How to Hold Your Breath at the Royal Court
16 March 2015
In our third and final special feature on new works at the Royal Court Theatre, London, BBC Arts takes an in-depth look at How to Hold Your Breath - the theatre’s second highest-grossing show ever. Starting with a seemingly innocent one-night stand, this darkly witty play from Zinnie Harris explores our recent European history through a magically ambiguous landscape. Harris, director Vicky Featherstone and lead actor Maxine Peake discuss the production and, below, we present in-depth deconstructions of key scenes from the play.
The story begins with a sexual encounter between customer relations executive Dana (Maxine Peake) and Jarron (Michael Shaeffer), who claims to be a demon.
Dana’s world gradually breaks down as she travels to Berlin for a job interview and then Alexandria, accompanied by her pregnant sister Jasmine (Christine Bottomley) – while Europe goes into financial collapse.
Along the way Dana is guided by a mysterious character known as the Librarian (Peter Forbes), who supplies her with a series of ‘how to’ books.
Here director Vicky Featherstone and writer Zinnie Harris have broken down three key scenes from the play with lead actors Peake and Shaeffer, offering a detailed analysis. You can also watch the complete finished scenes.
About the production
How to Hold Your Breath is at the Jerwood Theatre Downstairs at the Royal Court until 21 March 2015.
Jasmine: CHRISTINE BOTTOMLEY
Interviewer/Punter: NEIL D’SOUZA
Librarian: PETER FORBES
Interviewer/Marta/Telephone Operator: SIOBHÁN MCSWEENEY
Dana: MAXINE PEAKE
Interviewer/Doctor/Clara: DANUSIA SAMAL
Jarron: MICHAEL SHAEFFER
Writer: ZINNIE HARRIS
Director: VICKY FEATHERSTONE
Designer: CHLOE LAMFORD
Lighting Designer: PAULE CONSTABLE
Music: STUART EARL
Sound Designer: GARETH FRY
Movement Director: ANN YEE