David Eldridge

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Plays by David Eldridge

Festen

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Festen is the devastating story of a familial dinner party where poisonous dysfunction slowly presses to the surface, a stunning play which is by turns blackly comic and terribly powerful.

In a large house in the Danish countryside, a well-off family gather to celebrate the sixtieth birthday of Helge, the patriarch of a chain of restaurants. Of his four children, only three – Christian, Michael and Helene – return to the home where they grew up, as Christian’s twin sister has recently committed suicide. Her absence leaves a jagged hole in the festivities which only grows wider as the parade of salutatory speeches and festivities is hijacked by Christian, who makes a terrible revelation. But rather than breaking open the civilised veneer of the evening, Christian’s accusation only warps and disfigures it: the extraordinary tension of the dinner table perversely punctuated by songs and conga lines is torturously enthralling.

Festen is adapted from Thomas Vinterborg’s screenplay of the Dogme 95 film of the same name. It was first produced at the Almeida Theatre in 2004.

In Basildon

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Len’s on his deathbed and the family have gathered to say their final farewells. His sisters still aren’t speaking after nearly twenty years; his nephew’s trying for a baby and a bigger house; while his best mate, Ken, remembers ‘Bas-vegas’ when it was a village. As the spread is laid out and the ham sandwiches sit next to the wreaths, it’s hard to see who’s hungry and who’s just greedy.

An epic family drama exploring inheritance and the myth of place, In Basildon was first presented at the Royal Court Theatre, London, on 16 February 2012.

Incomplete and Random Acts of Kindness

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Incomplete and Random Acts of Kindness is an intricate and complex story of a young man trying to deal with the death of his mother, shown in short and splintered scenes.

After his mother’s death, Joey’s life seems to be fragmenting, and slipping away from him. He breaks up with his fiancée, alienates his best friend and is impossibly furious with his father for moving on to another woman so soon. He tries to anchor himself by volunteering to help children to read, but his interactions with the musically-gifted young boy Trevor are more like tentative and basic attempts at conversation than lessons. The knots of connection and kindness within the fluid, sparse movement of the play are profound and deeply moving, offering moments of courage and hope within the discussion of cruelty and disconnection.

Incomplete and Random Acts of Kindness premiered at the Royal Court Theatre, London, in 2005.

The Knot of the Heart

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Written with Eldridge's trademark lyricism of everyday family life and interaction, The Knot of the Heart is a play where emotions are high and relationships are sensitively written. Beautiful and privileged, Lucy is enjoying a burgeoning career in television. But her social drug habit has become a serious addiction, casting a dark shadow over her future happiness. As her charmed life begins to slip away, Lucy comes to realise that the devoted support of her family does not come without a price.

The Knot of the Heart is atmospheric and poetic without undermining the characters' realism. The play was first performed in 2011 at the Almeida Theatre, London.

M.A.D.

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

M.A.D. is a poignant and compelling family drama following the lives of a struggling market-stall trader, his frustrated wife and their young boy John, as their whole world appears to be coming to an end. At the height of the cold war M.A.D. stood for Mutually Assured Destruction. For eleven-year-old John in 1984 this is disturbingly close to Mum and Dad.

The play tenderly explores the gap between the lifestyles and aspirations of parents and son. A row erupts because John’s mother wants him to read David Copperfield for the entrance exam to a public school, so he doesn’t have to work on a stall like his father. John is more worried about the end of the world, only to have his own, personal world collapse in front of his eyes. Surrounded by cold war paranoia, an emotional fall-out haunts this ordinary family, threatening to tear apart the love that once drew them together.

M.A.D. premiered in 2004 at The Bush Theatre, London.

Market Boy

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Market Boy is a gloriously raucous rite-of-passage drama set in the Thatcherite heartland of Romford Market in the eighties.

There's an art to selling stilettos: learn a good wind-up, the pull of cash, learn drugs, learn sex and run wild with the market monkeys. Persuaded by his mother into getting a job on a shoe-stall, one boy finds he has everything to learn about staying sharp in the ruthless world of Essex traders. The play is a raucous ballet of jeering, booming, and a working-class capitalism that won’t last forever. Market Boy is a spectacular, savage yarn which brings a market jungle to the stage; a tale about the time Mrs Thatcher said we should embrace the marketplace; a story about losing your innocence and learning to sell.

Market Boy premiered in 2006 at the National Theatre, London.

Serving it Up

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Set among scrub parklands, crumbling pubs and tower blocks, Serving It Up is a portrayal of racism, anger and easy violence in London’s East End.

The play opens on Sonny and Nick sitting on a park bench talking about girls and drugs: two young men with nothing else to do. Sonny can’t control his aggression, whether he’s talking to his family, an old friend, or the sharp-tongued girl he fancies. So it’s probably for the best that he doesn’t know Nick is sleeping with his mother Val, a lonely wife saddened that her husband and son don’t care enough to eat the cakes she bakes for them.

Serving It Up is an angry and perceptive piece about destructive prejudice and sadness. It was Eldridge’s first play, and was first performed at the Bush Theatre, London, in 1996.

The Stock Da'wa

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

The Stock Da’wa is a taut and blackly comic three-person play about truth, fundamentalism and mothers.

Paul, Joan and Mr Wilson are standing in the kitchen. Paul has just returned with a bag and a bloodied nose to his hometown of Stock after an absence of seventeen years. As a boy he was practically adopted by Joan after becoming friends with her son Oliver. She lives with Mr Wilson, a gay retired English teacher who taught the boys when they were young. Paul is now married, and converted to Islam. As the secrets of the past are exhumed, the reunion atmosphere is strained enough without there being something distinctly odd about the bag Paul is carrying.

The Stock Da’wa was first performed at the Hampstead Theatre, London, in 2011.

Summer Begins

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Summer Begins follows four young people in and out of love, adrift in suburbia. Dave has asked Gina to marry him over the poppadums in their local Indian restaurant. Unfortunately, Dave isn’t really her dream come true – not much else is either. She works at a supermarket checkout, and doesn’t have any other options. Sherry’s doing better, with a graduate job, but sees her life shrinking to nothing more than work day after day. She’s started seeing Lee, who ought to be all set up since his dad won the lottery, but he’s lost and unmotivated, and lonely.

Eldridge’s skilful command of dialogue adds touches of poignancy to the domestic squabbling, showing with sympathetic humour and quiet melancholy how a changing country can leave young people without direction, struggling to take responsibility.

Summer Begins was first performed in 1997 at the Royal National Theatre Studio, London.

A Thousand Stars Explode in the Sky

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

On a farm in the north-east of England, four generations gather in an epic play about hope, love, fear and the end of the world.

A Thousand Stars Explode in the Sky is a refreshingly subtle and compassionate vision of a world on the edge of apocalypse. The focus is on a single family, their relationships and their regrets, soon to become permanent. Amongst the knotty, realistic dynamics, and the scars of family history, serious themes are elucidated and alleviated with humour and quirky, surreal touches.

The play opened at the Lyric Hammersmith in 2010, and represents a unique collaboration between three of the UK's pre-eminent stage writers. The ambition of the partnership is matched by the ambition of the play's sweeping scope. As the three voices collide, they also ring out individually without sacrificing the play's coherence. A Thousand Stars Explode in the Sky represents a rare, fascinating study in stage collaboration.

Picture of David Eldridge

David Eldridge was born in Romford, Greater London. His full-length plays include Serving it Up (Bush Theatre, 1996); A Week with Tony (Finborough Theatre, 1996); Summer Begins (NT Studio and Donmar Warehouse, 1997); Falling (Hampstead Theatre, 1999); Under the Blue Sky (Royal Court Theatre, 2000, awarded Best New Play in the West End in 2001); Festen (Almeida and Lyric Theatre, 2004); M.A.D. (Bush Theatre, 2004); Incomplete and Random Acts of Kindness (Royal Court Theatre, 2005); a new version of Ibsen's The Wild Duck (Donmar Warehouse, 2005); Market Boy (National Theatre, 2006); a new version of Ibsen's John Gabriel Borkman (Donmar Warehouse, 2007); Under the Blue Sky (Duke of York's Theatre, 2008); an adaptation of Jean-Marie Besset's Babylone (Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, 2009); A Thousand Stars Explode in the Sky, co-written with Robert Holman and Simon Stephens (Lyric Hammersmith, 2010); a new version of Ibsen's The Lady from the Sea (Royal Exchange Theatre, 2010); and In Basildon (Royal Court, 2012).