The Walpole Daily Practice | Watching new drama with the Royal Court Theatre

Helen Brocklebank writes: The Royal Court is known for its commissioning of bold, thought-provoking new writing, and its support of emerging dramatists. John Osbourne’s Look Back in Anger, which is seen as the play that marks the beginning of modern British drama, opened at the Royal Court in 1956.

Not long after I graduated and came to London, I went to see the enormously controversial Blasted, by Sarah Kane, which shocked many reviewers at its 1995 debut with its unflinching portrayal of the brutalising effect of war, but made me fall in love with a theatre that had the courage to stage hard-hitting and uncompromising new work, which required the audience to accept their evening in the theatre might be challenging, but would also stimulate. Over the years, the productions I’ve seen at the Royal Court have often been entertaining, and not always comfortable to watch, but have always reinforced why British theatre is considered to be the best in the world. 

Like all London theatres, The Royal Court is currently closed, but if, like me, you long to feel your synapses snapping, and really can’t watch another box set of anything, I urge you to take a look at Cyprus Avenue, a black comedy starring Stephen Rea and directed by Royal Court Artistic Director, Vicky Featherstone which tells the story of a man struggling with the past and terrified of the future. Eric Miller (Rea) is a Belfast Loyalist. He is experiencing a psychotic episode and mistakes his five-week old granddaughter for Gerry Adams. Generations of sectarian trauma convince him that his cultural heritage is under siege. He must act.

I can also recommend the Royal Court’s podcast series of conversations with leading playwrights – each episode offers a fascinating insight into the creative process of people breaking new boundaries and asking important questions. 

And if you’re using the lockdown to unlock your own creativity: try these writing exercises to help make your creative muscles lithe and supple.

It goes without saying that all theatres are struggling: without box office revenues, the Royal Court needs your help so it can continue to work with writers during these challenging times, and so the Royal Court can continue to create ‘restless, alert, provocative theatre about now’. Each new play I’ve seen at the Royal Court has had something extraordinary to say about the times we live in: do help them commission the writing that will reflect the challenges of this strangest of times.