Sam Holcroft’s new play Rules for Living at the National Theatre directed by Marianne Elliott.

Marianne Elliott returns to the National Theatre following War Horse and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time to direct Sam Holcroft’s new play Rules for Living.

Rules for Living is designed by Chloe Lamford, with lighting design by Neil Austin, music by Adrian Sutton, fight direction by Kate Waters and sound design by Ian Dickinson.


Everyone creates their own coping strategies or rules for living. But what happens when an extended family gathers in the kitchen for a traditional Christmas and they each follow those rules, rigidly? In Sam Holcroft’s theatrically playful, dark comedy the family does just that. And when the instructions are there for all to see, audience included, there’s really no place to hide. As long-held mechanisms for survival are laid bare, even Mum, who’s been preparing this lunch since last January, becomes embroiled. Long-held rivalries and resentments will out. Accusations fly, relationships deconstruct, the rules take over.


Sam Holcroft’s work for the NT includes Edgar & Annabel, staged as part of Double Feature in the Paintframe, and The Wardrobe for NT Connections; she was the 2013 Writer-in-Residence at the National Theatre Studio. Recent work includes The House Taken Over (Festival d’Aix-en-Provence and Académie Européenne de Musique), Dancing Bears (Soho Theatre), and While You Lie (Traverse Theatre).

Marianne Elliott is an Associate Director at the NT where her work includes The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (winner of seven Olivier Awards including Best Director), The Light Princess, Port, Season’s Greetings, Women Beware Women, All’s Well That Ends Well, Mrs Affleck, Harper Regan, Saint Joan (Olivier Award for Best Revival, South Bank Show Award for Theatre), Thérèse Raquin, Pillars of the Community (Evening Standard Award for Best Director) and War Horse (co-directed with Tom Morris, winning a Tony Award for Best Direction of a Play).