Simon Stephens emerged as a dramatist in the late 1990s. His play Bluebird was staged by Gordon Anderson at the most important venue for new writing in London, the Royal Court Theatre, on 1 December 1998. Over the years, his stature has grown and his plays have been regularly performed in the United Kingdom and further afield. He has been most successful in the German-speaking nations where his plays have been premiered and revived on multiple occasions. In the period from 2003 to 2015, for example, 20 plays were produced 96 times. He has also enjoyed productions in Spain, France, Hungary, Scandinavia, and a host of other European countries. In addition to a series of translations and adaptations, he mostly writes plays based in concrete situations with realistic characters, as in Motortown, or texts that externalise inner monologues that are more slippery in the way they treat time and place, such as Pornography. His language is not, however, a flatly naturalistic slice of life: the use of repeated motifs and more lyrical, reflective moments mark his writing as reaching beyond the everyday while keeping its feet firmly on the ground. Such a rough sketch could describe several contemporary British playwrights, yet Stephens has developed his reputation not only for the quality of his writing, but also for the modes of working he has sought to promote. His epiphany in the theatre appears to have come on the evening he spent watching the German premiere of his play Herons in 2003 (an encounter Benjamin Fowler elucidates later in this Special Issue). The production, which diverged from Stephens’s own imaginings of the play on stage, opened his eyes to a more collaborative and mutually informative relationship between playwright, director, and creative team. Consequently, he redefined his understanding of their interaction and ascribed the insight to the differences between the British and German theatre systems.
In the light of this, Stephens has become a prominent … (to read more)