Warwick Arts Centre & China Plate present
Trying It On
Written and performed by David Edgar | Directed by Christopher Haydon
In the year of his 70th birthday, playwright David Edgar performs a solo show considering the legacy of the events of 1968 and their resonances in today’s political culture.
In 1968, playwright David Edgar was 20 years old. It was also the year of some of the most important and formative events in modern history, including the Paris student revolt, the assassination of Martin Luther King, Enoch Powell’s “rivers of blood” speech, and the ongoing war in Vietnam. Trying It On reflects on the legacy of this momentous year, drawing on first-person interviews with some of the leading political figures of the time, as well as contemporary activists.
Noted for his political dramas, which have been staged at the National Theatre and at the Royal Shakespeare Company, the events of 1968 helped define David Edgar’s politics and give focus to his writing. In Trying It On, the 70-year-old David is confronted by his 20-year-old self, asking whether they share the same beliefs, and if not, what has changed. Speaking about the project, David Edgar said “I was lucky enough to have been 20 in 1968, and it’s been exciting – but also painful – to look back on those times and the subsequent decades and ask questions of myself and my generation. Speaking to people who shared my biography, I’ve discovered things about my life and times I never knew. And it’s been great to work with a brilliantly creative team to make the show.”
The production marks David’s first professional stage performance. It will be directed by Christopher Haydon and produced by independent studio China Plate as part of their new partnership with Warwick Arts Centre, where the show will preview and premiere in June before touring the Midlands and London. Warwick Arts Centre’s Programme Director, Julia Carruthers, is looking forward to see the result of this collaboration. She says, “We are very happy to have China Plate as Associate Producers and it has been a pleasure to support them in this project. To have David Edgar make his professional debut here is quite an honour and I am extremely excited to see the show.”
This will also be Director Alan Rivett’s final commission before he retires after 17 years of leading Warwick Arts Centre. He says, “I have known David for many years, not only through his work as ‘one of the most prolific dramatists of the post-1960s generation in Great Britain’ or as President of the Writers Guild of Great Britain, but as an ever present character in a studio or main house theatre when there is a new work to be seen, especially across the West Midlands. I’d also call him a friend.”
“We’d just seen a new play in Warwick Arts Centre’s Studio by prolific writer and campaigner Sarah Woods, one of David’s former students when he was Director of the MA in Playwriting at Birmingham University. After the play, we caught up in the foyer, as follows:
Me: A quick drink before you go?
David: Yes dear boy – that would be lovely
Me: What’s next David? What are you up to?
David: An adaptation of Dicken’s A Christmas Carol for the RSC for next Christmas
Me: Great! (Recalling his Nicholas Nickleby – RSC – 1980 which I’d much admired) And then what?
David: Well I’ve got this germ of an idea about my birthday in 2018.
Me: What’s it about exactly?
David: Well…I’ll be 70 in 2018…so 20 in 1968 – and I want to see if it’s possible to interrogate my 20 year old self back in 1968 as a proto Marxist and see if anything’s changed for me…have I sold out? AND I want to perform it myself! It’s all the rage! David Hare has done it…why not me!? Would you be interested?
Trying It On opens at Warwick Arts Centre on Thu 7 Jun, running until Sat 9 Jun, before touring to the Birmingham Rep, Midlands Arts Centre, The Royal Shakespeare Company and more. Book tickets here.
“There is no more incisive commentator on politics currently working in British theatre” Benedict Nightingale, The Times