Artist in Focus: Alexander Zeldin

In 2024, the FIND is once again dedicating a focus to a theatre creative. This year, we are presenting three productions and a film by the writer and director Alexander Zeldin (born 1985 in the UK) who was already a guest at the festival in 2022 with his production of »LOVE« and who directed his play »Beyond Caring« with the Schaubühne ensemble in the same year.

Alexander Zeldin began writing and directing plays as a teenager, at a time when the real world seemed »a bit fake« to him. On the stage, he discovered the sincerity he often found lacking in real life. At the beginning of his career, he worked with non-professionals actors and held workshops in theatres but also in social institutions and community centres in large cities and small towns across Britain, South Korea, Russia, Georgia and Italy. During this time, he was also assistant director to Peter Brook and Marie-Hélène Estienne in Paris. He made his international breakthrough in the theatre world with his trilogy »The Inequalities«. Deploying hyper-realistic stage designs, all three productions focus on people who are among the disadvantaged in a British social security system that has been devastated by austerity politics.

In the first play, »Beyond Caring«, cleaners on permanent contracts and agency workers meet in the break room of a meat factory. Zeldin wrote the piece in 2014 and re-staged it in 2022 with the Schaubühne ensemble, adapting it to the situation in Germany. In 2015, Zeldin received the Quercus Trust Award and was appointed associate director at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre. The second part of his trilogy, »LOVE«, premiered in 2016 at the National Theatre in London. The production went on to tour across Europe as well as receiving an American premiere in New York in 2023 and was presented at the FIND 2022. This play is set during at Christmas in an emergency shelter for people who have recently become homeless. During this year’s festival, we will be showing the film adaptation of the play which Zeldin made for the BBC, Cuba Pictures and the National Theatre in 2018. In 2017, Alexander Zeldin became artist-in-residence at the National Theatre and later associate director. »Faith, Hope and Charity«, the final part of his trilogy, celebrated its acclaimed premiere in 2019, once again at London’s National Theatre. The play is set in a community centre run by Hazel, a resolute woman in her 60s. Although rain is coming in through the leaking roof, she cooks for anyone who needs a warm meal or just a place to escape their loneliness. Week in, week out, a community choir rehearses at the centre. It is led by Mason, an optimistic ex- prisoner who plays the keyboard. The production tells the choir members’ stories with warmth and humour.

Zeldin’s most recent work, »The Confessions«, is opening this year’s festival. The text and production are based on conversations Zeldin had with his mother and her peers. Before he began writing, he conducted extensive interviews with her. The play’s main character, Alice, is born in Australia in 1943 and is the first in her family to go to university. In the 1970s, she moves to London. The scenes from eight decades of her life examine Alice’s relationships and depict how she seeks her true self as a woman against the consensus of the respective times. The result is an intimate portrait of the life of one woman through the second half of the 20th Century.

At the FIND audiences will be able to see the evolution of the artists’ work over a period spanning seven years of his career. From the trilogy »The Inequalities« towards a more personal and yet epic form of story-telling he keeps sharing the concern with the humanity of lives often not given the foreground.