'A Generational Divide Has Emerged in Politics Again' Birmingham Playwright David Edgar's Seminal Play Maydays, about the Changing Face of Socialism from 1945 to the Early 1980s and the Rise of Thatcherism, Is Being Revived by the Royal Shakespeare Company. Now 70, David Tells Wow Brum Why the Play Is Still Relevant

Coventry Evening Telegraph (England), September 21, 2018 | Go to article overview

'A Generational Divide Has Emerged in Politics Again' Birmingham Playwright David Edgar's Seminal Play Maydays, about the Changing Face of Socialism from 1945 to the Early 1980s and the Rise of Thatcherism, Is Being Revived by the Royal Shakespeare Company. Now 70, David Tells Wow Brum Why the Play Is Still Relevant


You come from a family with strong links to theatre and broadcasting, and I believe your parents met at Birmingham Rep. Can you tell me more about your background? My parents met on the stage door steps of the Birmingham Repertory Theatre - so, literally, I owe the theatre everything. Dad was an actor/ stage manager, greeting Mum (none too politely) as she joined the theatre as a student actor. During World War Two, Dad served in the Navy and Mum was a BBC newsreader. They were married in 1943, and, after the war, Dad followed my grandfather into BBC Midlands as an outside broadcast producer. He did pretty much everything, from sport to circuses to Come Dancing, but the programmes he produced for the longest were Songs of Praise and Gardener's World, both of which survived him. I first went to the Birmingham Rep at the age of nearly four, and was scared witless. A year later, I'd understood the principle of the thing, and determined to go into the theatre.

What first inspired you to engage with world politics? Where did your interest begin? The first political cause I took up was nuclear disarmament. I saw the crisis over Soviet nuclear weapons in Cuba as a conspiracy by the world superpowers to stop me reaching my 15th birthday! Then, I was at university during the world-wide student uprising of the late 1960s against the Vietnam war, and was inspired by that.

Maydays was premiered by the RSC in 1983. What originally inspired you to write the play? I realised that politics was changing in the late Seventies, and that a new, muscular Conservatism was emerging on both sides of the Atlantic. I was particularly struck by the fact that both Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan were heavily influenced by ideological gurus who had been on the far-left in their youth. So I started thinking about how my generation might move to the right in middle age. As a kind of thought-experiment, I tried to work out how that might happen to me, partly to stop that happening. Which it hasn't.

How did this 2018 revival come about? Have you made any changes to the play for this production? Although Maydays covers nearly 40 years of post war history, the events of 1968 are crucial to the main character's story. As the 50th anniversary of 1968 was coming up, I asked the RSC to consider reviving the play. They agreed to present it in their studio theatre The Other Place, in which several of my early plays were presented by the company. Although the story is the same, I have done a lot of rewriting, to turn a play set in the present into a history play. I've also enjoyed the opportunity to write a coda, bringing the characters' stories up to date.

Thirty years on, in what ways do you think the play is still relevant today? Many of the big issues of our time - notably discrimination on the grounds of gender and ethnicity - became prominent political questions in the period of the play. #MeToo and Black Lives Matter would not exist in their present form without the Women's Liberation Movement and the Black Power campaigns of 50 years ago. …

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'A Generational Divide Has Emerged in Politics Again' Birmingham Playwright David Edgar's Seminal Play Maydays, about the Changing Face of Socialism from 1945 to the Early 1980s and the Rise of Thatcherism, Is Being Revived by the Royal Shakespeare Company. Now 70, David Tells Wow Brum Why the Play Is Still Relevant
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