

Deborah Findlay (Bluebeard’s FriendsImp)

For the Royal Court: The Children (& MTC/Broadway), Escaped Alone

(& BAM, NYC), Tom & Viv, Top Girls (& Off-Broadway), The Overgrown Path.

Other theatre includes: Allelujah (Bridge); Coriolanus, Moonlight, John Gabriel Borkman, The Cut, The Vortex (Donmar); The Winslow Boy (Old Vic); Timon of Athens, The Winter’s Tale, Rules for Living, Stanley (& Broadway), The Mandate, Mother Clap’s Molly House, Once in a While (National); Vincent River (Off-Broadway); The Glass Menagerie (Young Vic); Like a Fishbone, Keyboard Skills, Commitments (Bush); Separate Tables (Chichester Festival); The Way of the World, The Crucible (Crucible, Sheffield); Tongue of a Bird, Hedda Gabler (Almeida); The Beaux’ Stratagem, The Seagull (Tour); The Clandestine Marriage (& tour), The House of Bernarda Alba, Madame de Sade (West End); As You Like It, King Lear (Oxford Stage Company); Macbeth (Nuffield, Southampton); Twelfth Night, The Merchant of Venice, The Three Sisters, The New Inn, School for Scandal (RSC).

Television includes: The Split, Collateral, Midsomer Murders, Holby City, Law & Order: UK, Lovesick, Life in Squares, Coalition, Leaving, Poirot, Torchwood, Gunrush, Lewis, New Tricks, Thin Ice, Cranford, Wives & Daughters, Silent Witness, Anna Karenina, The Family Man, Foyle’s War, State of Play.

Film includes: Making Noise Quietly, Hampstead, Kaleidoscope, Jackie, The Lady in the Van, The Ones Below, Suite Francaise, Summer, Vanity Fair, Me Without You, The End of the Affair, Jack & Sarah, Truly Madly Deeply.

Awards include: Olivier Award for Best Supporting Actress, New York Drama League Prize for Outstanding Performance, Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play (Stanley); OBIE award (Top Girls).

Louisa Harland (GlassImp)

Theatre includes: Love Letter to the NHS: Cotton Fingers (National Theatre Wales).

Television includes: Derry Girls, Finding Joy, Harley & the Davidsons, Love/Hate.

Film includes: Boys from County Hell, Lost in London, Sunday Tide, Standby.

Toby Jones (Bluebeard’s FriendsImp)

For the Royal Court: Circle Mirror Transformation, The Birth of a Nation.

Other theatre includes: The Birthday Party (West End); The Painter (Arcola); Every Good Boy Deserves Favour, The Walls (National); Measure for Measure (National/Complicite); Parlour Song (Almeida); The Dumb Waiter & Other Pinter Pieces (Playhouse, Oxford); The Play What I Wrote (West End/Broadway).

Television includes: Don’t Forget the Driver, Detectorists, Sherlock, The Secret Agent, The Witness for the Prosecution, Wayward Pines, Capital, The Girl, Marvellous.

Film includes: Naked Normandy, Journey’s End, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, The Snowman, Kaleidoscope, Happy End, Infamous, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Berberian Sound Studio, Tale of Tales, Atomic Blonde, Dad’s Army, Morgan, The Man Who Knew Infinity, The Hunger Games, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2, Harry Potter & the Chamber of Secrets, Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows: Parts 1 & 2, Captain America: The First Avenger, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Leave to Remain, By Ourselves, My Week with Marilyn, The Adventures of Tintin, Frost/Nixon, W., The Painted Veil.

Awards include: BAFTA for Best Male Performance in a Comedy Programme (Detectorists); London Film Critics Circle Award for Best British Actor (Infamous); Olivier Award for Best Supporting Actor (The Play What I Wrote).

Patrick McNamee (Glass)

Theatre includes: Touching the Void (Bristol Old Vic/West End); French Without Tears (Orange Tree); The History Boys (Selladoor).

Television includes: Our Girl, Inspector George Gently.

Film includes: The Pebble & the Boy, The Invisible Hours.

Tom Mothersdale (KillImp)

For the Royal Court: The Woods.

Other theatre includes: Dealing with Clair (Orange Tree); John, Cleansed (National); Oil (Almeida); Richard III, The Glass Menagerie, Boys, Romeo & Juliet (Headlong); Crave, 4.48 Psychosis (Crucible, Sheffield); The Cherry Orchard (Young Vic); In Lambeth (Southwark); Missing Dates (Hampstead); King Lear (BAM, NYC/Chichester Festival); Thursday (Adelaide International Festival); The Revenger’s Tragedy (Independent Productions); Iphigenia, Pride & Prejudice (Theatre Royal, Bath); An Ideal Husband (West End); The Comedy of Errors (Globe); A Thousand Stars Explode in the Sky (Lyric, Hammersmith).

Television includes: Treadstone, Van der Valk, Hanna, Philip K Dick’s Electric Dreams: The Hood Maker, Doc Martin, King Charles III, Endeavour, Peaky Blinders.

Film includes: Overlord, Unseen, The Rain Collector, Actress.

Awards include: Ian Charleson Award (The Cherry Orchard).

Rebekah Murrell (Glass)

As performer, theatre includes: Whitewash (Soho); Nine Night (National/West End); The Host (Yard).

As director, theatre includes: J’Ouvert (Theatre503); Interrupted (JW3).

As performer, television includes: Being Victor, Myths, The Roman Mysteries.

As performer, radio includes: Blend, The Gift.

Sarah Niles (Bluebeard’s Friends)
For the Royal Court: B, Father Comes Home From The Wars (Parts 1, 2 & 3), Truth & Reconciliation.

Other theatre includes: Richard II (Globe): Leave Taking, Bones (Bush); Boy (Almeida); The Crucible (Old Vic); Anthony & Cleopatra (RSC/Off Broadway); Table, Mrs Affleck (National); A Question of Freedom (Feelgood); The Long Road (Curve, Leicester); The Quiet Little Englishman (Zho Visual); Play Size (ATC/Young Vic); The Bogus Woman, The Lion the Witch & the Wardrobe, To Kill a Mockingbird (Haymarket, Leicester); Entarete Musik (Amazonia Theatre Company); Lowdown High Notes (Red Ladder); Black Love (Black Arts Development Project); Caucasian Chalk Circle (Manchester Library).
Television includes: Trust Me, Marley’s Ghosts, Lucky Man, My Baby, Catastrophe, Spotless, Death in Paradise, Waterloo Road, Being Human, Thorne: Sleepyhead, Beautiful People, Mister Eleven, Doctor Who, Peep Show, Touch of Frost.

Film includes: Still, Austenland, Cuban Fury, Now Is Good, London Boulevard, Games Men Play, Happy-Go-Lucky.

Leo Rait (Kill)

Glass. Kill. Bluebeard. Imp. is Leo’s professional debut.

Sule Rimi (Bluebeard’s Friends)

Theatre includes: Sweat (& West End); Measure for Measure (Donmar); All My Sons, The American Clock (Old Vic); Love & Information, Desire Under the Elms (Crucible, Sheffield); Barber Shop Chronicles (& Leeds Playhouse/Australia & New Zealand tour), The Suicide (National); Hamlet, Who’s There? (& Flute), The Odyssey: Missing, Presumed Dead (ETT); Mary Stuart, They Drink It in the Congo (Almeida); The Rolling Stone (Royal Exchange, Manchester/Leeds Playhouse/Orange Tree); Bordergame (National Theatre Wales).

Television includes: Black Earth Rising, Death in Paradise, Birds of a Feather, Strikeback, Unforgotten, Stella, Doctor Who. 

Film includes: Pink Wall, Indifferent, The Adventurer: Curse of the Midas Box, The Machine, Little Munchkin, Francis, Prawn, Starter for Ten.


British theatre’s most influential person – Architect Steve Tompkins: “We have to think in terms of maximising theatrical affect while minimising resource and energy use, in construction. All bets are off otherwise – so how do theatres show the way?”

Steve Tompkins

The prolific architect was named most influential person in British theatre but the world is in the grip of a climate emergency – and he says we all have to act.

Whenever there’s an announcement about an exciting UK Theatre building being built, redeveloped or revamped – whether it is the £45 million renovation of Grade I listed Theatre Royal Drury Lane , a pop-up community theatre in Manchester or a new commercial London venue with flexible auditorium-  it’s a fair bet that architect Steve Tompkins and his team are involved.

In the past two decades or so, Haworth Tompkins  has been responsible a number of high-profile theatre building projects including the Royal Court, the Young Vic, the Bush, and Chichester Festival Theatre. Tompkins celebrated work has also included the recent £13m rescue of Battersea Arts Centre’s Grand Hall, which was partially destroyed in a fire, and the 2,135m £25 million refurbishment of Bristol Old Vic, one of Europe’s oldest theatres.

Bristol Old Vic Front of House

Bristol Old Vic Front of House

When I meet Tompkins, 59, he had just flown back from America.

“Well,” he begins, “I got back from the States 24 hours ago, so I am in a slightly heightened state, 100% Jet-lagged. We have a new job there, the first project in our studio that involves some flying, so we’re working out how to approach that.”

“There are two dozen projects on the book at any one time in the studio, ranging from a 1600 seat lyric house to a demountable 200 seat auditorium which can be carried from location to location – by the audience,” Tompkins tells me.

Steve Tompkins

Steve Tompkins

Earlier this year, Tompkins was named the most influential person in British Theatre, in the annual 100-strong power list, published by The Stage. Tompkins, who placed 23rd in last year’s edition, came in above prolific figures including producer Sonia Friedman and Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Where was he when he got the news? “I was in the Lake District for New Year and I was running on the hills and got home to this email with a full-page mugshot,” recalls Tompkins.

And it felt like a huge thing? “I suppose it is a huge thing if you want it to be a huge thing,” he says, finding a sigh and a smile. “Last year was good with Vicky (Featherstone) – saying we are going to situate you in this spot because it allows us to talk about something arguably more interesting than the usual suspects producing fantastic shows – as they always have and they always will. I think it is interesting to adjust the levers – so that the odd outlier can come through on the rails. Choosing me, representing Haworth Tompkins, meant we can talk about the importance of theatre hardware.  I got many lovely messages from friends who are theatre designers and makers saying – fantastic – this feels like it is on behalf of all of us.”

He adds: “We’ve been trying to emphasise collective authorship, so in that sense  the personalisation of the Stage thing was a setback but this is on behalf of the whole organisation and the studio gets good acknowledgement and profile.”

Reflecting on the studio’s journey and the collective endeavour, Tompkins says: “I started the studio with my partner Graham Haworth – we did all the early thinking about what the studio should be about  –  then Roger Watts (Tompkins’ long term collaborator and now co-director)  and I took the theatre thinking forward and now we have a team of two dozen people in the performance design group– all of whom are really knowledgeable, technically far more knowledgeable than I am – and who are now building their own client relationships and running their own teams. It is high time that it is seen as not just me because it never was about just me.”

Tompkins’ first major theatre project was the transformation of the Royal Court in London. Even more remarkable considering his background was in social housing. His first theatre job, though, amuses him. “We got the job in 1995 and it opened in 2000. In 1995 we were a couple of early 30’s gobshites who had never done a theatre,” he laughs drily.

“We introduced ourselves to Iain Macintosh at Theatre Projects; a great theatre guru and hugely knowledgeable– one of the first books about theatre that I read was Iain’s Architecture Actor and Audience. It is the perfect introduction to the field. Again, it is symptomatic of the state the world was in in 1995 – the lottery was starting up – at that time Iain could envisage suggesting an inexperienced architect for the shortlist as a wild card to see what happened. Today that would be seens as too risky, meaning younger practices get less of an opportunity to break through.”

The 59-year-old smiles at the memory. “We were interviewed on stage at the Royal Court and I guess we were just enthusiastic because we got the gig.”

Liverpool Everyman

Liverpool Everyman

Fast forward a decade, Tompkins had won the 2014 Stirling prize for the innovative £27m redesign of the Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse – his first theatre built from scratch. Director Gemma Bodinetz believes it is Tompkins’ love of theatre-making that makes him so unique. “Steve and his team are wonderful because they understand the art form, how it works and they love theatre; they understand magic,” says Bodinetz, who runs the Everyman.

“We were his first all-purpose new build; a complete new build and when you walked into it you felt that it was completely loved. He has a fantastic way of creating democratic theatrical spaces with pure soul and that is what theatre is truly about. Because of an erratic funding landscape – we worked together for 10 years on this Capital project and every so often the process would have to stop.”

“A lesser man and architect would have dropped us,” she says. “Months at a time the project was frozen. We kept moving the design forward even when we were in this wobbly place – he and his team gave us his complete backing and unwavering belief. When I stopped working with Steve and his team it felt like a bereavement. He is so much more than an architect.”

Recently, though, Liverpool Everyman crashed out of Arts Council England (ACE)’s National Portfolio for the 2018-22 period, after a disastrous but acclaimed experiment with a repertory company of actors that pushed it into serious financial trouble. Increasingly theatres are running to stand still. Government cuts and those by local authorities mean that many regional theatre’s futures are at risk. “I have watched a brilliant director like Gemma do impeccable work with real courage and creative vision,” says Tompkins.

Years of austerity cuts and the national state of Brexit uncertainty make it particularly hard for arts organisations to take risks. Does he think that Capital projects are vital to secure regional theatre’s past for its long-term future? “It’s a really complex question.” He considers it carefully. “The situations are all so different, aren’t they? Liverpool Everyman is a building which has garnered a lot of public praise and yet still, still it is really difficult for her and her team to generate financial steerage,” he says. “All the recent travails that Gemma and her team have gone through, you think, God, what more can you do, actually. Her commitment to Liverpool is unimpeachable, and so if somebody like her is struggling to find the sweet spot, then it suggests to me that something is fundamentally broken in the funding system.”

“I do not know what the long-term answer is but it helps to have a building to that is on your side in terms of theatrical possibility, running costs and capacity to supplement revenue income.”

Battersea Arts Centre Grand Hall 3D model

Battersea Arts Centre Grand Hall 3D model

On the subject of saying no to prospective collaborations, “It’s not hard,” he says quickly. “It’s about self-protection and respect for your team. You have to take a hard line on what your capacity is at any given time. In a way it is a self-fulfilling issue, and we have occasionally got it wrong – in both directions. After the Royal Court, we had no work for a year because naively we had put all our creative capital into getting the thing open.”

“Brexit is going to be disruptive,” he adds, voice trailing off.

Of the many challenges facing society in 2019, the first and most overarching is the one so essential to the future of civilisation itself: the climate emergency . We touch on politics, but you can glean his beliefs from his Twitter feed: pro-European, and climate-change activist.  “The international – the debate around the climate and bio-diversity emergencies are taking a huge amount of my headspace – we have to be the exemplars,” he says, and he looks genuinely pensive. “All bets are off otherwise – so how do theatres show the way?”

Haworth Tompkins principle aim is to make buildings they design accessible to everyone. “The listed status of many theatre buildings means that many are still trying to get around the problem of providing adequate access to disabled theatregoers,” he says.

Theatre Royal Drury Lane Designs

Theatre Royal Drury Lane Designs

Certainly, relaxed performances are offered at many theatres – these aim to provide performances for those in the autistic spectrum and those with sensory and communication disorders. But progress is slow with many physically disabled audiences still miss out. “A lot of theatre hides behind the fact it is working it of historic spaces and if it doesn’t affect the bottom line it feels like it is not a priority,” he adds, quickly. “It is absolutely true and less the case in publicly subsidised buildings – we need to get off our asses and get on with it – none of it is that difficult  – even at Drury Lane we have managed to make that accessible on all levels – most of those barriers are easy to take down if it’s made a priority and the proper resources get committed.”

Would he say that success fundamentally depends on client relationships? “Absolutely,” he nods. “All projects completely rely on the strength of the relationship between architect and client,” Tompkins says. “Nick Starr has been an incredibly important person in our studio’s creative life – not just, because we have done so many projects together –now The Bridge and the next one for the London Theatre Company. Roger has the same thing – you have a telepathy and common set of references, which means you, can move very quickly.”

The Bridge Theatre, foyer London

The Bridge Theatre foyer,  London

Starr’s affection and admiration for Tompkins is mutual. “Steve is a genius. Truly. I can feel his respect for Dennis Lasdun – it is very distinguished architecture – the quality of materials, the scale,” says Nick Starr who ran the National Theatre for 12 years, collaborated with Haworth Tompkins on London’s Bridge Theatre and is currently working with Haworth Tompkins to open a new 600-seat venue in King’s Cross in 2021.

“Steve can draw in three dimensions upside down,” reveals Starr. “So, when we were looking at a future project – and he is sat opposite you – Steve can take a point and expand. And then you realise he’s drawing it so that they are the right way up for you – so that’s quite interesting – the hand-eye paper co-ordination allows those early discussions in which the problem solving and creativity is right in front of you.”

Architect Denys Lasdun’s Royal National Theatre – one of London’s best-known and most contentious Brutalist buildings – is a layered concrete landscape that Prince Charles once described as being like “a nuclear power station.”  I ask Tompkins why he thinks the National’s architecture is so divisive. “The more we got to know the detail of the National the more awe and respect we had for the designers,” he says. “Of course, the building is flawed in so many ways – it’s also kind of magnificent –and it will continue to be magnificent. It had a really difficult birth- it opened to austerity and a loss of nerve around modernism and the classical as opposed to the picturesque.”

National Theatre

National Theatre

Asked about the controversial National Theatre’s ‘no laptop’ foyer policy during peak times, Steve’s answer is: “I think there is a logic in asking people to vacate the foyers before shows. In one sense, you think its public funding and a democratic space I have a perfect right to be here,” he says reasonably.

“I can also understand from the point of an organisation that the publicly funded mission is to host 3 shows and make sure the audiences are having a good time for the price of their ticket,” he continues. “If it’s impossible to get a seat then that can’t be right either – in defence of the National – and I’m not their spokesperson – I think its joyful for them to have the foyers full of people doing their thing and hanging out – it’s the same “problem” that the Young Vic foyer has  – you come to the show and there’s already 300 passers by having a ball in there – if you try to make a foyer that people will find convivial then you can’t complain when people find it convivial – I guess there is a civilised conversation to have there– I think it will find its balance – I’m an optimist.”

The narrowing of the state school curriculum, squeezing out arts subjects in favour of the more traditional and academic is also a threat to culture for all. For example, young people living in the country’s most deprived areas, and those with lower than average attainment levels, are the most likely to miss out on studying creative subjects. “It is about opportunity,” he says decisively. “Culture is under threat in so many ways and the government’s lack of concentration on arts education is another symptom of a wider malaise. Everyone should have the opportunity to experience and participate in the performing arts early in their lives and its not happening.”

“In a way the lack of concentration on arts education is yet another symptom of that more general and tendency – the only thing that will motivate the government – it is about opportunities it and a start in life that you may not have,” he says, shaking his head.

An artist’s impression of the Theatr Clwyd redevelopmen

An artist’s impression of the Theatr Clwyd redevelopmen

Anyway, as if Tompkins and his team aren’t busy enough currently the studio is working on a 180-seat pop-up theatre for Manchester Royal Exchange’s community outreach work has been announced, complete with canvas roof and cardboard seats. The mobile space will tour disadvantaged areas of Greater Manchester and will be “very low carbon and super-lightweight”. Hayworth Tompkins and Theatr Clwyd has also just begun an extensive public consultation on their multi-million-pound redevelopment designed by Haworth Tompkins which will see the 43-year-old north Wales venue future-proofed.

“Theatre Clwyd will be interesting,” Tompkins says, “there is a fantastic artistic team with Tamara (Harvey) and Liam (Evans-Ford) making all sorts of waves and leading the way; brave as you like. There is a strong sense of continuity at Clwyd both in term of affection for this friendly giant of a building and in terms of a buy-in for what that team is doing.”

“We like to think of us as having accompanied a building for a few years of its life, either from birth or later on. The building will be there after us, as will the organisation.  So, I do think architects can have a false idea of their capacity to stop time – we like to think that when we leave the building it will be complete and all will be frozen at that moment. You can acquire more modesty if you imagine yourself entering the life of the building and working with it –working with it and leave it in a healthier state than when you found it. Our approach entirely is instinctive and collegiate and democratic – that’s where we feel our power is.”

Most significantly, the devastating impacts of global climate change and the part he plays, of all the wide-ranging topics that we discuss is one we keep returning to. Tompkins is instinctively conscientious. “We need to work out what our most positive cause of action is,” he says. “That is the overarching project of this studio and should be of anybody’s work. Architects actually do have clear possibility of affecting positive change; construction accounts for nearly 40% of energy-based carbon we produce.”

Steve Tompkins and Carl

Steve Tompkins and Carl

We really covered a lot. So much that the office ceiling could have fallen in and we wouldn’t have noticed. It is clear that business as usual is not an option and in the context of social cohesion and the nature of modern society – Tompkins and his team are working through theatre towards something – impressionistic – and bigger than theatre itself.

And there is no doubting his purpose. “If we – as makers – can devise in-roads into the climate emergency that then we can have a direct effect and we don’t need to feel helpless.”





The Royal Court Theatre announces A Year Of Work September 2019 – August 2020 

Autumn/Winter 2019/20 (on sale from May 2019)

  • Total Immediate Collective Imminent Terrestrial Salvation written by Tim Crouch, directed by Karl James and Andy Smith, co-commissioned and produced in association with National Theatre of Scotland, will run in the Jerwood Theatre Upstairs Tuesday 3 September 2019 – Saturday 21 September 2019. 
  • My Name is Why in conversation with Lemn Sissay – a one-off reading in the Jerwood Theatre Downstairs Tuesday 3 September 2019. 
  • Glass. Kill. Bluebeard. Three plays by Caryl Churchill, directed by James Macdonald, to run in the Jerwood Theatre Downstairs Wednesday 18 September 2019 – Saturday 12 October 2019.
  • A History of Water in the Middle East written and performed by Sabrina Mahfouz, directed by Stef O’Driscoll, to run in the Jerwood Theatre Upstairs Thursday 10 October 2019 – Saturday 16 November 2019. On Bear Ridge, a co-production with National Theatre Wales, written by Ed Thomas, co-directed by Royal Court Artistic Director Vicky Featherstone and Ed Thomas, opening at the Sherman Theatre, Cardiff Friday 20 September 2019 – Saturday 5 October 2019, followed by a run in the Jerwood Theatre Downstairs Thursday 24 October 2019 – Saturday 23 November 2019
  • Midnight Movie written by Eve Leigh and directed by Rachel Bagshaw will run in the Jerwood Theatre Upstairs Wednesday 27 November 2019 – Saturday 21 December 2019. 
  • A Kind of People written by Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti will run in the Jerwood Theatre Downstairs Thursday 5 December 2019 – Saturday 18 January 2020. 
  • Scenes with Girls written by Miriam Battye and directed by Royal Court Associate Director Lucy Morrison will run in the Jerwood Theatre Upstairs Wednesday 15 January 2020 – Saturday 22 February 2020. 
  • Poet in da Corner written and performed by Debris Stevenson, feat. Jammz and directed by Royal Court Associate Director Ola Ince, will return to the Jerwood Theatre Downstairs Thursday 30 January 2020 – Saturday 22 February 2020, followed by a tour to The MAC, Belfast; Leicester Curve; Nottingham Playhouse; Manchester HOME; Birmingham Rep and Hackney Empire. 

Spring/Summer 2020 (on sale October 2019)

  • Open Court: Climate Emergency. A season of work all over the Royal Court building curated by the writers in response to the climate emergency, March 2020. For full details see here.
  • Shoe Lady written by E.V. Crowe and directed by Royal Court Artistic Director Vicky Featherstone, to run in the Jerwood Theatre Downstairs Wednesday 4 March 2020 – Saturday 21 March 2020. 
  • Rare Earth Mettle written by Al Smith and directed by Royal Court Associate Director Hamish Pirie, to run in the Jerwood Theatre Downstairs Thursday 2 April 2020 – Saturday 25 April 2020. 
  • two Palestinians go dogging written by Sami Ibrahim and directed by Omar Elerian in a co-production with Theatre Uncut, to run in the Jerwood Theatre Upstairs Thursday 9 April 2020 – Saturday 9 May 2020. 
  • IS IN OUR BLOOD – The Song Project performed by Wende, concept by Chloe Lamford and Wende, created by Chloe Lamford, Wende, Isobel Waller-Bridge and Imogen Knight, with words by E.V. Crowe, Sabrina Mahfouz, Somalia Seaton, Stef Smith and Debris Stevenson, to run in the Jerwood Theatre Downstairs Thursday 7 May – Saturday 16 May 2020. 
  • A Fight Against… written by Pablo Manzi and translated by William Gregory, directed by Royal Court Associate Director (International) Sam Pritchard, to run in the Jerwood Theatre Upstairs Wednesday 20 May 2020 – Saturday 20 June 2020. Teatro a Mil Foundation is a project partner. 
  • The Glow written by Alistair McDowall and directed by Royal Court Artistic Director Vicky Featherstone to run in the Jerwood Theatre Downstairs Friday 29 May 2020 – Saturday 4 July 2020. 
  • Purple Snowflakes and Titty Wanks written and performed by Sarah Hanly and directed by Alice Fitzgerald to run in the Jerwood Theatre Upstairs Monday 29 June 2020 – Saturday 11 July 2020. 
  • Is God Is written by Aleshea Harris and directed by Ola Ince to run in the Jerwood Theatre Downstairs Thursday 16 July 2020 – Saturday 15 August 2020. For full details see here.
  • Nanjing written and performed by Jude Christian and directed by Elayce Ismail to run in the Jerwood Theatre Upstairs Monday 20 July 2020 – Saturday 1 August 2020 before a global tour. 

Writer opportunities;

  • The Royal Court Theatre announces the Lynne Gagliano Writers Award, a year-long placement for a young person aged 18 – 25. 
  • The Royal Court/Oberon Books Climate Commission a new environmental initiative in playwriting. 

Tickets for the Autumn/Winter 2019/20 season go on sale to Friends on Wednesday 8 May 2019 at 10am and to the general public on Wednesday 15 May 2019 at 10am.

Tickets for the Spring/Summer 2020 season go on sale in October 2019.

020 7565 5000 /

Commenting on the new season Artistic Director Vicky Featherstone said;

“It is a privilege to be able to announce a whole year’s worth of work at the Royal Court and is testament to writers, both experienced and brand new to us that we have such an extraordinary range of voices, experiences, stories and provocations to put in front of our audiences. I am constantly overwhelmed by our hunger and capacity for story – the human need to make sense of the world in which we live and our openness to be surprised and enlightened by it. This year attempts to reflect that from the intensely private to the global stories of our times.”

A National Theatre of Scotland production in association with the Royal Court Theatre, Teatro do Bairro Alto, Lisbon and Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts Total Immediate Collective Imminent Terrestrial Salvation Written by Tim Crouch Directed by Karl James and Andy Smith Jerwood Theatre Upstairs Tuesday 3 September 2019 – Saturday 21 September 2019

Following a run at the Edinburgh International Festival Tim Crouch’s new play Total Immediate Collective Imminent Terrestrial Salvation comes to the Royal Court Theatre for four week run in the Jerwood Theatre Upstairs from Tuesday 3 September 2019 to Saturday 21 September 2019 with press night on Thursday 5 September 2019, 7pm.

Directed by Karl James and Andy Smith, with illustration by Rachana Jadhav.

“You should all have a book. Does everyone have a book? This book is part of the play. In a minute, we’ll all open this book and we’ll invite you to turn the pages.”

The writer manipulates a group of people to sit together and believe in something that isn’t true. The book he’s written predicts it all: the equations, the black hole and all the words we’ll speak until the end.

On this last day, at this last hour, a defector finds her voice and returns.

In this new play, presented through stage action and illustrated text, audience and actors turn the book’s pages together, they study the images and they sometimes share the words out loud.

Tim Crouch is an experimental theatre maker who invites audiences to be active in the worlds his plays create. He returns to the Royal Court following The Author (2009) and Adler & Gibb (2014). His other plays include My Arm, ENGLAND, An Oak Tree and Beginners.

Tim Crouch (Writer/Performer) For the Royal Court: The Author (& tour), John, Antonio & Nancy (Rough Cuts), Adler & Gibb (& tour). Other theatre includes: Peat (Ark, Dublin); The Complete Deaths (Spymonkey/Tour); Jeramee, Hartleby & Oooglemore (& tour), Beginners (Unicorn); what happens to the hope at the end of the evening (Almeida Festival/Tour); HOST (Brighton Fringe); King Lear, The Taming of the Shrew (RSC/First Encounter); I, Cinna (The Poet) (RSC/World Shakespeare Festival); Cadavre Exquis (Kassys, Netherlands/Nature Theater of Oklahoma, NYC/Nicole Beutler/Tour); I, Malvolio (Brighton Festival/Tour); May (Probe Projects); ENGLAND (Traverse/Fruitmarket Gallery/Whitechapel Gallery/Tour); An Oak Tree (& Soho), My Arm (Traverse/Tour); Fairymonsterghost (I, Banquo; I, Peaseblossom; I, Caliban) (Brighton Festival/ Unicorn/Tour); Kaspar the Wild (Theatre Royal, Plymouth/Theatre Royal, York/Polka); Shopping for Shoes (NT Education Department tour). Radio includes: My Arm, An Oak Tree, ENGLAND. Television includes: Don’t Forget the Driver. Awards include: Writers Guild of Great Britain, Best Play for Young Audiences (Beginners); John Whiting Award, Total Theatre Award (The Author); OBIE Award for Special Citations, Herald Angel (An Oak Tree); Scotsman Fringe First, Total Theatre & Herald Archangel Awards (ENGLAND); Brian Way Award (Shopping for Shoes); Prix Italia Award for Best Adaptation in Radio Drama (My Arm).

Karl James (Co-director) As co-director, for the Royal Court: The Author, Adler & Gibb. As co-director, other theatre includes: My Arm, An Oak Tree, ENGLAND (Traverse); what happens to the hope at the end of the evening (Almeida). Karl is director of The Dialogue Project, enabling people to have conversations when the stakes are high. His acclaimed podcast series 2+2=5 and his audio work has featured on BBC Radio 4’s Short Cuts, A Different Kind of Justice for BBC Radio 4, at

Latitude Festival and in Third Coast’s Filmless Festival in Chicago. Karl’s first book Say It and Solve It was published in 2013.

Andy Smith (Co-director) As co-director, for the Royal Court: The Author, Adler & Gibb. As co-director, other theatre includes: An Oak Tree, ENGLAND (Traverse); Transporter (Theatr Iolo, Cardiff); What Good is Looking Well When You’re Rotten on the Inside? (Galway Theatre Festival). As writer & co-director: SUMMIT (Brighton Festival/Fuel). As writer & performer: what happens to the hope at the end of the evening (Almeida); COMMONISM, all that is solid melts into air (BIT Teatergarasjen); The Preston Bill (Fuel); commonwealth (Gateshead International Festival of Theatre). Andy is a Lecturer in Theatre Practice at The University of Manchester.

A National Theatre of Scotland production in association with the Royal Court Theatre, Teatro do Bairro Alto, Lisbon and Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts (ACCA).

Listings Information:

A National Theatre of Scotland production in association with the Royal Court Theatre, Teatro do Bairro Alto, Lisbon and Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts Total Immediate Collective Imminent Terrestrial Salvation Written by Tim Crouch Directed by Karl James and Andy Smith Jerwood Theatre Upstairs, Royal Court Theatre, Sloane Square, SW1W 8AS Tuesday 3 September 2019 – Saturday 21 September 2019 Monday – Saturday 7.45pm Thursday & Saturday matinees 3pm Captioned Performances Friday 13 & 20 September 2019 Relaxed Environment Performance Saturday 21 September 2019, 3pm Press Performance Thursday 5 September 2019, 7pm The Big Idea: In Conversation with Tim Crouch Wednesday 11 September post-show Standard Tickets £12-£25 (Mondays all seats £12 available from 9am online on the day of performance) Concessions* Under 26s** Access £15 (plus a companion at the same rate).

The Studio at Festival Theatre, Edinburgh Wednesday 7 August 2019 – Sunday 25 August 2019 imminent-terrestrial-salvation-2/

My Name is Why In Conversation with Lemn Sissay 40 minutes reading & 20 minutes Q&A Jerwood Theatre Downstairs Tuesday 3 September 2019, 7.30pm

After the successful and moving reading of The Report, Lemn Sissay returns to the Royal Court with a special one off event reading excerpts from his new memoir, My Name is Why (Canongate Books), in the Jerwood Theatre Downstairs on Tuesday 3 September 2019, 7.30pm.

At the age of 17, after a childhood in a fostered family, followed by six years in care homes, Norman Greenwood was given his birth certificate. He learned that his real name was not Norman. It was Lemn Sissay. He was British and Ethiopian. And he learned that his mother had been pleading for his safe return to her since his birth.

Lemn Sissay’s memoir reflects on a childhood in care, self-expression and Britishness, and in doing so explores the institutional care system, race, family and the meaning of home.

Infused with all the lyricism and power you would expect from one of the nation’s best-loved poets, this moving, frank and timely event is the result of a life spent asking questions, and a celebration of the redemptive power of creativity.

The evening is a celebration of the publication of My Name is Why: A Memoir by Lemn Sissay. Published by Canongate Books.

Lemn Sissay (Writer/Performer) For the Royal Court: Road, The Report. Other theatre includes: Refugee Boy (Leeds Playhouse/UK tour); Something Dark (UK & International tour). Lemn Sissay MBE is the author of several books of poetry alongside articles, records, public art and plays. He was the official poet for the London 2012 Olympics & the FA Cup 2015. Lemn’s Landmark Poems are installed throughout Manchester & London in venues such as The Royal Festival Hall & the Olympic Park. His landmark poem Gilt of Cain was unveiled by Bishop Desmond Tutu. His Desert Island Discs was pick of the year for BBC Radio 4 2015. Lemn is Chancellor of the University of Manchester, Associate Artist at Southbank Centre and a Patron of both The Letterbox Club and The Reader Organisation. He is a regular contributor to radio and television.


Raising the curtain on The Royal Court’s Open Court Festival – This isn’t child’s play

In the back of a smartly decorated theatre, just off Sloane Square, several members of the Royal Court’s Youth Board greet me. Noisily and full of enthusiasm, we gather in Vicky Featherstone‘s office. It’s quite a good office.

The Vision of Lynne Gagliano

But, front and centre, I discover that Lynne Gagliano – Head of Young Court – tragically died, from a brain aneurism. Youth Board member Lucy tells me “She was a massive part of our lives – this was her dream. Open Court would have made her proud. We will let it live on and do our best to deliver her vision.” They are determined to do Lynne proud. What you are seeing, as a result, is a sense of work that is passionately curated.

Youth Board at Open Court

Royal Court’s Youth Board members

Youth Theatre as process and product

Youth theatre, as both process and product, is not merely everywhere. There is a huge interest in work being performed and created by young people for adult audiences. It has proven itself to be infinitely innovative. Take Chichester Festival Theatre’s spectacular transfer of RUNNING WILD at Regent’s Park and British Theatre Academy’s 6 week run of the youth-led SECRET GARDEN currently playing at Ambassador Theatre.

Open Court Festival at Royal Court

This summer young people had the keys to the Royal Court in Open Court Festival. The reins of each department were handed over to the young people, who swiftly became the driving force of the operation. Youth Board Member Jack emphasises the benefits of working with professionals, “We all came to this through various routes; a lot of us are in National Youth Theatre, but we really feel wanted here at the Court. The staff know you by name, there’s a familiarity… It’s surreal to be honest! The staff trust us and they care about what we have to say.” It’s plain to see that this diverse work gives young people a voice and we should all be listening.

The teenagers come across as fully fledged artists, providing excellent value for money. Open Court reflects that work created with and by young people is one of the most vital parts of British Theatre. Youth Theatre has often played it’s strong suit; numbers, ensemble, spectacle, but it has also often neglected the fact that it needs to be producing citizens before theatre professionals.

PRESENTING… – a brilliant idea

I ask them how they decided on what to programme. Ellie chips in “We are focused on seeking out new and exciting voices. It’s really cool that Royal Court is doing this festival – the writing for PRESENTING is outstanding – all the plays that have been submitted by young people are of a really good quality!” PRESENTING contains solid debut plays from Young Court’s playwrights with original stories to tell. Writers include Serafina Cusack, Thomas Fowler, Tristan Fynn-Aiduenu, Mark Hannah and more. Each night aims to showcase a variety of plays performed by members of the National Youth Theatre. It’s a brilliant idea and allows for a richly imaginative array of work that is clearly rooted in topics which matter most to them.

PRESENTING… © Alex Brenner ( all images)

Looking ahead

In 2016 audience allegiances are polarised, historically devised theatre often converts performance forms and infuses them with something innovative manifold; an authentic response to issues and experience derived from the sensibility of young people. I ask them what their roles entail and Lucy jumps in: “We do a bit of everything – Stage managing, admin, design, directing. We don’t have set rules – we allocate our own rules and allocate tasks.” Sounds fun. But, how did they get involved? Tara tells me, “Keep an eye on Twitter! Keep your eyes peeled – things pop up… If you attend the theatre: you meet people. You start a conversation and hear about other peoples’ passions and projects, you make theatre friends.”

The work on display is complex and layered. As I hop on the tube home and catch a glimpse of what’s going on in the world, the newspaper headlines glaring back at me, I feel overwhelmed and more passionately than ever that theatre cannot afford to shut the next generation out.

You can also read Carl’s earlier blog about The Royal Court’s Young Court HERE

Pigs and Dogs – Caryl Churchill communicates with vigour, that socially, politically and historically – we’ve got a long way to go

‘You Western-backed goats,
They forced us into slavery and killed millions. Now they want us to accept the sinfulness of homos.It shall not work.’

Pigs and Dogs at The Royal Court Theatre.

Pigs and Dogs at The Royal Court Theatre. © Alastair Muir

Both excitingly well made and strikingly formulaic. The three highly diverse leads are uniformly excellent. Sharon D Clarke is effortless in Caryl Churchill’s pertinent new play.

The title of the play is borrowed from  President Mugabe of Zimbabwe, who said, “If dogs and pigs don’t do it, why must human beings?”

Pigs and Dogs boasts fine performances and nimble direction by Dominic Cooke. It doesn’t entirely evade the issue at its core – a brief history of homophobia and anti-homosexuality laws – instead it efficiently embraces the subject. Characters collide regardless of race or gender in a thrilling fifteen minutes.

This engaging piece succeeds well at what it sets out to do: wrapping an important message in a story told by rich voices. Nevertheless, both excitingly well made and dispiritingly formulaic; the actors pace the stage. The play is substantially based on material from ‘Boy-Wives and Female-Husbands’ by Stephen O. Murray and Will Roscoe.

A riveting short which, were it fiction, might be disbelieved as dystopia. For me, Churchill communicates, with vigour, that socially, politically and historically – we’ve got a long way to go.

Cast (in alphabetical order)
Fisayo Akinade
Sharon D Clarke
Alex Hassell

Director: Dominic Cooke
Lighting Designer: Jack Williams
Sound Designed: David McDeveney
Costume Supervisor: Lucy Walshaw
Stage Manager: Caroline Meer
Dialect Coach: Hazel Holder

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Playwright Brad Birch talks about dealing with rejection, Brexit, En Folkfiende, learning on the job and more.

Brad Birch

Have you read many Brad Birch interviews before? He’s good at interviews. The recipient of The Harold Pinter Commission 2016 has a chat with me about dealing with rejection, Brexit, En Folkefiende, learning on the job and more.

Brad Birch

Brad Birch

Hi Brad, what did you do yesterday?
Hello Carl. Yesterday I was in tech rehearsals for En Folkefiende. It’s a very technical show so everyone’s very busy; sound, lighting, video, stage management, everyone, I suppose, apart from me. My role in techs often seem to be as an extra eye and ear for the director (this show is directed by Andrew Whyment) and I also like to check in with the actors and crew and drink a lot of coffee. I’ve been in techs in the past where I’ve had to be more hands on, having a more active role in the room, but these instances tend to only come about if there’s text work still to be done. At this late stage in the process it’s obviously less ideal to still be working on the text. Now that’s not to say I’m 100% happy with the text, there’s some stuff that’s still up in the air, but this process is slightly unique in that the production is going up to Edinburgh in the summer too and we have time to rehearse and rewrite again in the coming month or so. I’m looking forward to rewriting in response to this run in Cardiff and the audience’s reaction to it.

Have you ever felt like you didn’t fit in?
I think everyone has moments of feeling as though they don’t fit in and some have more moments than others. In a way school was where I felt I fit in the most, but I left at 15 while doing my GCSEs. School for me was a social thing and I’ve always learnt and thought better on my own. It has meant that life took a slightly circuitous route but I’ve my own reference points and process. For a long time I didn’t feel as though I fit in in theatre as I didn’t come to it through drama school or university. I developed through working with individual mentors rather than groups or institutions and it took a while to find my feet in the broader ecology.

What are your thoughts on Brexit?
I’m fearful of what the right wing will do to this country without certain safeguards provided by the EU. Just look at what they’re trying to do to the Human Rights Act, for example. There’s a left wing argument against TTIP and what have you, but can you imagine we’d end up with anything better under an isolated Conservative government? Just look at the food industry, for example, and the kinds of preservative crap that goes into food in the USA; it’s the EU that prevents that kind of stuff from going into our food. I worry about the general trend of isolationism and nationalism that’s currently festering in the right and left. I don’t buy the SNP, I don’t buy Plaid, I don’t buy a devolved north (George Osborne has a northern constituency so this idea that everyone in the north is crying out for a socialist utopia feels to me unlikely). I’ve never felt my identity particularly tethered to a nation, I don’t feel fundamentally more this side of the street rather than the other side of the street. I get more excited about the potential for international left wing answers to global capitalism rather than parochial left wing answers to global capitalism.

How has your writing developed over the past two years?
I think my writing has become more controlled and considered. I’m harder on myself. And I think that comes from going from production to production. You develop a muscle and a rigour and you learn what works and what doesn’t. As I say, I didn’t have a university drama society to practice on, so I’ve been learning on the job. There’s work I’ve not been proud of because of this but I can feel my writing maturing and I’m excited about the next couple of years of shows. I teach now as well and this certainly makes me a sharper writer.

You are the writer in residence at Undeb Theatre and on attachment at the Royal Shakespeare Company. Can you talk us through an average week in the life of Brad Birch?
An average week at the moment is a bit hectic, balancing a few projects at once. I enjoy writing but days whereby I’m having to look at more than one thing can sometimes be a struggle. I am quite strict on my routine and at the moment I have little time for anything else other than typing but usually I try to read about two books a week, go for a lot of walks and talk a lot in pubs. Meeting with people for an afternoon pint and a chat is one of the most joyous things I can think of doing. Zoe and I have also recently had a baby boy called Woody, so life is currently full of concentrated meaning.

How do you deal with rejection?
You just have to not care.

In March 2016, you were announced as the recipient of this year’s Harold Pinter Commission. Tell us something really exciting and top secret about the commission at the Royal Court that is ‘in development’.
This play feels like the culmination of a long relationship with one of the most important buildings of my life. I’ve been in and around the Court for about six years. However the play I’m writing is just like any other play currently on my slate – it’s about a question I can’t answer.

Let’s talk quickly about what put this current business in motion — how did you start out on your career path?
So as I mentioned above I left school early and for about three or four years I just bummed around doing terrible jobs and doing a lot of thinking and reading. When I started writing I wanted to write books. I didn’t grow up with theatre. I fell into it and a bit like a spider in a bath, now I’m in, I can’t get out. I’m fascinated by people and for me theatre is the best medium to explore what people do to each other.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Jeremy Herrin once told us in a group at the Court to always see yourself writing more than one play. And it’s that perspective that prevents you from throwing everything and the kitchen sink into the current draft of your current play. I’ve still got fragments and set pieces and lines that I wrote in 2009/2010 that will one day make it into something.

The Brink was quite good *well done* were you happy with it?
I was very happy with it, thank you. It was such a talented room. I want to make it a life maxim to only work with people who are better at their jobs than I am at my job.

Your next show is EN FOLKEFIENDE. Is it any good?
I really like it. The students we’re working with at Welsh College are, again, brilliant. I don’t know what it is about this school, there must be something in the water in Cardiff. In terms of the play, it’s been a delight to get under the bonnet of one of Ibsen’s most fascinating plays. People talk about the politics of An Enemy of the People but for me it’s a play about brothers.

Can you write a Haiku for our readers (plural)
I try not to write
In cafes or pubs or clubs
And yet here I am

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Mark Ravenhill, Playwright: “There is really only one rule to learn before writing a play”.

Mark Ravenhill
Mark Ravenhill

Mark Ravenhill

Mark Ravenhill is a playwright. 20 years later ‘Shopping and Fucking‘ still looks like it’s from the future and Mark continues to look ahead. I thought it would be nice to catch up with Mark to see exactly what’s happening. And I was right – it was very nice indeed.
Despite not really doing interviews he agreed to a chat. Here’s what happened.

Hi Mark Ravenhill. If you were to draw a graph of the last ten years, how would it look?
Some leaps of imagination needed here.  First, that I could draw a graph. Which I can’t.  I’ve never been able to stick to the squares on graph paper. And second, that I have the kind of mind that imagines shapes that fit on graph paper.  Which I don’t have either.  So my graph of the last ten years would me trying to think in a way which I can’t, using a medium that I’m not suited to.  In other words, my graph of the last ten years would be one of messy failure. That is not a metaphor. Or a cry for help.

A view from Islington north

A view from Islington north


What can you tell us about A View From Islington North the ‘evening of political satire’ you are contributing to with Out of Joint? ‘A View From Islington North’ is a celebration of Max Stafford-Clark’s relationships with playwrights.  All the playwrights who’ve written the pieces have had work directed by Max over decades. He first directed work by Caryl Churchill and David Hare in the 1970s.  I’m one of the johnny-come-latelies, having only first worked with him twenty years ago.  Max is a brilliant, infuriating, insightful and relentless director

What’s your favourite emoji?
The winky one

Shopping and Fucking

Shopping and Fucking

Shopping and Fucking is often described as a period piece isn’t it.
I don’t know how other people describe it (if it all) but yes I would describe it as period piece. I wanted to write what it felt like to be in your twenties in that moment in time.  It doesn’t have any references to contemporary events outside the play but it’s whole mood and style belongs to the late 1990s. It’s a play that is sorted for Es and whizz.

With writers it feels like there’s a constant expectation, and that they need to keep proving themselves, throughout their career. Which perhaps isn’t quite the same for a director where you can just keep going until you fall over. Is that a fair analysis?
Do you think so?  I think directors suffer from constant expectation and many fall out of favour and fashion.  But it’s true that there is a high burn out with playwrights.  Some have one brilliant debut at somewhere like the Royal Court upstairs and then never write again. Plenty write three or four plays and then find they have no more plays to write.  Very few write plays over a lifetime. I’m fifty this year. To ensure that I too ‘can just keep going until you fall over’ I’ve mapped out a cycle of forty full length plays.  I’m committed to writing one a year, finishing each one on my birthday June 7th.  So that will take me until I’m 90, when I will fall over and die as I will have advanced osteoporosis.
If you were to write a playwriting rulebook, what would Rule One be?
There is really only one rule to learn before writing a play.  Never under any circumstances use the line ‘the door was open so I let myself in’. Everything else is allowed.
Let’s imagine we’re putting theatre as an art form in a capsule to sending it into space, which one play do you put forward?
One play to represent the whole of world theatre?  Wouldn’t it need to be a DVD of a performance? (the question is in danger of conflating a ‘play’ with ‘theatre’).  But let’s say it’s a play text.  I think it would have to be one of the Greeks. That’s drama in its purest and arguably most powerful form.  I would pick Sophocles’ ‘Antigone’, although it could just as well be Euripides ‘Medea’ or Aeschylus “Oresteia’.  How about I write a new English version and we ping that into space alongside the Ancient Greek text?
Do you endlessly analyse your creative decisions or are you impulsive?
I write first drafts almost entirely on impulse and then use analysis (often aided by the director and sometimes the actors) to work through further drafts.

Do you pay attention to critics?
I’ll listen to anyone who can help me understand what I’m doing and how I might get better at it.
To the people who are still reading, do you have a final message?
The door is still open. Let yourself out. Thank you.