45 episodes

Playwright Simon Stephens talks to some playwrights including Jez Butterworth, April de Angelis, Rachel De-lahey, Tanika Gupta, David Hare, Robert Holman, Dennis Kelly, Alistair McDowall, Anthony Neilson, Joe Penhall, Lucy Prebble, Anya Reiss, Polly Stenham and Enda Walsh.

Royal Court Playwright's Podcast Royal Court

    • Arts
    • 4.9 • 101 Ratings

Playwright Simon Stephens talks to some playwrights including Jez Butterworth, April de Angelis, Rachel De-lahey, Tanika Gupta, David Hare, Robert Holman, Dennis Kelly, Alistair McDowall, Anthony Neilson, Joe Penhall, Lucy Prebble, Anya Reiss, Polly Stenham and Enda Walsh.

    S5 Ep5: Ta-Nia (aka Talia Paulette Oliveras & Nia Farrell) talk to Simon Stephens

    S5 Ep5: Ta-Nia (aka Talia Paulette Oliveras & Nia Farrell) talk to Simon Stephens

    Series 5 of the Royal Court Playwright’s Podcast was released in partnership with Berliner Theatertreffen Stückemarkt.
    The following content may contain strong language.
    Click here to return to the main podcast page.
    To subscribe via iTunes click here.
    To listen on Spotify click here.
    This conversation has been transcribed and can be accessed here: https://royalcourttheatre.com/podcasts/playwrights-podcast-transcript-of-series-5-episode-5-ta-nia-aka-talia-paulette-oliveras-nia-farrell-talk-to-simon-stephens/
    You can watch a livestreamed performance of Ta-Nia’s (aka Talia Paulette Oliveras & Nia Farrell) Dreams in Blk Major here: https://digital.berlinerfestspiele.de/stueckemarkt/dreams-in-blk-major
    All readings/recordings will be available for 24 hours for the 18 May.
    Full introduction by Simon Stephens:
    The presence of academia in theatre making in the United States has a status that is, I think, more pronounced or established than it seems to me to be in the UK or elsewhere in Europe. In many US cities the theatre is housed within the university. The artists and audience are often academics or students. In New York, that complex heart of the country’s theatrical history, Columbia and NYU in particular provide the art form with a constant pulse of new life. Theatre in the US seems born out of a synthesis between the theoretical rigour and interrogations of its universities counterpointed with the energy and drive of the marketplace, as most famously typified in the theatre houses of Broadway.
    The theatre making duo made up of director Talia Paulette Oliveras and writer Nia Farrell, collectively known as TaNia, both typify this position and obliterate every last archetype it might suggest. They met while studying experimental and collaborative theatre making at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. The power of their theoretical rigour and the incision of their thought as a means of critiquing power was maybe developed at NYU, but there is no arid or academic crust to the work that TaNia first developed there: the visceral, playful, humane, angry, Afrofuturist theatre event Dreams in Blk Major. First staged at Tisch in 2019 it transferred to the National Black Theatre in Harlem in the same year, and then the ANT Fest, the all new talent festival at the celebrated Ars Nova Theatre. In 2020/21 it was chosen by jurors to visit the Stückemarkt at the Theatertreffen.
    It is a source of some regret to me to not be able to make it to Berlin to see any of the five shows chosen for the Stückemarkt in real life. But I can’t help feeling that it is a particular shame to not be in the same room as Dreams in Blk Major as it is played out there. Farrell’s text is sensuous and poetic. It explodes the conventions of linear narrative to create a text that is built on ritual more than it is on a dramatic arc. It describes itself as a celebration in five movements. Reading the text on the page, the energy of that celebration alone is infectious. Infused by the magic and dignity of music and art, it combines jazz and cookery, reinvents a school curriculum with unapologetic glory, reimagines BuzzFeed questionnaires and makes a theatrical intervention that encourages the audience to engage in a consideration of their own identities and incumbent histories. It draws from a past of centuries and imagines a new future, but invites a ritual that is necessarily defined by its present tenseness, asking its actors to really talk and really listen to one another, inviting its audience to really dance and the food that ends the piece to really be made, and to taste – I imagine – fucking fantastic! If this is a piece born out of a nuanced and complex theoretical understanding, it is also one of the most joyous and celebratory pieces of theatre I have imagined all year.

    • 59 min
    S5 Ep4: Sam Max talks to Simon Stephens

    S5 Ep4: Sam Max talks to Simon Stephens

    Series 5 of the Royal Court Playwright’s Podcast was released in partnership with Berliner Theatertreffen Stückemarkt.
    The following content may contain strong language.
    Click here to return to the main podcast page.
    To subscribe via iTunes click here.
    To listen on Spotify click here.
    This conversation has been transcribed and can be accessed here: https://royalcourttheatre.com/podcasts/playwrights-podcast-transcript-of-series-5-episode-4-sam-max-talks-to-simon-stephens/
    You can watch a livestreamed performance of Sam Max’s COOP here: https://digital.berlinerfestspiele.de/stueckemarkt/coop-deutsch-zaun
    All readings/recordings will be available for 24 hours for the 18 May.
    Full introduction by Simon Stephens:
    The summaries on US new play database New Play Exchange, of the four plays by New York based writer Sam Max – each written over the last five years – return to a curious description. Their reimagining of Russian folk tale Pidor and the Wolf, hormone fuelled musical piece Twin Size Beds, apocalyptic break up play Driftwood, and juror’s selection for the 2020/21 Stückemarkt, Coop, are all described as dark comedies.
    I understand that such databases are dependent on simplification, and that Sam Max is another artist in this year’s selection that is new to me, but to describe Coop, their poetic, haunting exploration of the yearning of a teenage girl in a nightmare of familial imprisonment as a dark comedy seems to me to miss its force. It does have at least three jokes that made me laugh out loud when I read it. But it is so much darker and stranger than the generic description implies.
    Sam Max was born in Pennsylvania and graduated from the theatre department of the University of Evansville in Indiana.  Since moving to New York they have won the Robert Chesley/Victor Bumbalo Playwriting Award, received an Honourable Mention for the Relentless Award, and were named a member of the Young & Hungry List, tracking “Hollywood’s Top 100 New Writers“. Sam’s work has been presented at Under the Radar Festival, National Sawdust and by the Museum of Sex at the celebrated Joe’s Pub. They have been a resident artist at The Public Theatre, and have received awards from the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation, and the Foundation for Contemporary Arts. 
    Coop, on one level is the story of Avery. A girl who lives on a farm, finds herself trapped in ritualised acts enacted by her parents and isolated from the outside world. Her resistance to this isolation and entrapment result in a murderous pact that echoes across the rural farmland that Max imagines their drama to play out in. But that synopsis does the play slight service. It is a play that blurs realities between a rural economic objectivity and the imaginative terrain of Avery’s mind. It is set on a farmland where no farm life seems to survive. It is a story that plays out on a tarnished landscape of prayer and ritual, in which the family survive entirely on a diet of eggs. It is a play of blood and violence and stillness, defined by dream images, and in which the dead lose contact with us as though we are speaking to them on an unrealizable phone signal. It reads as though Harmony Korine had staged Beckett’s Endgame on the landscape of Terrence Malick’s Badlands. 
    I loved its expiration of language. It is one of several pieces this Stückemarkt that seem to stage characters desperate to find the right word for their experience.
    Sam Max is in the early years of their working life but judging from the level of interest their work has provoked and from the depth and clarity of imagination that defines Coop, they are one of those writers whose work over the coming decade has the potential to allow us to reimagine ourselves as we come out of the pandemic.
     

    • 1 hr 2 min
    S5 Ep3: Eve Leigh talks to Simon Stephens

    S5 Ep3: Eve Leigh talks to Simon Stephens

    Series 5 of the Royal Court Playwright’s Podcast was released in partnership with Berliner Theatertreffen Stückemarkt.
    The following content may contain strong language.
    Click here to return to the main podcast page.
    To subscribe via iTunes click here.
    To listen on Spotify click here.
    This conversation has been transcribed and can be accessed here: https://royalcourttheatre.com/podcasts/playwrights-podcast-transcript-of-series-5-episode-3-eve-leigh-talks-to-simon-stephens/
    You can watch a livestreamed performance of Eve Leigh’s Midnight Movie here: https://digital.berlinerfestspiele.de/stueckemarkt/midnight-movie
    All readings/recordings will be available for 24 hours for the 18 May.
    Full introduction by Simon Stephens:
    One of the most exasperating myths in the various narratives that surround new playwriting culture is that playwrights ever burst into the playwriting world from nowhere. A prominent literary figure at the Royal Court used to talk about such hypothetical playwrights coming ‘from Mars.’ The truth is that those playwrights who arrive suddenly into the new writing scene have often spent years working with tenacity and determination on their craft and process before they appear to emerge from outer space and take the world by surprise.
    Occasionally over the past couple of decades it has been a privilege to watch some writers make that journey. One striking example for me is the playwright Eve Leigh whose Midnight Movie is one of the juror choices in this year’s Stückemarkt.
    I first met Eve in the early years of the last decade when she sent her play Stone Face to the Lyric Hammersmith while I was Associate there. The play was striking for the clarity of its vision and the muscular poetry of its writing. We met to talk about her work and have stayed in touch over the last decade. I am proud to think of her as a friend.
    Over that time, she has written at least a play a year. Receiving her work has always been a joy. But there was a moment two or three years ago, with her plays Salty Irina and The Trick when it became clear that the years of work had started to play off. Here were plays of force and confidence. The lyrical petrify was now being matched by a sense of theatrical adventure and musical and clarity and cogency of idea.
    And then in 2019 she appeared from nowhere, a playwright coming from outer space to hit our major stages. While earlier productions had caught some people’s eye: Spooky Action At A Distance was produced by the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama at the Gate theatre. Roy Alexander Weise directed Stone Face at the Finborough. It was in 2019 that The Trick premiered at the celebrated Bush theatre. Salty Irina was shortlisted for the Bruntwood Prize and Rachel Bagshaw directed Midnight Movie at the Royal Court.
    Leigh is a writer of range and conviction.  Her work is defined by a formal exploration as much as an intellectual one. Her theatre is built on an understanding of the importance of the presence of the audience in her work. She invents games for them to play. She imagines magic tricks for them to take part in. She makes music for them to listen to.
    She is a writer of real political exploration. In recent years her commitment to the investigation of issues of ability and access in the theatre have been integrated into her work in a way that is as theatrical and playful as it is serious and nuanced. She has examined, as a journalist as a well as a dramatist, the repeated depiction of violence against women in drama. She has written with compassion and understanding of the experience of the Eastern European diaspora, a diaspora that her own family was informed by and built around.
    If 2019 was a breakthrough year then 2020 may have been an unwelcome interruption, but one of the most surprising oddities of that baffling pandemic – and one of the most playful exploratio

    • 1 hr 9 min
    S5 Ep2: Laurence Dauphinais talks to Simon Stephens

    S5 Ep2: Laurence Dauphinais talks to Simon Stephens

    Series 5 of the Royal Court Playwright’s Podcast was released in partnership with Berliner Theatertreffen Stückemarkt.
    The following content may contain strong language.
    Click here to return to the main podcast page.
    To subscribe via iTunes click here.
    To listen on Spotify click here.
    This conversation has been transcribed and can be accessed here: https://royalcourttheatre.com/podcasts/playwrights-podcast-transcript-of-series-5-episode-2-laurence-dauphinais-talks-to-simon-stephens/ 
    You can watch a livestreamed performance of Laurence Dauphinais’ Aalaapi here: https://digital.berlinerfestspiele.de/stueckemarkt/aalaapi
    All readings/recordings will be available for 24 hours for the 18 May.
    Full introduction by Simon Stephens:
    It is indicative of my ignorance that I knew nothing of the work of Quebecoise musician, artist, director, actor and writer Laurence Dauphinais until starting work on this conversation. An ignorance only underlined by the range and success of her work not only in Montreal, where she lives and works, but throughout the world.
    Her body of work is defined by its diversity. She was a graduate of the National Theatre School of Canada’s acting programme and has acted with success on television, in film and on stage alike. She toured solo work internationally. Her shows iShow and Siri travelling throughout Europe and South America.
    She has written and directed Lumens:Game, a generative music and video piece created by Video Phase, has made soulful new electronic music with the Montreal collective Darrick, and is in the process of making her latest co-creation with Maxime Carbonneau, In the Cloud.
    Her beautiful piece of documentary drama Aalaapi, which has been chosen for the 2020/21 Stückemarkt, was her debut as solo director. It premiered at the Centre du Théâtre d’Aujourd’hui (CTDA) in Montréal where it won the 2020 Playwright’s Prize.
    Aalaapi depicts a marginalised group that is hardly ever given a voice in contemporary drama: the Inuit. Dauphinais works in collaboration with radio director Marie-Laurence Rancourt and the two performers Nancy Saunders and Ulivia Uviluk to create a piece that synthesises recorded testimony, hyper naturalistic drama and elegant, poised projection art. It is a haunting study of the humanness and persistence of Inuit culture as it spans the range of Canada and Quebec from the urban energy of Montreal to the coldest, most battered parts of isolation within the Arctic Circle.
    Its quiet poetry, imagery and sound felt defined by its humanness. Its cascade of text crystallises the complexities of a multilingual culture and the yearning and impossibility of ever finding the right word. In its study of two performers contained within an isolated home I was surprised to see images of the lockdowns of the last year resonating. In its meteorological brutality it evoked images of climate instability that linger round the edges of so much of our imagination. But in its wit and honesty, restraint and humanity it is built with as much compassion for the community it documents as it reaches out into metaphors that resonate throughout the world.
     

    • 1 hr 2 min
    S5 Ep1: Jude Christian talks to Simon Stephens

    S5 Ep1: Jude Christian talks to Simon Stephens

    Series 5 of the Royal Court Playwright’s Podcast was released in partnership with Berliner Theatertreffen Stückemarkt.
    The following content may contain strong language.
    Click here to return to the main podcast page.
    To subscribe via iTunes click here.
    To listen on Spotify click here.
    This conversation has been transcribed and can be accessed here: https://royalcourttheatre.com/podcasts/playwrights-podcast-transcript-of-jude-christian-talking-to-simon-stephens/
    You can watch a livestreamed performance of Jude Christian’s Nanjing here: https://digital.berlinerfestspiele.de/stueckemarkt/nanjing
    All readings/recordings will be available for 24 hours for the 18 May.
    Full introduction by Simon Stephens:
    Over the course of the last decade Jude Christian has established herself as one of the most exciting directors, dramaturgs, and theatre makers in British theatre. She has directed at most of the major theatres in London, staging new plays at the Royal Court Theatre and the Gate, and she has reimagined Shakespeare’s Othello and Macbeth at the Lyric Hammersmith; she has worked as a dramaturg at the Globe on the banks of the Thames and written and directed Dick Whittington, a raucous and magnificent panto, that peculiar Christmas extension of the popular music hall cabaret that defines the theatrical experience in the United Kingdom and entirely baffles the rest of the world. She was made Associate Director of Home in Manchester at the end of the last decade. I worked with her on the 2017 production of Chekhov’s The Seagull at the Lyric Hammersmith, where she was Associate Director. She was a collaborator of rigour, intelligence and imagination, with a searing sense of truth.
    Over the course of the last decade she has written and developed and performed a quite shattering and unique piece of theatre. Nanjing dramatizes her own exploration of her own history. It is a moving portrayal of her discovery in her twenties of the atrocities that are in England described as the Rape of Nanking, that were carried out against the Chinese people of her grandparent’s generation. It is also a play about the last decade and how in that decade the world’s sense of its own history has on occasion dug its heels in to notions of simplicity when what was maybe needed was a human acceptance of contradiction. It is a play about the brutality of war in the last century that crystallises in a felt and powerful creed for the urgent need for peace as we embark on our third baffling decade of this one. She performs the piece herself with poise and clarity. It is one of the judges choices for this year’s Stückemarkt.
     

    • 50 min
    S4 Ep6: Sabrina Mahfouz talks to Simon Stephens

    S4 Ep6: Sabrina Mahfouz talks to Simon Stephens

    The following content may contain strong language.
    Click here to return to the main podcast page.
    To subscribe via iTunes click here.
    To listen on Spotify click here.
    Full introduction by Simon Stephens:
    I first met the playwright, poet, performer, presenter, screenwriter, anthologist and librettist Sabrina Mahfouz in the Houses of Parliament. In 2015 we had been invited by the theatre company Paines Plough to talk about the political nature of and political representation in British playwriting. It was a remarkable night which lingers in my head predominantly for that meeting and a rather daunting oil painting of former Tory Party Home Secretary Michael Howard. Four and a half years later I was thrilled by the energy and intelligence of her Royal Court debut show the gender obliterating dramatic lecture A History of Water in the Middle East. I have seen few shows in the past twelve months that more trippingly illustrated the political potential we were talking about on that odd night.
     The show marked her final production of a decade of quite extraordinary creative energy. She has written and produced up to twenty plays in the last ten years, it is genuinely hard to keep count. Her first play 2011’s Dry Ice was directed by David Schwimmer at the Underbelly Edinburgh before moving to the Bush Theatre.  Her 2013 play Clean won the Herald Angel Award when it played at the Traverse Edinburgh before moving off-Broadway. The following year’s  Chef was short listed for the Carol Tambor Award after being staged in the Brighton Fringe and at the Soho Theatre. Paines Plough produced the Stef O’Driscoll directed With a Little Bit of Luck at a sell out run at the Camden Roundhouse. Quite uniquely amongst all the writers I’ve spoken to in these conversations she has had a play performed at Wembley Stadium, her history of women’s football co-written with Hollie McNish, Offside. She has written for NT Connections, adapted Malorie Blackman’s celebrated Noughts and Crosses for Pilot Theatre and was one of the writers on the Wende Song Project her at the Court this year.
    She has compiled anthologies of British Muslim Women’s writing, 2017’s The Things I Would Tell You and considerations of working class identity Smashing It published this autumn 2019. She wrote beautifully in Nikesh Shukla’s collection The Good Immigrant. She has published a novel as well as several celebrated collections of poetry; originated television; written a libretto for the Royal Opera House and worked and written about her working life in Mayfair Strip Clubs and the Ministry of Defence alike.
    Her failed attempt to get Top Secret Security clearance while working at the MOD runs like a spine through A History of Water in the Middle East. From this spine she reaches outward to interrogate her own identities as a South London born Muslim woman of Egyptian heritage as well as lacerate the culpability of the British Government in the last hundred and fifty years of political turmoil, economic instability and bloodshed in the part of the world that her family came from.
    It was a remarkable show. Defined by a pulsing musical score by Kareem Samara with operatic counterpoint by Laura Hanna it managed to both explore and explain British Imperialism and Mahfouz’s place within it. Mahfouz is a compelling performer, passionate and witty and savage and self-deprecating by turn. Her performance and her show seemed emblematic of an energy that has driven one of the most dizzyingly prolific and formally surprising careers in contemporary British Theatre.

    • 1 hr 23 min

Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5
101 Ratings

101 Ratings

Bend it like Beckett ,

Entertaining, Informative, Inspiring.

This podcast is a joy to listen to. I learn about new writers and plays every episode, and hearing the origin stories of so many great writers is hugely inspiring. Most importantly though, listening immediately fills me with the fire to sit down and write write write! Please keep this magnificent series going!!!

Morgylondon ,

Love it.

Brilliant podcast.

Garage games ,

I am not affiliated with Simon Stephens in any way

I mainly like Andy McDowell

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