Leeds Playhouse Artistic Director James Brining discusses directing Europe

Europe is coming to Leeds Playhouse very soon. David Greig’s 1994 production follows the story of two economic refugees, exploring the collision of locals and ‘foreigners’.

The production is directed by Leeds Playhouse Artistic Director James Brining. Here’s a treaty Q&A for you to find out his thoughts about the show:

What attracted you David Greig’s Europe?

It’s a play written nearly 25 years ago which feels more timely and articulate than ever. I love finding plays which though written in a different time speak to us powerfully in the here and now.

Europe is so much a part of our political and social discourse and yet all the issues feel confused, contradictory and difficult to contextualize. This play doesn’t directly deal with Brexit but it reminds us of the historical complexity of the continent we’re part of and asks profound questions about who we are, how identity is defined and developed and our relationships within the small and larger communities which make up Europe.

In what way do you think the play responds to the political circumstances of today?

Well, as I say, it doesn’t directly address it at all. But I do think it’s our job as artists to respond to the tumultuous political changes we’re living through. The problem is, things are moving so fast that by the time we’ve created something, it feels out of date. That’s why I’m drawn to a perspective which is over a longer time frame. A view of Europe from 25 years ago to help create perspective on our current situation. I think it’ll be another decade, if not more, until we can properly understand and represent what is going on now. Staging Europe is part of an attempt to deepen and enrich our perspective on current events.

The production describes itself as being set in an unnamed railway at an unnamed border, can you tell us more about the design for the piece in the Pop-Up theatre?

I like the fact that the play has an almost beckettian atmosphere.  The abstracted nature of the space helps the play resonate across more time and space than a more literal rendering would. So at times I’m reminded of Godot and the existential crisis that play explores. Amanda’s [Stoodley] design isn’t as pared back as that play but it is more of an environment than a reorientation if a railway station. We are responding to the found space nature of the workshop and the temporary feel of the space. Hopefully it’s a perfect marriage of environment and content.

How will the production resonate with Leeds audiences?

Leeds is an internationally focussed city but it has, over the years had to deal with the sense of being on the margins or overlooked. It’s also been a place where refugee and asylum seekers have been welcomed. More broadly, West Yorkshire comprises lots of places not unlike the town portrayed in Europe, places looking for a new sense of purpose and places which feel neglected or overlooked by central government. More positively, the relationships in the play are engaging and warm and the characters should really connect with our audiences. Europe is a surprisingly funny play and it’s a great and moving story which shows and celebrates the possibility of change as well as the challenges and obstacles for human connection.

Catch Europe at Leeds Playhouse’s Pop-Up theatre from 12th October – 3rd November.

Photography credited to The Other Richard

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