Director David Grindley: Why I’m back in Edinburgh after 14 years

David Grindley’s myriad West End credits include Our Boys, Abigail’s Party, Six Degrees of Separations, Some Girl(s), What the Butler Saw and Journey’s End, which transferred to Broadway and won the Tony Award for Best Revival. After a 14-year absence, he returns to Edinburgh with the world premiere of Outings, at the Gilded Balloon.


David Grindley at Gilded Balloon

David Grindley at Gilded Balloon

I broke through in Edinburgh. I first came here as a student when I was 22 in 1992. It was a terrible production of Max Frisch’s Andorra, which failed completely. But it taught me what Edinburgh was all about.


The following year I came up with a cross-cast promenade version of Othello that we stripped down to 90 minutes. It was a real Edinburgh hit. The man who ran the Pleasance at the time, Christopher Richardson, saw it and took me on. I started as a scout for the Pleasance and ended up programming for them and directing Babel there in 1994.


I didn’t play Edinburgh again until 2000, when I directed Johnny Vegas in Joe Orton’s The Erpingham Camp at the Assembly Rooms. That was my last show until this one.


So Outings is my fifth Edinburgh show … in a 20-year period.


It was producer James Seabright who lured me back. I’d worked with James two years ago on Our Boys at the Duchess Theatre in the West End, and I enjoyed that experience so was keen to work with him again.


I felt a debt of gratitude to James. Our Boys was the first-ever show I worked on in the business. Back in 1993, I was as an intern ASM on a production at the Cockpit Theatre in London, and that was a real formative experience for me. So when James asked me to do the play again, I bit off his hand. I really took my hat off to him. I knew producing that play [about wounded soldiers in an army hospital] in the West End was a tall order. I admired him for taking on that challenge and doing it so well.


Luckily, the timing of mounting Outings here in Edinburgh fit with my availability. And the project, the stories behind it, really interested me. I am heterosexual with three kids, but I know many gay people and I’d like to think that I have a certain knowledge of that community. What this show has taught me is how little I know.


When I was at the Pleasance in 1994, we worked for 23 days, we had six venues, each doing eight shows a day. As far as I can tell, the Pleasance alone now has 16 venues, is it? The place has just exploded!


What makes Edinburgh special is this explosion of cultural activity. It’s a celebration of the human imagination and what is possible. And because it’s a festival, there’s a roughness to it, an energy, an unpredictability. As a theatre director, that slightly alarms me because I like to control things, but that’s the joy of the thing: the potential of anything happening at any time.


And equally, the potential of careers being launched. I started here 20 years ago. This summer, there will be someone else who’s 21, walking around these streets doing shows, who will, 20 years from now, be me. That’s terrific to think about. This is where it all starts.

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