Playwrights Nick Payne, Polly Stenham, Roy Williams and David Eldridge will direct staged readings of their favourite plays at the Duke of York’s theatre this summer as part of the Royal Court at the Duke of York’s season.
The four acclaimed writers have all worked at the much-lauded new writing venue. Payne’s Constellations premiered at the Royal Court and is one of three plays running in the West End as part of the season, Stenham’s debut play That Face ran at the Royal Court before transferring to the Duke of York’s theatre, Williams has presented plays including the Olivier Award-winning Sucker Punch at the venue, while Eldridge’s credits at the theatre include In Basildon, Incomplete And Random Acts Of Kindness and Under The Blue Sky, the latter of which also fittingly transferred to the Duke of York’s theatre.
Each playwright will have less than two days to bring their vision to life with a full cast of actors yet to be announced. Payne will begin the line-up on 29 June with Kenneth Lonergan’s The Starry Messenger, which tells the story of an astronomy lecturer whose life takes an unexpected turn following a chance encounter in his weekly class at the planetarium.
On 6 July, Stenham will direct John Osborne’s iconic drama Look Back In Anger. First seen at the Royal Court in 1956, Stenham explained her choice saying the play was “The beginning of the Court, of modern theatre as we know it. We are in debt to this play.”
Sing Yer Heart Out For The Lads playwright Williams will present Barrie Keeffe’s Abide With Me on 13 July. Set on Cup Final day, the play, which Williams describes as “a good story that makes you laugh and cry”, sees factory workers and ardent United fans Jan, Louis and Paul wait outside Wembley Stadium, desperate for tickets. As they wait for their uncle to turn up, feelings run high and events are in danger of spiralling out of control.
Eldridge will close the season with Robert Holman’s Across Oka on 20 July. The modern classic follows 16 year-old Matty from the North of England to the wilds of Oka on a journey to try and save the Siberian crane from extinction. Eldridge explained his choice, saying: “It’s one of my desert island plays that sings with truth, and is a beautifully humane meditation on thawing relations between East and West as the cold war ends, our capacity for self-destruction, and how the future is always in the hands of the young.”
This is the fourth time the Royal Court have staged the Playwrights’ Playwrights programme. Dominic Cooke, Artistic Director of the venue, said: “Playwrights’ Playwrights offers audiences a unique opportunity to experience landmark plays from a completely new perspective. Playwrights often make fine directors of other writers’ work and here four Royal Court writers are given free rein to choose a play from any era. It’s always fascinating to see which play they choose and to contemplate how that play may have been influential on their writing.