12 May 2022, The Tablet

Ordinary people


Ordinary people

What’s wrong? Claire Rushbrook and Daniel Ryan in Middle at the National


National Theatre, London

Marys Seacole
Donmar Warehouse, London

Theatrical trilogies usually feature recurring characters (Tom Stoppard’s The Coast of Utopia, Alan Ayckbourn’s The Norman Conquests) but the dramatist David Eldridge has embarked on a three-play sequence linked by clock and content: each spending 100 real-time minutes with a couple at a different stage of the relationship spectrum.

Beginning (2017), which transferred from the National to the West End, featured a female hostess and the last remaining male guest at her birthday party in Crouch End, as they flirt in the kitchen, at around 4 a.m., with spending what’s left of the night together. Now, in Middle, at around the same time of day in a six-bedroom house in Essex, a husband comes down to find his wife of 16 years making a hot milk drink in the kitchen.

When Gary asks Maggie, “What’s wrong?”, he clearly hopes the answer will be “nothing” and, when it isn’t, guesses the menopause, which is also wrong: she’s thinking of moving out.


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