Grotowski’s Reply to Stanislavski

Interview with Paul Allain

Paul Allain is Professor of Theatre and Performance and Dean of the Graduate School at the University of Kent, Canterbury. Since collaborating with the Gardzienice Theatre Association from 1989 to 1993 he has gone on to write extensively about the theatre. He has published several edited collections on Grotowski as part of the British Grotowski project.

Paul’s films about physical acting for Methuen Drama Bloomsbury will be published at Drama Online in Spring 2018 as Physical Actor Training – an online A-Z.  Draft films are currently available at the Digital Performer website.

email: P.A.Allain@kent.ac.uk


Connections to the IB, GCSE, AS and A level specifications

  • innovations
  • key collaborations with other artists
  • methods of creating, developing, rehearsing and performing
  • use of theatrical conventions
  • influence
  • significant moments in the development of theory and practice

PC: What were his early influences?

PA: There are lots of routes into Grotowski’s work. One is his connection with Stanislavski. In 1955, he was studying at GITIS in Moscow, one of the main Russian drama schools. Grotowski worked with Yuri Zavadsky, who had come out of the Stanislavskian tradition. People often see Stanislavski and Grotowski as being opposed; that is a real mistake. Grotowski wrote this text, Reply to Stanislavski in 1983 in Polish. It was only published in English in 2008 in The Drama Review. He explains how he’d been influenced by Stanislavski after studying him in Moscow and how he was carrying on the work ‘On Physical Actions’ that Stanislavski had left unfinished when he died.

Many people have difficulties distinguishing technique from aesthetics. So then: I consider Stanislavsky’s method one of the greatest stimuli for the European theatre, especially in actor education; at the same time I feel distant from his aesthetics. Stanislavsky’s aesthetics were a product of his times, his country, and his person. We are all a product of the meeting of our tradition with our needs. These are things that one cannot transplant from one place to another without falling into clichés, into stereotypes, into something that is already dead the moment we call it into existence. It is the same for Stanislavsky as for us, and for anybody else.

Grotowski, J., & Salata, K. (2008). Reply to Stanislavsky. TDR (1988-), 52(2), p.31.

His interest in Stanislavski was underpinned by the phrase ‘I don’t believe you’ which they both used. Grotowski’s is actually quite a Stanislavskian psychophysical technique but much more movement orientated.

PC: Can you pinpoint where Grotowski’s aesthetics differ?

PA: Grotowski wasn’t starting from interpreting or staging plays, he wasn’t working with characters; he was working with roles.

PC: What is the difference between Stanislavski working on characters and Grotowski working on roles?

PA: Grotowski says the role should be like a ‘scalpel’ for opening up the person, the actor. It is really about using theatre as a way of revealing the person not the person identifying with the character.

PC: Is there an example that can illustrate that difference?

PA: When Cieślak played the role of the Constant Prince in the eponymous play it is all based on his memories of the first time he fell in love with a girl as a teenager. He and Grotowski spent nine months reconstructing the score, the inner life, of this awakening feeling. They reconstructed these feelings of passion, of erotic desire, of prohibition as a young Catholic boy where feeling these things was sinful. The narrative is of the Constant Prince being tortured by the Moors: a horrible story, based on the Calderón de la Barca play. The torture ends with the Prince’s death, because he doesn’t give in: he’s constant. We see that story but, without knowing it, we experience this whole other life intuitively. It was a physical realisation of what Stanislavski called the ‘inner life’. Grotowski combined the musicality and plasticity of Meyerhold with a Stanislavskian psychological process. It was never about true to life character, it was about revealing something of the actor.

Up Next:

Part 3: Grotowski Burning at the Stake After Artaud

Part 4: Grotowski’s Significant Productions

Part 5: Grotowski and Gurawski: Configuring the Space

Part 6: Grotowski Inspired Creativity and Outrage

Part 7: Grotowski’s Work with Text

Part 8: Grotowski’s Communication with Spectators

Part 9: Acting for Grotowski: What is it to be Human?

Part 10: Grotowski Composes Associations: Plastique and Corporal Exercises

Part 11: Grotowski’s Voice Work: Connecting Body and Voice

Part 12: Grotowski’s Context: Sickness, War and Oppression

Part 13: Paratheatre: What is Beyond Theatre?

Part 14: Paratheatre: Finding the Desire to Change

Part 15: Grotowski’s Influence: Barba, Brook and Beyond

FULL INTERVIEW HERE

Discovering Grotowski and Pushing Yourself

Interview with Paul Allain

Paul Allain is Professor of Theatre and Performance and Dean of the Graduate School at the University of Kent, Canterbury. Since collaborating with the Gardzienice Theatre Association from 1989 to 1993 he has gone on to write extensively about the theatre. He has published several edited collections on Grotowski as part of the British Grotowski project.

Paul’s films about physical acting for Methuen Drama Bloomsbury will be published at Drama Online in Spring 2018 as Physical Actor Training – an online A-Z.  Draft films are currently available at the Digital Performer website.

email: P.A.Allain@kent.ac.uk

 

Part 1: Discovering Grotowski and Pushing Yourself

Connections to the IB, GCSE, AS and A level specifications

  • theatrical purpose

PC: What led you to the work of Jerzy Grotowski?

PA: When I was at secondary school in the late seventies we went down to Ashby-de-la-Zouch and had a whole weekend doing Grotowski-based training with RAT Theatre; very rigorous, very demanding. We saw them perform on the Friday night. I had no idea what to expect and these guys were basically whipping and beating each other. I later found out that these actors did this thing where they didn’t decide who was going to be the one whipping or who was going to be the one being whipped until just before the performance. RAT Theatre had taken the Grotowski thing in a way he wouldn’t really have liked.

PC: Did you study Grotowski when you went on to university?

PA: Absolutely. When I went to Exeter University in the mid-eighties my lecturers had been inspired by Grotowski in the seventies; people had gone over to Poland and returned and put it into practice. Exeter was a very practical course and our first project was working ten to ten every day, six days a week with someone who had worked with Grotowski. My friend and I used to look at Towards a Poor Theatre and impersonate it; he looked a bit like Ryszard Cieślak, so I used to pretend to be Grotowski. I got really into pushing myself, acrobatics etc.

PC: When did you formally start to write about Grotowski?

PA: I did a PhD on Gardzienice, another Polish theatre company. Their director, Włodzimierz Staniewski, had worked with Grotowski in the seventies. The only way I was allowed to research them was to actually be there training. It was later that I came back to Grotowski, to see what was behind the work I had been doing. I did the British Grotowski Project between 2006 and 2009. I saw that there was then very limited access to audio/visual material about Grotowski. I knew it existed but most of it was in Polish and quite difficult to get hold of. I wanted to spread the word a bit and make stuff available.

PC:  What was the main way of accessing Grotowski’s work before that project?

PA: Most people accessed Grotowski through Towards a Poor Theatre. It was really influential in the late sixties and seventies after it came out in 1968 but there are lots of issues with it. It is badly translated; it calls Grotowski a ‘producer’, never a director and there are lots of other aspects of it that are not accurate. It only covers the Theatre of Productions but that is only one period of Grotowski’s work. Paratheatre, Theatre of Sources, Objective Drama and Art as Vehicle are the others.

Up Next:

Part 2: Grotowski’s Reply to Stanislavski

Part 3: Grotowski Burning at the Stake After Artaud

Part 4: Grotowski’s Significant Productions

Part 5: Grotowski and Gurawski: Configuring the Space

Part 6: Grotowski Inspired Creativity and Outrage

Part 7: Grotowski’s Work with Text

Part 8: Grotowski’s Communication with Spectators

Part 9: Acting for Grotowski: What is it to be Human?

Part 10: Grotowski Composes Associations: Plastique and Corporal Exercises

Part 11: Grotowski’s Voice Work: Connecting Body and Voice

Part 12: Grotowski’s Context: Sickness, War and Oppression

Part 13: Paratheatre: What is Beyond Theatre?

Part 14: Paratheatre: Finding the Desire to Change

Part 15: Grotowski’s Influence: Barba, Brook and Beyond

FULL INTERVIEW HERE

World Theatre Traditions – Kabuki

Extracts from Notes on the Form of Kabuki

Part 1 and Part 2 (1954) by Earle Ernst

An important historical fact in the development of the Kabuki is that it was a theatre of commoners in a feudal society. The Kabuki began, according to tradition, with performances by an ex-priestess, Okuni, in the city of Kyoto in 1596.

The Kabuki is primarily a theatre of the actor, and his influence is nowhere more apparent than in the historical development of the physical theatre. The earliest permanent stage used was an adaptation of the No stage, which consisted of two acting areas: the stage proper, approximately eighteen feet square, and the “bridge,” a long plat- form, six feet wide, which led from the dressing room to the stage proper. Both acting areas were roofed. In part, the history of the development of the physical theatre is that of gradual modification of the No theatre, so that eventually the Kabuki created an entirely new form. This gradual process was greatly aided by the fires which periodically and frequently destroyed not only theatre buildings but also large sections of Japanese cities. The Kabuki, consequently, was never encumbered with a permanent form of theatre build- ing. The vigilant government made regulations concerning the auditorium, but it made none about the acting areas.

The hanamichi is something more than a long, relatively narrow, raised platform through the auditorium by means of which an important character moves to and from the stage. It is a kind of special, intimate stage used almost invariably by the actor alone, and the theatrical use to which it is put makes it unique in theatre history. The hanamichi is transmutable into three psychological areas. It is used as an area spatially continuous with the stage; it can be related to the stage but defined as a spatially differentiated area; or it is used as a completely independent stage.

The development of the physical theatre of the Kabuki offers a startling contrast to that of the Western theatre since the Renaissance. In the Western theatre, generally, the movement has been distinguished by increasing with- drawal of the actor from the audience, both spatially and psychologically, and the creation of a line of division, phy- sically reinforced by the proscenium, between stage and auditorium. Behind this line, the actor came to move in an illusory world in which he related him- self to the mise en scene. In the Kabuki, on the contrary, the movement since the early seventeenth century has been to- ward and through the audience. The use of increasingly elaborate settings did not result in the establishment of an illusory world, for the settings constituted a generally flat, decorative back- ground against which the actor played. Despite the introduction of the proscenium arch and modern lighting instruments, the Kabuki remains essentially what it always was: a non-representational form of theatre.

Ernst, E. (1954). Notes on the Form of Kabuki, I. Educational Theatre Journal, 6(3), 201-209

A basic characteristic of the Japanese Kabuki theatre is its emphasis upon the pure theatricality of the performance and its consequent avoidance of illusion. Kabuki settings are elaborate, large, and colourful, but their purpose is that of stage decoration, not of disguising the stage so that it will pass for a “real” place. Scene changes taking place before the eyes of the audience.

The personal servant, as it were, of the actor onstage is the kurombo or the koken. The kurombo (“black fellow”) is dressed entirely in black (a fact which in Oriental artistic convention makes him invisible), and a black hood covers his face; while the koken wears the formal dress of the Tokugawa period (1603-1868), and his face is uncovered. The costuming used in a given piece de- pends upon its visual suitability to the stage picture.

Kabuki movement, though fluid and graceful, tends finally toward a posture; its most significant moments are thus not realized in movement but in the achievement of a static attitude. In this respect, the movement exhibits a characteristic pattern of the Kabuki performance at large, which is realized, not in a cumulative, symphonic form, but in a single line of progression which at certain intervals solidifies into a significant tableau. The most expressive moment of the Kabuki actor is in the mie (rhymes with we say), a static attitude preceded by increasingly rhythmic movement which reaches an equilibrium in this pose. The mie is, of course, not a realistic attitude; its essential quality is that of balanced, sculptural tension.

Ernst, E. (1954). Notes on the Form of Kabuki, II. Educational Theatre Journal, 6(4), 303-310

Documentaries

Kabuki (歌舞伎) is a classical Japanese dance-drama. Kabuki theatre is known for the stylization of its drama and for the elaborate make-up worn by some of its performers.

The individual kanji, from left to right, mean sing (歌), dance (舞), and skill (伎). Kabuki is therefore sometimes translated as “the art of singing and dancing”. These are, however, ateji characters which do not reflect actual etymology. The kanji of ‘skill’ generally refers to a performer in kabuki theatre. Since the word kabuki is believed to derive from the verb kabuku, meaning “to lean” or “to be out of the ordinary”, kabuki can be interpreted as “avant-garde” or “bizarre” theatre. The expression kabukimono (歌舞伎者) referred originally to those who were bizarrely dressed and swaggered on a street.

This 35-minute documentary film is about Ennosuke Ichikawa, aka Ennosuke III, the third in a line of great Kabuki actors in Japan.

 

THEATRE -Japan KABUKI from James Matheny on Vimeo.

Full Productions

A Kabuki production in Japanese can be watched here. You can find a summary here.

A kabuki production in English directed by Grant Shen at Asian Theatre Laboratory, 1998 can be watched here. His article to accompany this production can be found here.

 

World Theatre Traditions – Topeng Balinese Dance Drama

Balinese performances are difficult to categorize because of its dynamic and heterogeneous nature. The varying forms run the gamut from holy ritual to secular buffoonery, with no strict definitions delineating one from another. But there is an underlying unity. Running through them all is the implicit acknowledgement of a profound affinity between the spiritual and mundane worlds. Even the most outrageous popular melodramas contain elements of the divine temple dramas from which they were derived. And even the most sacred rituals possess elements of crowd-pleasing theatricality. This thread that links the ridiculous to the sublime is at the core of Balinese theatre.

The dance/drama which best reflects this special relationship be- tween Balinese clowns and gods is the masked spectacle called Topeng. Performed regularly as part of village temple festivals, Topeng is a vortex of intersecting artistic energies. Music, dance, mime, and song are used to provide a dramatic forum for the mingling of history, religion, and topical events. Topeng achieves this complex synthesis by blending solemn ritual and carnival merriment into accessible popular entertainment.

Jenkins, R. (1978). Topeng: Balinese Dance Drama. Performing Arts Journal, 3(2), p40.

Topeng dancers are expected to study voice, dance, acting, song, and mime. Because Topeng involves sensitive interplay between performers and musicians, most dancers learn how to play all the instruments in the gamelan orchestra which accompanies Topeng. These skills are usually handed down from generation to generation on a one-to-one basis. Older performers select pupils as young as six years old as apprentices.

Once a high level of technical proficiency has been achieved in these various art forms, the Topeng dancer turns his attention to his other responsibilities as a temple performer. He is expected to study ancient religious and historic texts inscribed on palm leaf manuscripts called “lontars.” Familiarity with these writings allows him to weave relevant quotes and moral teachings into his improvised dialogues. Combining his knowledge of religious and historical tradition with a consciously cultivated awareness of topical village problems, a good Topeng performer improvises dramatic situations that speak directly to the audience in terms of their historic and spiritual past.

Jenkins, R. (1978). Topeng: Balinese Dance Drama. Performing Arts Journal, 3(2), p47.

Filmed in 1969 for the BBC, Richard Attenborough narrates a mask maker introducing the different characters of Balinese Topeng.

The master of Topeng I Made Djimat presents more than 10 characters (start – 2:20)

A look behind the scenes at a Topeng performance.

David Barnett on Brecht in Practice

David Barnett is Professor of Theatre at the University of York. He works mostly on German theatre, with a particular interest in the Brechtian tradition of making theatre politically. He has written widely on postdramatic and experimental theatre, play texts and directing.

David has developed a wonderful free-to-access resource that connects Brecht’s theories for the theatre to real-world theatre practice. Brecht in Practice is aimed at people who are interested in the political possibilities of theatre-making, who may have read about Brecht and his ideas, but who might find the gap between theory and practice hard to bridge.

The site complements David Barnett’s book, Brecht in Practice, a volume in which many of the theoretical issues are discussed in greater detail.

David has kindly shared a taster of the vast content from Brecht in Practice. This simply scratches the surface of the site and we urge you to follow the links and take full advantage of this fantastic free resource.

Brecht in Practice is rooted in theory but each theoretical idea is connected to real examples in order to show the relationship between theory and practice.

Who was Bertolt Brecht? an overview of Brecht’s life and ideas

Brecht (1898 – 1956) experienced a turbulent world first-hand and sought to understand how such instability could occur and how his approaches to theatre might represent a dynamic, active world that was also capable of change.

The Meaning of ‘Brechtian’: a definition of what this term might mean for theatre practitioners

‘Brechtian’ can be found in all sorts of contexts and applied to all manner of theatre and performance. It is often used to describe certain devices used in performance, such as direct address to an audience, the use of placards or signs, or showing the mechanics of a production instead of hiding them behind illusionist aesthetics. In the light of this, one could describe all manner of TV adverts as ‘Brechtian’, but it is obvious that none of them are concerned with criticizing capitalism or its excesses – on the contrary, they are designed to increase consumption and profits.

I thus propose that ‘Brechtian’ implies the dialectical examination of dramatic material. That is, ‘Brechtian’ puts the emphasis on a method of dealing with dramatic material, not necessarily the means with which the material is performed, even though they are important. While ‘dialectics’ is a philosophical term and has its own vocabulary, the process of dialectical examination is based on the search for socially contextualized contradictions. The theatre company then looks for suitable ways to perform the contradictions in a theatre of showing.

In short, a focus on Brecht’s means rather than his aims can de-politicize the theatre, and make it purely the site of entertaining devices rather than one that engages with society and its mechanisms with a view to changing both.

The Aims of Brechtian Theatre: gives an overall introduction to what Brecht was trying to achieve in his theatre and how he set out his theoretical ideas.

The list of points below is not exhaustive, but does draw attention to some of the more important aspects of Brecht’s theatre.

To stage accurate representations of human beings

To reveal the social factors the influence human action, behaviour and thought

To show the (stage) world as changeable

And derived from these ideas, a Brechtian theatre seeks to:

  1. Criticize human behaviour, actor and thought as ‘natural’
  2. Articulate contradictions clearly

Brecht’s Aims for a Production:

Brecht’s Means:

The Brechtian Method: outlines how Brecht’s approach to making theatre can be considered a ‘method’ and how it might be applied.

It begins with the construction of the Fabel , which then leads to initial blockings in the form of the scenes’ Arrangements . The actors then develop a basic Gestus  for their figure, and inductive rehearsal  leads to a diverse range of Haltungen . The aim, as ever, is to produce lively, realistic theatre that allows the spectator to speculate on the ways society works by drawing attention to the contradictions that drive the action.

A Theatre of Showing: Brecht’s theatre is all about setting out relationships with clarity and not passing over contradictions

Theory and Practice: considers the relationship between the two and offers thoughts on how the two can be negotiated.

Marxism, Dialectics and Contradiction : a more detailed discussion of Brecht’s approach to reality with an emphasis on how the world works and how it can change.

Brecht’s Approach to Reality : this relationship lies at the heart of Brecht’s theatrical ambitions and differentiates his theatre from other forms of theatre-making

Brechtian Realism: contrasts the more conventional definition of ‘realism’ in the theatre with Brecht’s

Politics in a Brechtian Theatre : what are the political implications of Brecht’s theories?

Making Theatre Politically: what is the difference between ‘making political theatre’ or ‘making theatre politically’?

Modelbook

Brecht in Practice presents a virtual modelbook based on a production of Patrick Marber’s Closer. 

Click here to access the Virtual Modelbook of Patrick Marber’s Closer.

Patrick Marber’s Closer

Brecht in Practice takes an in depth look at a production of Patrick Marber’s Closer staged at the University of York with professional actors in October 2016. The site provides a detailed analysis of the production from the starting point of the theory introduced.

Free resources to download

You can download the following exercises:

  1. Social Salutations – a simple exercise with a couple of variations that establish Gestus and Haltung, and introduce Brecht’s theatre of showing .
  2. Posh Restaurant – a scenario that invites participants to think about class, not through character, but through a clear situation and a series of relationships. The scenario further develops Brecht’s emphasis on showing  material onstage and sensitizes participants the processes that lead to actions and reactions in public.

You can also download the following approaches to working with dramatic material:

  1. The Role of the Fabel – this plan introduces the practice of writing a Fabel  for a scene and staging material in its light. You will also need to download this extract  from Arthur Miller’s The Crucible and this sample Fabel .
  2. Inductive Rehearsal – this plan introduces the practice of inductive rehearsal , a method Brecht developed for actors working with issues of social status and the pressure of social situations.

Want more on Brecht? Read our interview with Professor Tom Kuhn here.

 

Essential Videos on The Living Theatre

Judith Malina introduces The Living Theatre:

65 years ago, Julian Beck and I found the Living Theatre, and it continues to do play after play. The Living Theatre is a company of actors who want to bring about the BEAUTIFUL NON-VIOLENT ANARCHIST REVOLUTION. We wanted to find a theatre that would grow with history and in history.

That is why we called it the LIVING THEATRE, because we wanted it to change with time. People say ‘Yeah—the world is in lousy shape, and there are wars and horrors going on all the time. But what am I gonna do? Who am I? What can I do?’

And to give people the sense that there is something they can do, that they are empowered.

That begins in the theatre.

The Living Theatre’s mission by Julien Beck

To call into question

who we are to each other in the social environment of the theatre,

to undo the knots that lead to misery,

to spread ourselves

across the public’s table

like platters at a banquet,

to set ourselves in motion

like a vortex that pulls the

spectator into action,

to fire the body’s secret engines,

to pass through the prism

and come out a rainbow,

to insist that what happens in the jails matters,

to cry “Not in my name!”

at the hour of execution,

to move from the theater to the street and from the street to the theater.

This is what The Living Theatre does today.

It is what it has always done.





The Week in Theatre Podcasts

Your week of podcast listening:

Monday

Stage Left with Jen Harvie – Jen meets Split Britches

Iconic lesbian feminist performance company Split Britches’ Peggy Shaw and Lois Weaver talk with Jen Harvie about the forty years they’ve worked with – and loved – each other. They discuss how they met, how they’ve sustained collaboration and communication, and how changes in cultural attitudes to sexuality and gender affect Retro(per)spective, the joyous cocktail of greatest-hits scenes from past work they are touring. They consider the importance of performing with love and care, and when to shout and when to whisper. splitbritches.wordpress.com/

Tuesday

Theatre Voice – Heather Neill interviews Thelma Holt

Still, at 85, a force in British theatre, Thelma Holt began producing international seasons in the 1980s.  Ebullient as ever,  this year she is again bringing Yukio Ninagawa’s “cherry-blossom”production of Macbeth to the Barbican, to celebrate its thirtieth anniversary. Here she tells Heather Neill about her career, as a RADA-trained actress, then as a producer at the Round House and afterwards for Peter Hall’s National Theatre and for her own company, showcasing such famous productions as the Georgian Richard III, Matthew Warchus’s Much Ado about Nothing, The Doll’s House with Janet McTeer and the Redgraves’ Three Sisters. Interview recorded on 5 September 2017 at the Noel Coward Theatre.

Wednesday

Stage Directions – Dan Rebellato with Kate Maltby and Paul Miller

In this episode Dan goes in search of right-wing theatre and tries to trace out a little history of how and why the theatre might have a liberal bias. He then talk about conservatism in the theatre with Kate Maltby. Finally, Dan interviews Paul Miller, artistic director of the Orange Tree, looking back at his time so far and previewing the new season.

Podcast outline

  • 00.00.00 Introduction
  • 00.01.15 Right-wing theatre: introduction
  • 00.18.45 Right-wing theatre: discussion with Kate Maltby
  • 00.49.44 Interview with Paul Miller
  • 01.24.09 End

Thursday

Thompson’s Live – Chris Goode with Imogen Knight

Chris talks to movement director Imogen Knight, who’s about to direct ‘Nuclear War’ by Simon Stephens at the Royal Court.

Friday

National Theatre Podcast – Epic Fail

We’ve all failed at something, but rarely on stage in front of hundreds of people. The National Theatre Podcast asks their favourite guests to share their hilarious stories of on-stage mishaps and malfunctions, and professional embarrassment in its most public form. All to answer the simple question – how do we deal with failure? And why are we are so obsessed with it?

Saturday

Off Book from the Young Vic – Roy Alexander Weisse

JMK 2016 Award winner and The Mountaintop director Roy Alexander Weise joined Off Book to talk about how he went from wanting to be a celebrity chef to becoming a celebrated director of Katori Hall’s Olivier award-winner. Roy also discusses how he cut his teeth at Oval House, Rose Bruford and the Royal Court as well as the timeliness of sharing The Mountaintop with audiences in 2016.

Sunday

Royal Court Playwright’s Podcast – Simon Stephens talks to Rachel De-lahay

Introduction by Simon Stephens:

“The career of Rachel De-lahay might be described as the platonic form of a young Royal Court playwright’s career in the 21st century. She joined the Court’s Unheard Voices Programme in 2010, an initiative led by the theatre’s long-term Artistic Associate; the massively under-rated and massively important Ola Animashawun, committed, like much of his work, to representing voices too rarely represented on the Court’s stage. Out of that group came her first play The Westbridge; an energised, explosive, exploration of the complexities and contradictions of racial identity in Britain’s urban spaces. It premiered not at the Court but in Peckham at the Bussey Building as part of the Court’s initiative to take work out of the confines of the rarefied spaces of Sloane Square. It was remounted in the Theatre Upstairs and won that years Writers’ Guild Award for Best Theatre Play and that year’s Alfred Fagon Award. Her second play Routes in 2013, a beautifully poised and charged study of the mess of identity in Britain’s immigrant community and the drive that brings people to this country, won her the 2013 Charles Wintour Award for Most Promising Playwright. In 2014 she returned to her home city of Birmingham with her play Circles, a tender exploration of love and self-hatred from the perspective of the city’s Number 11 bus – until recently the longest urban bus journey in Europe. She’s written for radio and television, has developed work for film and was one of the writers on the 2015 internet drama The Last Hours of Laura K.

She is a writer widely celebrated for her ear for urban idiom. But it is, I think, her inherent capacity to find humanity and vulnerability in those characters, often demonised by the urban experience, that her talent becomes extraordinary. That, and her structural boldness. The energy of her plays for me, lies as much in their structures as in the fizz and crackle of her idiom.”