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David Edgar celebrates 70th birthday with debut professional stage performance

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

DAVID Edgar is celebrating his 70th birthday with his debut professional stage performance in Trying It On, which tours Midlands venues in Spring before Autumn dates at the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Royal Court Theatre (October 24 to October 27, 2018)

Trying It On, a new play not only performed but also written by David Edgar, reflects on the legacy of the worldwide student revolt of 1968 (when Edgar was 20 and at university), 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 – including the Vietnam War, Enoch Powell’s infamous “rivers of blood” speech and the assassination of Martin Luther King – helped define David Edgar’s politics and give focus to his writing.

In Trying It On, the 70-year-old Edgar is confronted by his 20-year-old self, asking whether they share the same beliefs, and if not, what has changed.

The text has been developed through interviews conducted by the playwright with activists past and present.

The production, directed by Christopher Haydon and produced by independent studio China Plate, will be designed by Frankie Bradshaw, with lighting and video design by William Reynolds and sound design by Ella Wahlström.

Speaking about the project, David Edgar said: “The last time I performed on a stage was as Captain Bligh in a student production of Mutiny on the Bounty, in the early 1970s. Having spent most of the last 50 years writing things for other people to say, I thought it was time to have a conversation with myself. Performing – and seeing myself on film – has been a revelation. The autobiographical solo show has become an important theatre art-form of itself, and it’s great to be working with a brilliantly creative team to make it.”

Edgar’s 70th birthday year sees a number of revivals of his work. Alongside his adaptations of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (currently touring) and A Christmas Carol (returning to the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in December), another major David Edgar play is being revived in the autumn.

The Midlands-based playwright will debut Trying It On at Warwick Arts Centre (June 7-9) before moving to Birmingham Repertory Theatre (June 12-13), followed by Midlands Arts Centre (October 12), The Other Place at the Royal Shakespeare Company (October 18-20) and London’s home of new writing, the Royal Court Theatre (October 24-27).