Annie Baker first came to the NT in 2016 with her play The Flick. The slow-burn drama about the lives of the people working in a cinema received the Pulitzer Prize and critical acclaim, with the Guardian calling it ‘Astonishing. Hypnotic. Like no other play in London’.
Baker is back this year with John which had its premiere in 2015 at the Signature Theatre in New York. The play is about a young couple who book into a bed & breakfast to make or break their faltering relationship. But the overly pleasant host, cluttered knick-knacks and a mysterious elderly neighbour add to the already claustrophobic atmosphere.
[Anneika Rose and Marylouise Burke in rehearsals for John at the NT. Photo by Stephen Cummiskey]
John was a hit in New York, with The New York Times describing it as a ‘haunting and haunted meditation on topics she [Annie Baker] has made so singularly her own: the omnipresence of loneliness in human life, and the troubled search for love and lasting connection’.
[Anneika Rose and Tom Mothersdale in rehearsals for John at the NT. Photo by Stephen Cummiskey]
If you’ve seen Baker’s previous work, then you’ll be familiar with the long-drawn-out silences and awkward conversations that can trail off. It’s a style of hyper realism not often seen on stage – and it’s not something that appeals to everyone. Baker has said that she is constantly distressed by the amount of small talk that we have to go through every day. Her plays explore the agonies of small talk and of people’s failure to articulate something. With John Baker, turns her attention to ‘feelings of the uncanny and of dread’.
In 2017 Baker was named a MacArthur Fellow (also known as a ‘Genius Grant’) awarded for her ability to ‘mine the minutiae of how we speak, act, and relate to one another and the absurdity and tragedy that result from the limitations of language’.
Annie Baker’s CV of plays:
Body Awareness, world premiere at Atlantic Theater Company, June 2008
‘Baker’s dialogue is tart and personable, with just enough unexpected twists in the characterizations to keep you leaning forward. Baker is fast becoming one of the country’s more popular playwrights.’ Washington Post
Circle Mirror Transformation, world premiere at Playwrights Horizons, October 2009
Was a finalist for the 2010 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize and shared the 2010 Obie Award for Best New American Play.
‘Quirky, entertaining and quietly poignant.’ Daily Telegraph
‘Absorbing, unblinking and sharply funny.’ The New York Times
The Aliens, world premiere at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater (Off-Broadway), April 2010
Uncle Vanya (adaptation), June 2012 at Soho Repertory Theatre
‘Funky, fresh new production’ The New York Times
The Flick, world premiere at Playwrights Horizons, March 2013
Received the Obie Award for Playwriting in 2013. The Flick won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
On the 2016 production at the National Theatre:
‘Boldly original, hilarious, heartbreaking and hugely rewarding.’ Mail on Sunday
‘A heartsick, lovesick treasure.’ The Sunday Times
John, world premiere at Signature Theatre Company, July 2015
John was nominated for both the 2016 Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Play and 2016 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Play.
‘So good on so many levels.’ The New Yorker
The Antipodes, world premiere at Signature Theatre Company, April 2017
‘Playfulling compelling.’ The Stage
‘Sharp and often hilarious.’ New York Magazine
John plays in the Dorfman Theatre from 17 January to 3 March. Click here for more information and tickets.