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Luke Barnes Interview: ‘There are some writers who write two or three plays for big stages each year and they say fucking nothing.’

Luke Barnes, aka one of the most important theatre voices of his generation. Read on please.

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Luke Barnes

A man who’s not afraid to talk openly and honestly about real issues –  success,  failure, this fuck up of a government etc – while also knocking out high-quality writing.

Basically, okay, Middle Child is a company based in Hull and they cooked up All We Ever Wanted Was Everything for the UK City of Culture programme. The remarkable show was part of the Edinburgh Paines Plough’s Roundabout season at Summerhall. Think of it as a melding-together of a play (written by Luke) and a gig (with music composed by James Frewer). All We Ever Wanted charts Thatcher’s reign, through the Blair era and right up to the present day. The subject matter is a scorching dissection of consumerism. Really great.

We are talking at the Fringe, the day after I have seen the 75-minute spectacle.

It feels like a very 2017 show, I say. “I set out to make something that was quintessentially for our generation. Something that is made in a way that our generation can consume. The response has been what we’d hoped it would be, we’re really happy with it,” he smiles.

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He describes the lessons that he learned when writing the story. “The most important thing I have learned from making this show is: Hull Capital Culture. Hull, pre-this, was a city living in a shadow of itself, you’d go to there and everybody would be like ‘it’s shit but we love it’,” he says. “Invest money and time into a city like that and you’ve suddenly got an active community and a model you’ve given artists licence to be themselves and make work with breadth and scope.”

“It goes to show Arts Council England moving money out into the regions pays dividends. We can’t sustain a culture of artists having to go to London and needing their work seen there to make it. It’s about telling stories and finding partners to tell those stories,” he says.

Does he think enough writers speak up about politics? “Politics for James Graham means something very different than politics to Rachel De-lahay. What I try to do is articulate how politics affect everyday lives and our actual tangible existence,” says Barnes.

“I read something by Edward Bond recently where he says that a playwright’s duty is to record this moment in time, how this moment feels.” He continues. “A lot of playwrights of my generation try to write plays that are abject of time in the hope that they’ll be revived in the future or have life in Germany. For me, that’s not enough,” he shrugs.

‘FYI’ Barnes spent several years acting in the biggest television show on the planet: Game of Thrones.

So how does he handle success and failure ? “I think the lesson I learned was to surround myself with people who don’t necessarily work in theatre,” he declares.

“My mates all do normal jobs. It wasn’t until I left the show I realised that everyone had gone. It’s really fun having highs and lows but what you want is constant middles that are always going to be there.”

So what is next, post Edinburgh? “My play called ‘No One Will Tell Me How To Start A Revolution’ is on at the Hampstead Theatre, Downstairs. We’ve started rehearsals and I’m really excited…. It’s sort of like an archaic storytelling piece about a family that move to a new money town, being a teenager and fighting for acceptance; irrespective of your background,” he says.

CLICK HERE TO BUY YOUR COPY OF ‘ALL WE EVER WANTED’ SCRIPT

“There’s a finite number of theatres in England. You can’t hit all those theatres over five years”, he announces. “There are some writers who write two or three plays for big stages each year and they say fucking nothing; if you don’t live a normal life how can you engage the world?”

No One Will Tell Me How To Start A Revolution is on at Hampstead theatre, Downstairs, London, until 21 Oct.

Box office: 020-7722 9301.