Caro Meets Theatre Interview

Jamie Eastlake: Christmas

By | Published on Thursday 8 December 2016


The themes of ‘Christmas’, by acclaimed and prolific playwright Simon Stephens, are not jolly, but they are definitely pertinent, especially in the current political climate; which is why I was pleased to see that a production of the play is on at Theatre N16 this December.
To find out more about the show, and the motivations for staging it, I put a few quick questions to producer and N16 AD Jamie Eastlake.

CM: For those not familiar with the play, can you tell us what it’s about? What’s the story?
JE: It’s a few white working class guys in a bar, all with their own unique story to tell. It’s kind of bleak, but full of heart. I think that’s what Christmas is about for a lot of us: a chance to get together with people we hold dear, no matter how bleak things seem.

CM: Who are the central characters?
JE: A London Irish landlord, a wiry twenty-something East End lad, an elderly Italian hairdresser, a Manc ex musician and a host of some even more bizarre blokes.

CM: What themes would you say the show explores?
JE: Dealing with grief is very much a central focus of the piece. But also this sense of abandonment the white working class seem to be represented by. We’re being constantly told that there’s no place in society for some of these men, so where do they go? I think that’s fascinating.

CM: It’s not a cheery play, in terms of its subject matter, but is there an element of humour?
JE: Absolutely. It’s a bunch of blokes getting pissed. There are some terrible gags and some really odd moments.

CM: What made you want to stage this particular play at this particular time?
JE: Going back for the white working class. A lot of people keep talking about how us London artists are in this bubble and we don’t get to see opinions from others not in our circle.

I’m very lucky to come from a place where people have totally different opinions to myself, and to still have those people feeding my social media. I think this broadens my whole idea of current situations and helps me gain a better understanding of people’s mindsets.

Producing Christmas at this time was to show these people as actual humans beings. People are being manipulated by the far right and the Daily Mail and Mr Farage, so we felt it was important to tell the stories of the actual people and not just political opinions.

CM: Most Londoners will have come across his work before, but for anyone that hasn’t, can you tell us a bit about the playwright Simon Stephens?
JE: Simon Stephens is absolutely the playwright of our generation. ‘Port’, ‘Punk Rock’, ‘Pornography’, his beautiful adaptation of Mark Haddon’s ‘Curious’. He’s done it all. He’s a northern voice telling real people’s stories and I think that’s what makes his work so likeable and viewable (obviously because we Northeners are more likeable – tee hee).

CM: Who is involved with this production? Can you tell us about the cast and creative team?
JE: N16 and I are producing it and one of our associates Sarah Chapleo is fronting it as director. She’s worked with us lots recently and I think she is one of the brightest young directors around. The cast are probably one of the most talented I’ve seen on an off-West End show, we’re delighted to have Jack Bence (‘Bad Education’, ‘Sherlock’) on board as one of the leads. He’s mad and brilliant and like all the guys, utterly compelling to watch.

CM: What are your own plans for Christmas?
JE: I’m going to go to Newcastle and try and drink enough to forget what a terrible year this has been.

‘Christmas’ is on at Theatre N16 in Balham from 11-22 Dec. See the venue website here for more info and to book.