Posted on May 3rd, 2023
It’s with great sadness that we acknowledge the death of HighTide’s dear friend, Adam Brace. Adam was a brilliant playwright, director, dramaturg and much-loved theatre collaborator. For HighTide, he wrote the era-defining Stovepipe and the quiet masterpiece, Midnight Your Time. He helped HighTide to find its place as a home for playwrights; we will always be grateful for his words.
I had the very real pleasure of working with him in my previous jobs at the Gate Theatre and the Donmar Warehouse and every conversation was a joy. I asked Steven and Sam, past HighTide Artistic Directors, to reflect on his brilliance. Their touching thoughts are below.
Everyone at HighTide sends their deepest condolences to Adam’s family and friends.
Artistic Director, HighTide
When I say I owe my career to Adam, it’s an understatement. He trusted his writing to Sam and me at HighTide, it attracted a first-class production team, and took us from Halesworth in Suffolk to the National Theatre and Bush Theatre’s programmes, via a myriad of exciting opportunities. They were heady days, built on his writing.
We worked together again on Midnight Your Time. Like most second plays, critics were disappointed. Adam was sanguine. He adored Diana Quick who performed it. And his relationship with its director, Mike Longhurst, was brotherly. When Mike had the opportunity to revive it at the Donmar during the pandemic it was rightly reappraised. Same text, same actor and director. Context is everything.
I’ve since known many theatre and comedy artists who loved Adam’s producing / directing / dramaturgy / zen. These last few years I’ve been so proud of his work, bossing it in so many crafts and spaces. He was just getting going. I’m profoundly sad by his loss. But will be forever grateful for the opportunities and friendship he gave to me.
Past Artistic Director of HighTide
The first I ever heard the name Adam Brace was when our mutual pal Seb Armesto sent me his play Stovepipe, apparently without his knowledge or blessing. I can’t remember why subterfuge was needed but I suspect it was because Adam had decided his play wasn’t up to much. Or that he wasn’t the right person to have written it. The fact that this same play went on to be picked up and transferred to London by the National Theatre and Bush Theatre after we’d premiered it at the second HighTide Festival, and later named one of the Sunday Times’ top 20 plays of the decade, is typical of Adam’s relationship and attitude to his own talent.
Right from the start, he was a man who cared deeply about what he did, about what we were trying to do more widely. A not insignificant amount of time and wrangling was spent on trying to convince Faber, the publisher he had set his heart on, to publish correctly the painstakingly bespoke punctuation he designed to symbolise different kinds of silence. A full square was for a full silence, in other words, a silence in which words are actively not said. An empty square for a silence in which there is nothing to be said. I find myself wondering now, if he were writing this moment, if he might add a third kind of square for a silence where there is so much to be said, but no words can do it justice.
Stovepipe ends with a memorial service that the audience attend and the final moments of the play are a rendition of the hymn Bread of Heaven. Adam worried no-one would join in, never believing the power of his own words to capture and transport the audience past the dusty, dank confines of an underground carpark in Shepherds Bush to a place where they might for a few moments abandon self-consciousness and lift their voices together in song. I always believed, as did our director Mike Longhurst, who even bet him 50p they would sing. And of course, every night, not only did they sing, but there was also always a voice that bellowed tunelessly but with gusto above all the rest, the voice of a man whose words and spirit and kindness and heart and generosity will never be silenced which is just as well because God knows we don’t need any more symbolic punctuation.
And as I re-read that final scene, I find myself wondering if Adam has had the last laugh – writing his own memorial 15 years before he died. Because let’s agree on one thing. Adam’s words are always better so let’s finish with his.
‘[He] was my mate that I’ll never forget… But what [he] did won’t just last for a few years. Or a decade. It’ll last longer ‘an ‘at… Because that’s history that he made. And you all knew him. ‘N’ you can be proud.’
Founder and past Artistic Director of HighTide