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Playwright, David Eldridge interview: “There’s less procrastination when you’re a dad.”

As David Eldridge’s new play Beginning opens at the National Theatre’s Dorfman, he talks about his son, ticket prices, inspirations and success.

We meet in his office at Birkbeck University, London, where he lectures in Creative Writing. Chatting with Eldridge about his career opens up other windows on his experience. For instance: he’s a dad (“I always think about my son Bertie when I write, and he spurs me on”) For instance: despite having written landmark plays like Under The Blue Sky, Market Boy and In Basildon, he remains very grounded. (His best mate is a fireman in Essex, where he grew up). For instance: his new play Beginning was written unsolicited, but with the National Theatre in mind (“I wrote the play and then decided the NT would be a good home for it and sent it to Rufus Norris. Luckily for me he agreed”.)

His new play explores what it means to be lonely in a big city, features two actors and has no interval. “Beginning is a real actors’ piece,” says Eldridge emphatically. “The two characters in the play are on stage for the whole evening without a break. We were looking for people who didn’t just feel absolutely right in terms of the casting but who had the technical ability, personality and guts to do it. On-and-off that casting process took seven months, much of that due to director Polly Findlay’s availability, but we wanted to be absolutely sure.”

What are the particular pressures of writing for the National Theatre? “I’m not sure that applies to Beginning because it’s the first play I’ve written in ages that wasn’t a commission for a particular management,” he says. “I think opening a play in any of the major playhouses is incredibly stressful. On the Olivier stage at the National (where Market Boy was produced in 2006) just selling the 1,150 seats for every show used to give me nightmares. I think animating the larger stages at the NT is a craft in itself and both the Olivier and the Lyttleton eat story, so you need lots of narrative red meat and actors who are on the front foot.”

I wonder how he will measure success with Beginning. “I just want to feel happy that the play has gone as well as it possibly can and that audiences have got something out of it,” he states.

“It’s nice when you can see an audience laughing and crying and reflecting upon the action of a play. But it’s also very rewarding when audiences get in touch.” He references his play The Knot of the Heart, which premiered at the Almeida in 2011. “I kid you not, every day an audience member communicated with me in person, by letter, card, email or via social media to tell me how in some way their life had been touched by addiction. It was exhausting. But beautiful and humbling,” he recalls. “Everyone wants to have nice reviews for posterity and to help encourage audiences to see the show. But I’m much less neurotic about them than I was in my twenties.”

Which fellow writers inspire him, I ask? “Robert Holman has been one of the most inspiring playwrights in my writing life,” he replies, “Robert taught me how to be a playwright in many ways; but his own work, his sense of place, theatricality and commitment to the truth of his characters is always inspiring. Caryl Churchill, as Sarah Daniels says, is “our Picasso” and she seems to reinvent the wheel with every play. Her work always pushes me to try new things and to be bold. Edward Albee inspires me to fulfil John Osborne’s aspiration to give audiences “lessons in feeling”. And I learned a lot from adapting Ibsen. I think the work I did on three of his plays helped strengthen the storytelling in my own plays.”

He reckons that the economics of theatre tickets are out of line. “Theatre going has become too expensive. There’s also a part of me that’s still the slightly chip-on-shoulder, scholarship-and-assisted-place Romford kid at the posh school; who resents how much of British theatre is still occupied by privileged white middle-class men. I think the theatre has got a bit better on that score over my writing life, but it’s still a world that can be too dominated by clever posh white people and far too preoccupied with who’s in and who’s out,” he says bluntly. “It’s why I’ve always preferred to make most of my friends outside the theatre.”

We talk about the differences in writing for television. “On screen you’re cutting away to the next scene all the time and often the cut tells the story”, he explains. “On stage you’re trying to sustain the action. Too many scene changes, inelegantly done, make for a tiresome evening in the theatre. I think TV writing, like writing for a large theatre space, eats story and you really have to pique an audience’s interest the whole time. Otherwise people just switch off and look at their smartphone or change channel.”

On the bookshelf there are various framed photographs of his little boy. How has being a dad changed his writing? “You know,” he smiles. “It’s made me more uncompromising.”

But Eldridge is acutely aware of the legacy of putting pen to paper. “I always have this gut feeling that I never want him to read or see my work when he’s older and feel his dad could have done better. I push myself. Although he doesn’t live with me, we spend a lot of time together, and that means like most writers who are parents, I organise when I write accordingly and use the time much more efficiently. There’s less procrastination when you’re a dad.”

Beginning is at the National Theatre’s Dorfman stage, London, until 14 November. Box office: 020-7452 3000.

Polly Findlay and David Eldridge will take part in NT Platform on Thursday 19 Oct, 6pm.

Now you know. 

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Simon Stephens interview: “There is something about bringing Heisenberg: The Uncertainty Principle to London which means a lot to me. A lot of my plays are carved out of a love for this city.”

Multi-award-winning playwright Simon Stephens is a pale giant, dressed today in dark blue jeans, a maroon shirt and a charcoal grey jacket. He listens and laughs a lot.

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Simon Stephens © Alex Rumford

We’re sitting upstairs in a quiet corner of Black’s, a members’ club in London. The setting is intimate and our talk about his new play, Heisenberg: The Uncertainty Principle is too. The blurb for the show reads: ‘When two strangers meet by chance amidst the bustle of a crowded London train station; their lives change forever’. The play receives its UK premiere at Wyndham’s next month and tells the story of two strangers who strike up an unlikely relationship. It stars Anne-Marie Duff and Kenneth Cranham, and reunites the production team behind The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, with Stephens, Marianne Elliott and designer Bunny Christie. “Ken and Ann-Marie have a very complimentary energy that’s absolutely perfect for this play. Ken has such earth and a stillness and Ann-Marie has an edge and desire. The two of them dance around one another and it’s kind of exquisite,” he says.

The play is directed by Marianne Elliott and is the inaugural show for Elliott & Harper Productions, the company she has set up with director Chris Harper. Elliott’s many credits include Curious Incident (adapted for the stage by Stephens), War Horse and Angels in America. “I hope it sells – for them,” says Stephens, “I don’t want them to be exposed to anything. I really love them. If I’m anxious about anything, I’m anxious about the people of that calibre enjoying the success that they deserve.”

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Is he nervous? “I’m really happy. I’m not nervous. Because the play has been done before in New York,” Stephens replies. “When a play is being done for the first time your main fear is that it is shit. I kind of know that it’s not shit. It’s not a shit play. There is something about bringing Heisenberg to London which means a lot to me. A lot of my plays are carved out of a love for this city.”

We talk about his friendship with Marianne and I get a clear sense of how and why they work so well together (Simon is Godfather to her daughter and it was some time into working together that she and Stephens discovered that they were both from Stockport and that they used to get the same bus to their schools.)

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Simon Stephens and Marianne Elliott © Alex Rumford

“She’s brilliant because she’s brilliant – we have a brilliant relationship because of some deep psychic connection,” he says. “Above all of those things, she’s the hardest-working director I know.” Hard-working in a different way, he explains, from Ivo van Hove and Sean Holmes, say, who run theatres or do show after show, back-to-back in Paris or on Broadway. “Marianne refuses to go back-to-back with shows. Stephens continues. “At a time when everyone wants her, she says no to so many jobs because she needs the preparation time. I don’t know any director who prepares more than her. Heisenberg is an hour and fifteen two-hander and she has six weeks preparing it so that when she talks to the cast at the beginning of rehearsals, she speaks with more depth about the play than I have. What she’ll bring is the sense of its existential depth.”

He’s on a roll about his peers. “I’m so fucking fortunate, Carl. I’ve been so fortunate with the collaborators that I’ve worked with. Really lucky,” he says, thinking. “To work with Sean Holmes again and again, a substantial ten-year relationship. A fifteen-year relationship with Sarah Frankcom as well as the rockstar directors like Katie Mitchell, Ivo van Hove and Sebastian Nübling… It’s completely thrilling.”

There’s nothing smug about the way Simon Stephens says that, just a thankful recognition that he has done incredibly well.

I say I think his writing is often desolate but never without heart. In these uncertain times, how important is optimism? “I think Heisenberg is infused with the possibility of optimism and I think that is important. The only response to a world in peril is to be optimistic – I think pessimism is the last resort of the privileged,” he says, tucking into his artichoke soup.

“There is a difference between optimism and naivety – between optimism and jolliness. Real optimism has to consider real peril, real despair, real fear and real isolation. To deny those is just naïve but it’s about acknowledging those and finding the determination to persist.”

Rather brilliantly, there are 30,000 tickets for Heisenberg available for under £20. Delivering work to audiences at an affordable price is important to Stephens. “I’ve been a teacher all my life,” he nods. “There is nothing more important to me than the notion that theatre is not an elitist art form but that it is a democratic art form. You can make it cheaper than a lot of cinemas. You can make it cheaper than a football match. This is like watching a Champion League Football match at the cost of watching a match in the Ryman Conference.”

Heisenberg isn’t the only play keeping him occupied. Stephens’ adaptation of Chekhov’s The Seagull opens at the Lyric Hammersmith the day after and he has come from rehearsals to meet me. “I’m more nervous, weirdly, about The Seagull,” he admits. “I really like writing versions – it’s thrilling for me. It’s simple, it doesn’t take a massive amount of time and it’s different from play to play to play. 10 years ago, when I was working on Harper Regan and Lesley Sharp asked me to write a version of The Seagull, I knew I wasn’t able to at that time in my career. Because in my opinion, Chekhov is the best writer in the history of the world. For me, he is my tower. Do you know the Leonard Cohen song ‘Tower of Song’?” he asks.

I tell him I don’t.

“It’s a really beautiful, beautiful song. In it Cohen sings about the Tower of Song – a tower that all songwriters live in and there’s a beautiful line about Hank Williams.” Stephens quotes: “‘I said to Hank Williams: “How lonely does it get?” Hank Williams hasn’t answered yet. But I hear him laughing all night long. Oh, a hundred floors above me in the Tower of Song’.”

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He continues, “I think writers position themselves at the foot of towers and they are very specific about which towers they position themselves at the foot of. I’m sitting on ground floor of Chekhov’s Tower and he’s a hundred floors above me, laughing all night long,”

It would be easy to pin him down as a tortured artist. How does he manage ego? “I find it really confusing because there’s part of me that still thinks I’m desperately trying to hack away, trying to get it right. As I look at my career now, objectively – if I separate myself from the experience of my career – I think you’d look at it and say that it is probably the career of a successful playwright. But I don’t experience myself as being a successful playwright,” he admits, modestly.

“I think the only thing you can do is, you stay present tense and concern yourself with the work and just get the work right. This is not just for successful playwrights, I think it’s true of all playwrights,” he continues. “I think it’s actually more perilous for writers at the start of their career because they are so worried about career that they can stop worrying about the work. I can’t change anything… It took me about 10 years to get over the notion of linear improvement. All I really want to do is write a play that is different to the last one. If ever it comes close to me taking myself too seriously then my children and my wife will just take the piss out of me – so brilliantly and precisely that it’s just impossible.”

I shift the conversation to critics, specifically, Michael Billington, who we both agree gets a lot of stick from the blogosphere. “If you’re working in theatre and you can’t distinguish between Michael Billington and Quentin Letts say- or Michael Billington and Dominic Cavendish, then you’re a fucking idiot,” he says, smiling. “If you can’t acknowledge that Michael Billington is one of the most consistently thoughtful, economic, searching, knowledgeable and serious writers about theatre.”

Stephens is Artistic Associate at the Lyric Theatre and Associate Playwright at the Royal Court. Does he think there are issues with the way new work is being commissioned that need addressing in order for the next generation of playwrights to break through? “I think there are perhaps some structural issues. But the structural issues are really complicated,” he says.

“I’m old enough to remember the year 2000 and the early years of the Blair government – and the remarkable energy for the arts that that government had and the extraordinary investment that that government brought about,” he explains. “I forget the name of the report in 2000 celebrating the agency of new writing and instigating a cash injection into new writing. But within five or ten years there were more playwrights than there had ever been and they were funded and supported. There new writing groups and young writing schemes all over the country. Eight years later there was an economic collapse that we’re still reeling from and the consequences of that is a massive withdrawal of money from the arts.”

“So, we have this situation where there are four times as many playwrights and less money to inject into the productions of their plays. That’s really tricky for the well-intentioned artistic directors who have to let people down. They will, and have rejected major significant playwrights and that’s an ongoing thing. I don’t know what to do about it because we are unfortunately not governed by a government that believes in the arts. The nature of Conservatism is that it has an impulse to conserve and the one thing the arts are not interested in ever – or should never be interested in –  is conserving,” says Stephens.

Julian Fellowes is the only playwright in the world who has any vested interest in things staying the way that they are and that’s why he is a…”

Just in time his phone beeps. “That’s my timer,” he sighs. “I need to be thinking about making a move.” Another rehearsal to get to?

No, he laughs, and heads off down Dean Street to pick up his daughter from school.

Heisenberg: The Uncertainty Principle runs at Wyndham’s Theatre from 9 October to 6 January, with previews from 3 October.

The Seagull will run at the Lyric Hammersmith from 10 October to 4 November, with previews from 3 October.

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Playwright Chris Thompson Interview: “If you’re brave enough you can do anything.”

Chris Thompson is an award winning playwright based in London and New York. He is currently under commission by the National Theatre and The Royal Court Theatre. He was the Channel 4 Playwright in Residence at the Finborough Theatre in 2014, and currently has two television series in development with Euston Film and TV. Amazing.

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Playwright Chris Thompson

His plays capture and make sense of the outsider spirit, while being as unswerving and true in his writing as he is in conversation. There seems to be simultaneously more and less to him than meets the eye. What I most got out of my chat with Chris was that he has found a way to sidestep the egotistic pitfalls that snare most writers while also explaining personal accounts of love, identity, culture and gay life.

Many of Thompson’s contemporaries have succeeded via privileged upbringings. Not Thompson. After working as a social worker for twelve years, he quit to focus on writing. Is he fed up of being asked about his previous career, I ask. “I’m very proud of it. I think the further away that change gets from me now the clearer it becomes,” he says.

“I sometimes wonder if I’m making up the reasons retrospectively… You’re not really sure at the time. I’ve got my version of events. I knew I was doing good but I wasn’t sure if I was doing me good. I’m a very conscientious and care-giving individual – I felt very privileged to be doing that kind of work.”

Now though, Of Kith and Kin opens at the Sheffield Theatre and is directed by Robert Hastie. Hastie directed Thompson’s debut play Carthage in 2014 and that was a breakthrough for him. “Carthage got me a lot of meetings and was produced at the Finborough theatre. Suddenly my scripts rose to the top of the scripts submission pile. It was a gamble and it was very exposing thing to do; putting myself out there.”

In which case, what is Of Kith and Kin about? “Of Kith and Kin starts with a set of circumstances and becomes a play about who’s in charge, changing your mind and love is not enough,” he explains. “It is much more of a gay play than you might think.”

“Above all it ‘puts a pin in gay relationships now.’ He explains his relationship to the watershed of gay marriage and civil partnerships. “I was born in the year that Thatcher came into power and I lived in the shadow of shame; all the laws and legislation of that came from a position of disgust.”

Britain’s LGBT+ community has made positive shifts in recent years. We have an equal age of consent, employment rights and legal protections that we didn’t have a decade ago. Thompson hits the nail on the head when discussing the modern politics of gay culture. “There is now a constituency of gay men who find intimacy harmful and find it hard to not punish the person they love for making them have those feelings. I’m very interested in masculinity, how men are represented. I love peek through your fingers, gritted teeth kind of humour,” he says.

Is he a kind person? “I think my friends would describe me as kind. I think I have a lot of compassion. To write good characters you have to have to have a lot of humanity.”

I ask which life event he thinks is most responsible for the person that he is today. “I don’t think it’s possible that it could be one event for any person,” he says. “I know that my life has changed beyond recognition in the last 3 years… I’ve had some life events that have changed the path of my life; the most recent, in the most basic terms, was leaving my job. I left my relationship of a decade, I left my home. I had a nervous breakdown and ran off to New York to do it in style,” he laughs. 

Thompson speaks honestly and openly about the human condition. “I found myself in a position I did not expect to find myself in that time. I did make a promise to myself which is live bravely and speak without fear; change is good. We have one life. If you’re brave enough you can do anything,” he says, adamantly.

We chat about critics and reviews. Rather interestingly he has put all the reviews of his shows up  on his website– good and bad. He says that, on some occasions. “Even though it’s sometimes bruising to have negative reviews I don’t care if critics write negative things about my play as long as they stick to rigorous critical analysis.”

“Some critics aren’t able to resist the opportunity to showboat and the story then becomes about the review itself rather the work, (see: COMMON), and then when they’re called on it, they deny doing it. When I talk about it being a dialogue, I see reviews as a starting point of a conversation between critics and audiences, less so between the play and critics,” he says, freely admitting mixed feelings of his own.

“Ultimately, people remember the plays not the reviews…”

Of Kith and Kin is at Sheffield Theatres until 7 Oct. Box Office: 0114 249 6000.

Bush Theatre, London from 18 October until 25 November. Box Office: 020 8743 3584.

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Playwright Andrew Maddock, Interview: “I do get pissed off with ticket prices.”

Forget everything you thought you knew about Andrew Maddock (unless you thought his plays were quite good): his new play Olympiladsis an absolute belter. Andrew Maddock is one of The Independent‘s Playwrights to Dominate 2017. What does that even mean, I ask. “I knew exactly what that was – it was nice for my mum to look at,” he smiles. “For people outside the theatre bubble, I guess it legitimises me.”

We talk about ‘mainstream’ coverage for work and he talks about critics with a candour that is rare in this industry. “I love Fleabag –  I saw it twice – I don’t understand why the Guardian had to review it 6 times,” he says. “Publications don’t have the resources to send people to Pub theatres but they can send another critic to the same show.”

Maddock continues, “I would like them to maybe attend one of my plays in the future, and it’s not really very true because as you said, they are sent on assignment and I’m sure the reason for re-attending a show like that is for clicks. I really respect the work of a critic and I’m sure it’s not easy.”

Director Niall Phillips and Maddock formed the production company Lonesome Schoolboy Productions. Their latest show that has just opened at Theatre N16 explores a multifaceted relationship between two brothers and their estranged sister, living their lives under the shadow of austerity and the hope for a lasting London legacy during the 2012 Olympic Games. The show was selected to be part of Scott Ellis’ first season as Artistic Director of Theatre N16. Put it alongside sell-out show ‘He(art)’ earlier this year and what we’re all witnessing here, people, is Maddock transitioning into a proper actual excellent writer.

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Rhys-Yates-Simeon-Nebiu-Samuel-Darren- Olympilads

Beyond Stratford’s investment units and ‘innovation centres’, affordable housing is in little supply on the former London 2012 site. The legacy team have their work cut out to re-claim the original vision. It was important for Maddock to take this subject matter head on. “It’s a family drama set during 2012 Olympics… 5 years on. It is about the legacy that was promised”, he says. “The properties that were built are still unobtainable. I was born and raised in Wembley and I’ll probably have to move out of the area if I ever want to buy a house. Olympilads is about a family without that security.”

Fairer ticket prices and affordability is high on his agenda. He says: “I do get pissed off with ticket prices. I know that theatre isn’t cheap to make. But essentially where it gets me is when it’s a cash cow and they are going to sell out the run. Then they could absolutely bring prices down. In football, they have a grassroots model where the bigger Football clubs send the money back down and perhaps theatre could follow that model.”

Is he worried about opening a Olympilads when all the critical folk are at Edinburgh Fringe? “We’re in a tough space with the show opening in August because everything and everyone is up in Edinburgh,” he pauses, “However, we’re also in a great place because there is nothing else on during that time that is as good as our show.”

Olympilads is on at Theatre N16 8th – 26th August (Tues – Sat, No Matinee)

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Interview with Playwright Phil Porter: “I often think about the song ‘A Woman’s Touch’ from ‘Calamity Jane’.”

Phil Porter

Phil Porter is a playwright, who has brilliantly just co-adapted ‘The Miser’ with Sean Foley, a West End production due to open at the The Garrick Theatre. Hurrah.

Phil won the Bruntwood Playwriting Prize for Cracks in my Skin and the Arts Council’s Children Award for Smashed Eggs (Pentabus Theatre). His recent plays include The Man With The Hammer (Plymouth) The Christmas Truce (RSC) Blink and A Mad World Masters (RSC) The Tempest (adaptation co-written with Peter Glanville for the RSC).

I thought it would be good to chat to him ahead last week. Here is what we discussed.

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Phil Porter

Hi Phil, where are we and what can you see?

Right now I’m in rather delightful surroundings. A rather posher hotel I would normally find myself in. I can see you mostly and a hanging light thing over the bar with lots of fake but nonetheless beautiful candles. It reminds me of an event I went to in a park in Brighton with lots of fire-based installations and rusty metal. Lots of Pagan things go on in Brighton in the Winter.

How is ‘Dry January’ going?

I’m not big on abstinence. I’m a vegetarian – maybe that one small sacrifice is what makes me feel entitled to drink as much wine as I fancy. If I was ever going to attempt a month dry it wouldn’t be January!

You’ve had quite a busy week, haven’t you?

Well, the first two days of this week I was in rehearsals for The Miser’. This is a script I’ve co-adapted with Sean Foley and which he is now directing, with quite an impressive starry West End cast – Griff Rhys Jones, Mathew Horne, Katy Wix and Lee Mack, who is making his West End debut. We open in Bath on February 8th for a couple of weeks of previews, then a week in Richmond, then into The Garrick following ‘This House’ from March 1st.

From what I’ve heard adapting is a bit of a ball ache. With this in mind is co-adapting a bit of a double ball ache?

I don’t even know if it is an adaptation really. Adapting suggests taking it from one medium to another. Molière wrote it as a play and we continue in that fashion. The first thing I did with Sean was work on ‘A Mad World My Masters’ for the RSC a few years ago. That was kind of easier because Middleton wrote it in English, and as a result there was only so much we could change without stomping on someone’s very clever original play. So we just edited the play to make room for some songs and put in a few new jokes. But when a play is written in a different language the process is inevitably a bit more interpretive. But it wasn’t a ball ache – it was great fun. Maybe normally there would be a difficult status thing where you are fighting with your co-adaptor over every line. But Sean is the director so if we were to disagree on something – and generally we don’t – I’d probably let it go because he is the one who has to bring the thing to life. If he has a strong sense of how he’ll make a particular line work I’m happy to follow his judgement on that. I think it works well. I’m there just thinking as a writer while Sean is sort of writing and directing at the same time.

Tell me about Sausages

Eh? Oh, I know what you mean by that. Something I said in an interview I did with the Soho years ago. I wrote my first play on a train to Plymouth when I was about seven. It was about some sausages trying to escape from a freezer – written in the 1980s when all sausages were frozen. Maybe it could come back as an experimental opera; a play for voices. Looking back I didn’t really understand what screenwriting guru Robert McKee would describe as ‘progressive complication’. The sausages simply found a hole in the corner of the freezer and escaped halfway down the first page.

You can’t turn on the TV these days without seeing an advert for sausages. Anyway, what writers do you rate?

In terms of the playwriting giants my greatest hero is Federico García Lorca . He had an amazing poetic sensibility that I really love. I rate many of my contemporaries – Dennis Kelly and Mike Bartlett spring to mind. The way they can write so well, and also so much, is amazing and makes me jealous. Lucy Kirkwood is a fantastic writer. James Graham is another who is very brilliant and extraordinary prolific. And of course my pal Amy Rosenthal, a great writer who posseses a real understanding of comedy – a rare and much undervalued talent.

What are your thoughts on Hull as UK City of Culture 2017?

The choices often seem to be quite provocative. I remember when Glasgow was announced as a European City of Culture years ago, and people reacted in uproar: Glasgow?! As if it had been decided once and for all by a committee that Glasgow was Europe’s Most Cultured City. If that were the case then Hull as the UK City of Culture would be a perverse choice, but that’s not what it’s about. Overall, it’s a positive thing.

Contemporary arts centre Mac Birmingham has been hit by a 70% cut to its council funding, as part of major reductions inflicted on the city’s arts by its local authority. These are challenging times for new work, what are your thoughts on where the next Phil Porter will come from?

My very first play was on at the Mac. The landscape is obviously changing. It’s a big problem that places like Mac, where writers might find support as they’re starting out, are losing the funding they need to offer that support. Most writers, even if they’re really good, won’t get picked up by the big new writing venues, at least at first. It also damages the touring infrastructure, further limiting opportunities. And besides arts funding there are some even broader problems, in the way our society is changing, that make it very difficult for a writer from a remotely normal background to develop a career. I left university with no significant debts, moved to London, paid £250 a month in rent, and picked up a couple of commissions from new writing theatres who could afford to take a chance on an unproven writer. None of that would happen now. But on the more positive side, at least if you write a good play there are people genuinely committed to unearthing new talent.

Talk to me about your work with the RSC.

I’ve been working with the RSC for nearly 10 years now. I owe a lot to Pippa Hill, their Literary Manager, who commissioned me to write a five minute play for an event in 2008 and has been offering me bigger and bigger challenges ever since. This has culminated in ‘The Christmas Truce’ in 2014 and now ‘Vice Versa’ which is on in The Swan over the coming summer. It’s great to work somewhere with those kinds of resources. Having the support of a company like the RSC gives me a great push.

How do you feel about deadlines?

There are two kinds of projects. There are ones that are already in the brochure. Then my brain understands that it is no way a soft deadline; people are going to do this play and it needs to be ready for rehearsal and ready for an audience. Those deadlines I take very seriously. If it’s a more open commission I will always try to make the deadline or as near damn it. But I know from experience that what a theatre really wants is a play they can do rather than one that has arrived on time. I had a play on in Plymouth last year and I was quite late on the first draft deadline. For a little while I felt a bit like I was hiding which is the worst thing. If you owe someone a play you just have to keep the channels of communication open. As long as they know you’re working on it they’re generally fine. But it’s definitely a good thing career-wise to be known as someone who delivers on time.

What is your favourite theatre in London?

I still get very excited about going to The National. I think it goes back to that period when you start discovering theatre and you find this palace on the river with three plays going on a night and at least one of them is something that will completely blow your mind. I still get really excited about going to see a West End show. It’s funny doing the West End thing because as playwrights we are simultaneously taught to be slightly snooty about the West End but on the other hand if you get a West End transfer then you’ve made it.

Are West End ticket prices too high?

Undoubtedly. Some shows and some producers definitely take the piss more than others –  I’m pleased to say The Miser is relatively inclusive. I don’t understand the economics of it well enough to know why the inflation is so rapid. But yeah, it’s a crazy system.

CLICK HERE TO BOOK YOUR TICKETS FOR THE MISER

What’s your favourite musical?

I like musicals more than you might imagine. I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for ‘Cabaret’. Every Christmas me and my girlfriend watch ‘Meet Me in St Louis’ and it gets me every time. And I often think about the song ‘A Woman’s Touch’ from ‘Calamity Jane’. Whenever I’m writing something and trying to think about how to transition quickly from one state to another I imagine Doris Day and her pal cleaning up that house. It’s the ultimate montage sequence – a very important artistic reference point for me.

Amazing. What have you got coming up in 2017?

We have the RSC show, ‘Vice Versa’, which is a Roman style comedy. I never wrote it as such but it’s starting to look like a Trump satire. Um, I’m writing a sort of futuristic musical for The Soho with a composer called Marc Teitler who wrote ‘The Grinning Man’. On a day-to-day basis I’m currently writing an adaptation of ‘Slaughterhouse 5’ for Joe Murphy to direct. Joe directed my play ‘Blink’ (Soho Theatre) and is directing ‘Woyzeck’ at The Old Vic this year. Then I have another commission for Plymouth and I’m trying to adapt my old play ‘The Cracks In My Skin’ into a film. But right now it’s mostly about ‘The Miser’ and ‘Vice Versa’

 

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Interview with Playwright James Graham: “I’m a human who doesn’t like or know how to talk about himself.”

James Graham, photo by Steve Tanner

James Graham, photo by Steve Tanner

James Graham ‘mayhem’ (ie not mayhem at all)

So, I went along to a matinee of ‘This House’ at The Garrick Theatre. It’s pretty amazing. Later that day I met with the writer, James Graham, for a whiskey cocktail. Graham is a witty man, who is a curious mixture of mischief and innocence, and who has the youthful appearance of a Dorian Gray entity.

Fortunately, James is good at talking: about ‘This House’, about his place in the theatre universe, and about the physical demands of being a playwright in 2016.

Anyway, all playwrights are subject to the whims of fashion, going in and out of fashion according to fads for writing styles or categories of plays, or even the political climate. Politics aside, the vital element in the brilliance of This House’ is that the writing is of a phenomenally high standard: it is a prescient exploration of the mechanisms at play in government. Ultimately, there’s a clarity of vision that’s virtually unrivalled in the current theatre scene.

This House

This House. Click on the image to book your tickets.

This House premiered at the Cottesloe Theatre in September 2012, directed by Jeremy Herrin, and transferred to the Olivier in 2013 where it enjoyed sell-out runs with critical acclaim and admiration from current and former MP’s for his rendition of life in the Commons. It was broadcast internationally by NT Live and received nominations for the Evening Standard and Olivier Best Play awards. (‘FYI’ I’m calling it now, ‘This House’ is the greatest play written in the last five years.)

Studies of lying show that when telling a lie, most people are tempted to add a vast amount of detail to their stories; they believe that the more aspects they add, the more sound their stories will be. ‘This House’ does not feel dishonest, but you could argue that the suggested extent of this play’s familiarity is an illusion of sorts, or at least an example of sleight of hand.

Graham’s more recent work includes Privacy created with Josie Rourke for the Donmar Warehouse and receiving its New York premiere at the Public Theater this July, starring Daniel Radcliffe. His play Monster Raving Loony opened at the Theatre Royal Plymouth this year and transferred to Soho Theatre in May. The Vote at the Donmar Warehouse aired in real time on TV in the final 90 minutes of the 2015 polling day and was nominated for a BAFTA. His Channel 4 drama Coalition also aired during the election and won the Royal Television Society award for Best Single Drama. James has written the book for Finding Neverland with music by Gary Barlow. It opened on Broadway in April 2015. He remains a Writer in Residence at the Finborough Theatre. Bloody hell.

(There were lots of things covered; this is a definite cup-of-tea-and-a-biscuit job.)

What sort of human are you?
I’m a human who doesn’t like or know how to talk about himself. I’d say I am an inconsistent and uncertain person.

If they could invent a robot to replace you and do all the boring stuff political playwrights have to do, what would you get up to instead?
I’d love to write a novel; I have an idea for a fantasy adventure story set in New York and one is a time hopping piece.

So, let’s get political; is there anyone you’d like to pour boiling water over, he says
No… However, I would pour cold water over Boris Johnson; he needs some perspective and probably ought to have some discomfort.”

What’s your worst play? 
Hahahaha! Oh that’s a tough one. Only because it was the first play I ever wrote and I was still learning: ‘Coal not dole’ about the miners’ strike.

Amazing. What’s your best play? 
This House, I guess. I am relieved – that by accident or design – it’s proven itself able to survive the times.

If you don’t follow politics you’re uninformed, if you do follow politics you’re misinformed. What is the long-term effect of too much information? 
Democracy isn’t allowed to function, there is a conscious shift by some parties or media to use that as a tactic to distract or destroy any conversation.

Serious question: Baths or showers?
Oh, goodness. 100% showers. Baths are 100% evil, man. I mean, to sit their doing nothing for that period of time. No. Thank. You.

Is Nigel Farage a fictional character? 
In a way, yes; he’s a construct. I don’t believe he can possibly be a real person.

What are your three favourite apps? 
Right, The London Bus checker – I do use google maps but I think being lost sometimes can be a good thing. I love Pocket to save articles. SignEasy is amazing as I don’t have to post contracts and things!

Do you think some writers cheat when they’re working with people and go “oh I haven’t done any prep let’s just jam and let the vibes flow” or whatever it is people say in a creative scenario, when actually they’ve got a brilliant idea in their head that they’re going to pretend just suddenly appears as if by magic.
Yes, I do but it’s destructive – I remember the OVNV 24 hour plays you can always tell because the ones that are don’t normally feel as fresh or good.

Do you think drama schools should have diversity quotas? 
That’s a hard question and I understand arguments against and for them. The problem of lack of diversity, whether race or gender or class, is genuine and very serious. And if quotas can solve that problem then maybe that’s the way to go. The arts are a lot like politics – in that sense – it’s about representating a group of people you’ve failed.

What does Gary Barlow smell like? 
Oh, Heaven and the north.

Do you think people are too distracted by the internet these days?
Yes. Including me – I may switch off for a New Year’s resolution.

What were the last three things you Googled?
Okay, let me check, I’ll be totally honest:

  1. Reviews for The Missing
  2. Beyond the Waterfall A cocktail odyssey.
  3. Arts Education and Schools

 

what are your experiences of young writers programmes? 

I did the RC young writers programme – BBC writers room. Look at whatever your local theatre does get involved. NT Connections is astonishing if you’re a teacher or a writer.

Do you think it helps being friends with people in the industry because you can all sort of relate to what’s happening?
I don’t think it helps in terms of your own work. It’s psychologically and emotionally helpful yes.

Do you have anything special planned for 2017?
Well, I will finish ‘1984’. I want to stay in London more – cook and watch television and do London jobs based in this city. Just so I can be home for a while, which I miss.

*This House is currently gracing the West End in a limited run until 25 February 2017.*

CLICK HERE TO BOOK YOUT TICKETS FOR THIS HOUSE 

CHECK OUT OUR SPECIAL OFFER FOR PURCHASE OF TICKETS FROM OUR AFFILIATE LINKS

 

 

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Playwright Brad Birch talks about dealing with rejection, Brexit, En Folkfiende, learning on the job and more.

Brad Birch

Have you read many Brad Birch interviews before? He’s good at interviews. The recipient of The Harold Pinter Commission 2016 has a chat with me about dealing with rejection, Brexit, En Folkefiende, learning on the job and more.

Brad Birch

Brad Birch

Hi Brad, what did you do yesterday?
Hello Carl. Yesterday I was in tech rehearsals for En Folkefiende. It’s a very technical show so everyone’s very busy; sound, lighting, video, stage management, everyone, I suppose, apart from me. My role in techs often seem to be as an extra eye and ear for the director (this show is directed by Andrew Whyment) and I also like to check in with the actors and crew and drink a lot of coffee. I’ve been in techs in the past where I’ve had to be more hands on, having a more active role in the room, but these instances tend to only come about if there’s text work still to be done. At this late stage in the process it’s obviously less ideal to still be working on the text. Now that’s not to say I’m 100% happy with the text, there’s some stuff that’s still up in the air, but this process is slightly unique in that the production is going up to Edinburgh in the summer too and we have time to rehearse and rewrite again in the coming month or so. I’m looking forward to rewriting in response to this run in Cardiff and the audience’s reaction to it.

Have you ever felt like you didn’t fit in?
I think everyone has moments of feeling as though they don’t fit in and some have more moments than others. In a way school was where I felt I fit in the most, but I left at 15 while doing my GCSEs. School for me was a social thing and I’ve always learnt and thought better on my own. It has meant that life took a slightly circuitous route but I’ve my own reference points and process. For a long time I didn’t feel as though I fit in in theatre as I didn’t come to it through drama school or university. I developed through working with individual mentors rather than groups or institutions and it took a while to find my feet in the broader ecology.

What are your thoughts on Brexit?
I’m fearful of what the right wing will do to this country without certain safeguards provided by the EU. Just look at what they’re trying to do to the Human Rights Act, for example. There’s a left wing argument against TTIP and what have you, but can you imagine we’d end up with anything better under an isolated Conservative government? Just look at the food industry, for example, and the kinds of preservative crap that goes into food in the USA; it’s the EU that prevents that kind of stuff from going into our food. I worry about the general trend of isolationism and nationalism that’s currently festering in the right and left. I don’t buy the SNP, I don’t buy Plaid, I don’t buy a devolved north (George Osborne has a northern constituency so this idea that everyone in the north is crying out for a socialist utopia feels to me unlikely). I’ve never felt my identity particularly tethered to a nation, I don’t feel fundamentally more this side of the street rather than the other side of the street. I get more excited about the potential for international left wing answers to global capitalism rather than parochial left wing answers to global capitalism.

How has your writing developed over the past two years?
I think my writing has become more controlled and considered. I’m harder on myself. And I think that comes from going from production to production. You develop a muscle and a rigour and you learn what works and what doesn’t. As I say, I didn’t have a university drama society to practice on, so I’ve been learning on the job. There’s work I’ve not been proud of because of this but I can feel my writing maturing and I’m excited about the next couple of years of shows. I teach now as well and this certainly makes me a sharper writer.

You are the writer in residence at Undeb Theatre and on attachment at the Royal Shakespeare Company. Can you talk us through an average week in the life of Brad Birch?
An average week at the moment is a bit hectic, balancing a few projects at once. I enjoy writing but days whereby I’m having to look at more than one thing can sometimes be a struggle. I am quite strict on my routine and at the moment I have little time for anything else other than typing but usually I try to read about two books a week, go for a lot of walks and talk a lot in pubs. Meeting with people for an afternoon pint and a chat is one of the most joyous things I can think of doing. Zoe and I have also recently had a baby boy called Woody, so life is currently full of concentrated meaning.

How do you deal with rejection?
You just have to not care.

In March 2016, you were announced as the recipient of this year’s Harold Pinter Commission. Tell us something really exciting and top secret about the commission at the Royal Court that is ‘in development’.
This play feels like the culmination of a long relationship with one of the most important buildings of my life. I’ve been in and around the Court for about six years. However the play I’m writing is just like any other play currently on my slate – it’s about a question I can’t answer.

Let’s talk quickly about what put this current business in motion — how did you start out on your career path?
So as I mentioned above I left school early and for about three or four years I just bummed around doing terrible jobs and doing a lot of thinking and reading. When I started writing I wanted to write books. I didn’t grow up with theatre. I fell into it and a bit like a spider in a bath, now I’m in, I can’t get out. I’m fascinated by people and for me theatre is the best medium to explore what people do to each other.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Jeremy Herrin once told us in a group at the Court to always see yourself writing more than one play. And it’s that perspective that prevents you from throwing everything and the kitchen sink into the current draft of your current play. I’ve still got fragments and set pieces and lines that I wrote in 2009/2010 that will one day make it into something.

The Brink was quite good *well done* were you happy with it?
I was very happy with it, thank you. It was such a talented room. I want to make it a life maxim to only work with people who are better at their jobs than I am at my job.

Your next show is EN FOLKEFIENDE. Is it any good?
I really like it. The students we’re working with at Welsh College are, again, brilliant. I don’t know what it is about this school, there must be something in the water in Cardiff. In terms of the play, it’s been a delight to get under the bonnet of one of Ibsen’s most fascinating plays. People talk about the politics of An Enemy of the People but for me it’s a play about brothers.

Can you write a Haiku for our readers (plural)
I try not to write
In cafes or pubs or clubs
And yet here I am

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Andy Sheridan, Playwright interview: “Loyalty, hardwork, bloody mindedness – the three most important lessons I have learnt in my career as a writer.”

Playwright Andy Sheridan
Interview of Playwright Andy Sheridan

Andy Sheridan

After perfecting the art of theatre writing, playwright and actor Sheridan won The Bruntwood Prize in 2008 for WINTERLONG, which went on to be produced in the studio at the Manchester Royal Exchange in 2011. Sometimes he is on TV.
But what does he think of the Daily Mail? And,
who dared him to write his first play? I guess you could read this as a Q&A chat or as quite simply as a lengthy pub crawl transcribed.
If you are still reading this then do continue below and you will find out more.

Andy Sheridan. What’s happening and where you are today? 
I’m sat in my office trying to finish my next play that’s going on in at The National Theatre of Sweden in Stockholm next year. Prior to this I’ve been out to buy my 19-month-old daughter Betsy a pair of summer shoes. Rock-n-Roll.

What’s the biggest mistake you have ever made?
To pick one is hard because there’s been so many. A couple spring to mind immediately.

  • My younger brother had spent a day in the summer holidays making me a table out of scraps of wood   he’s foraged from a skip. When he gave it to me later that day I systematically smashed it to pieces with the hammer he’d used to make it. It was fucking cruel and I still hate myself for it.
  • Instead of saying my final goodbye to my granddad before he died I selfishly decided to compete in a running race. I didn’t win and I never saw my granddad again.I was a bit of a cunt as a teenager. Who isn’t.

What most drives you to be brilliant – fear of failure or thirst for success?
I’m the middle child of three brothers. They are both brilliantly spectacular. My older brother is a consultant cardiologist and my younger brother civil engineer. I’ve never really felt I’ve lived up to their brilliance and in truth neither have my parents. Even now I suppose I just want to please my family and now my daughter.

You won the Bruntwood Prize in 2008 with your play WINTERLONG. What are your recollections of that period of your life? 
I was out of work as an actor and the playwright and my closest friend, Robert Holman, dared me to write a play. I still don’t really know how I did it. I remember winning the award and speaking to my partner who was visiting her grandmother in Hong Kong. For some reason I remember hearing the chickens in the background of that telephone conversation.

What does the Daily Mail mean to you?
It means fuck all to me because it’s just terrible bollocks. My dad used get it delivered when we were growing up and he’d batter me if I did the quick crossword before him.

How many pints can you drink before you fall over?
Don’t know. Never done it. 5 pints is my limit and then I go home.
What are the three most important things you’ve learned in your career as a writer?
Loyalty. Hard work. Bloody-mindedness.
What word do people correctly use to describe you?
Calm.
Mainstream in Theatre: What is going on with it?
I don’t know what that means.
What is your favourite Fruit? 
Pineapple. Though I do like raspberries.
Anything you’d like to add? 
I can’t wait for Van Gaal to get fired. He’s turning my football team into a turgid embarrassment

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Mark Ravenhill, Playwright: “There is really only one rule to learn before writing a play”.

Mark Ravenhill
Mark Ravenhill

Mark Ravenhill

Mark Ravenhill is a playwright. 20 years later ‘Shopping and Fucking‘ still looks like it’s from the future and Mark continues to look ahead. I thought it would be nice to catch up with Mark to see exactly what’s happening. And I was right – it was very nice indeed.
Despite not really doing interviews he agreed to a chat. Here’s what happened.

Hi Mark Ravenhill. If you were to draw a graph of the last ten years, how would it look?
Some leaps of imagination needed here.  First, that I could draw a graph. Which I can’t.  I’ve never been able to stick to the squares on graph paper. And second, that I have the kind of mind that imagines shapes that fit on graph paper.  Which I don’t have either.  So my graph of the last ten years would me trying to think in a way which I can’t, using a medium that I’m not suited to.  In other words, my graph of the last ten years would be one of messy failure. That is not a metaphor. Or a cry for help.

A view from Islington north

A view from Islington north

 

What can you tell us about A View From Islington North the ‘evening of political satire’ you are contributing to with Out of Joint? ‘A View From Islington North’ is a celebration of Max Stafford-Clark’s relationships with playwrights.  All the playwrights who’ve written the pieces have had work directed by Max over decades. He first directed work by Caryl Churchill and David Hare in the 1970s.  I’m one of the johnny-come-latelies, having only first worked with him twenty years ago.  Max is a brilliant, infuriating, insightful and relentless director

What’s your favourite emoji?
The winky one

Shopping and Fucking

Shopping and Fucking

Shopping and Fucking is often described as a period piece isn’t it.
I don’t know how other people describe it (if it all) but yes I would describe it as period piece. I wanted to write what it felt like to be in your twenties in that moment in time.  It doesn’t have any references to contemporary events outside the play but it’s whole mood and style belongs to the late 1990s. It’s a play that is sorted for Es and whizz.

With writers it feels like there’s a constant expectation, and that they need to keep proving themselves, throughout their career. Which perhaps isn’t quite the same for a director where you can just keep going until you fall over. Is that a fair analysis?
Do you think so?  I think directors suffer from constant expectation and many fall out of favour and fashion.  But it’s true that there is a high burn out with playwrights.  Some have one brilliant debut at somewhere like the Royal Court upstairs and then never write again. Plenty write three or four plays and then find they have no more plays to write.  Very few write plays over a lifetime. I’m fifty this year. To ensure that I too ‘can just keep going until you fall over’ I’ve mapped out a cycle of forty full length plays.  I’m committed to writing one a year, finishing each one on my birthday June 7th.  So that will take me until I’m 90, when I will fall over and die as I will have advanced osteoporosis.
If you were to write a playwriting rulebook, what would Rule One be?
There is really only one rule to learn before writing a play.  Never under any circumstances use the line ‘the door was open so I let myself in’. Everything else is allowed.
Let’s imagine we’re putting theatre as an art form in a capsule to sending it into space, which one play do you put forward?
One play to represent the whole of world theatre?  Wouldn’t it need to be a DVD of a performance? (the question is in danger of conflating a ‘play’ with ‘theatre’).  But let’s say it’s a play text.  I think it would have to be one of the Greeks. That’s drama in its purest and arguably most powerful form.  I would pick Sophocles’ ‘Antigone’, although it could just as well be Euripides ‘Medea’ or Aeschylus “Oresteia’.  How about I write a new English version and we ping that into space alongside the Ancient Greek text?
Do you endlessly analyse your creative decisions or are you impulsive?
I write first drafts almost entirely on impulse and then use analysis (often aided by the director and sometimes the actors) to work through further drafts.

Do you pay attention to critics?
I’ll listen to anyone who can help me understand what I’m doing and how I might get better at it.
To the people who are still reading, do you have a final message?
The door is still open. Let yourself out. Thank you.

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Barney Norris, Playwright Interview: “The new media we’ll be tiptoeing towards is about extending our reach to new audiences. That’s the heart of what we do – reaching people.”

Barney Norris is a very good playwright.

At the age of 28, he won the Critics’ Circle Award for Most Promising Playwright for “Visitors”, which both the Guardian and Evening Standard named as one of the best shows of 2014.

Things we wanted to discuss included his his career, Wittgenstein, Tractatus, clause 7 and his favourite service station.

image
Here’s how the chat went.

Hello Barney! What are you doing at this exact moment in time.
Hello Carl! I’m in my flat drinking Aldi own-brand instant coffee, which I hate because of the taste but love because it’s a gleaning from touring to Scarborough and all links to the memory of touring adventures are precious, while my cat sits on my shoulder like a parrot.

VISITORS was a huge critical and commercial success. Presumably the pressure you put on yourself — and I get the impression you put a lot of pressure on yourself — would have been enough to be getting on with. How did you approach writing EVENTIDE?
EVENTIDE happened the same as VISITORS more or less, it started with wanting to make a play, and then it was grown by the same group of people using a very similar process of development (which I use for everything really). Having done a play people liked did make things scarier – but it also made a thousand things easier too. Not just money and production and so on, but it made things easier in terms of story. I felt suddenly that I knew who I was for, and what I wanted to do.

What do the next 12 months hold in store for Up in Arms?
Actually a lot of that’s still secret and can’t be announced: we’re just wrapping up the tour of GERMAN SKERRIES, our first play by another writer, Robert Holman (big step forwards for the company), which has been very successful and very fun. Then we’re in development on two new plays, one by me and one by the brilliant Bea Roberts, and planning a tour of a play I can’t yet name for spring 2017, and planning two ventures into media we’ve never visited before. Growing plays is a slow, loving, laborious business, so our fight is to let them take the time they take even if it means we only get to make so much work. The new media we’ll be tiptoeing towards is about extending our reach to new audiences. That’s the heart of what we do – reaching people. Not necessarily just reaching as many people as possible, quality and depth of engagement is crucial and that’s what we offer as a company over, say, a movie, we offer quality and depth, but we do always want to grow our audiences. So we’re in a period of development.

What’s your favourite service station on any United Kingdom motorway?
It’s all about Fleet. I suggest at least twice a year to my fiancée that we should do Christmas Day at Fleet one year, partly because it feels like we spend it there anyway, visiting everyone, but also because I love it. We got engaged last month and I outlined the possibility of having the ceremony in the overpass that links the two sides of the services. She hasn’t agreed to it yet, but we’ll see. I think it’s important to acknowledge the beautiful trees that surround Fleet. It’s an eery place at dawn. But these are the ravings of a service station amateur – you have to check out Henryiddon.com/forton-stories. That’s the goldmine.

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FLEET SERVICES

You’ve just published your first novel ‘Five Rivers Met on a Wooded Plain’ How do you choose what parts of your life you put forward in your writing?
I don’t think I do really! I think writing is probably a translation of experience into sense/meaning/something approximating those two. So it all goes in really, even if not all of it gets a mention. Because all the work is just an expression of what it feels like to be alive at the present moment. All the work I do of my own volition anyway. There are commissions I take for different reasons that are more targeted explorations, less about the self, but the novel, and VISITORS and EVENTIDE, they’re quite self-exploratory.

When will the world end and whose fault will it be?
The world ends for each of us at the end of our lives, and I don’t yet know who to blame for that. As for the planet – she’ll be around long after our filaments are all burned out. It’s us, not the planet, who are on the way out, I think.

You strike me as someone who doesn’t take the easy route. How will you feel when you decide you’ve done what you needed to do?
The Evening Standard said that about me last week, is that where it first struck you? I kind of decide that every evening when it’s time to relax and eat and sleep and so on, but in the larger sense, I see older generations facing up to the end of their careers and I don’t know whether that happens with creativity. I think people always still have something to say while they’re alive, but our sight, our hands, our minds fail us. My Grandad didn’t choose to stop his woodwork, his hands gave up on him, he got shaky. So I don’t know whether what you’re describing will happen.

If I locked you in a safe for twenty four hours with no phone, what would you do inside your head?
Panic. I like space. It would depend on whether or not I knew I was getting out at the end of the day.

Tell me this, though. You’re quite credible aren’t you. You’ve been written about in all the right places, your plays get seen by all the right people. Is it right, though, that actually you’re kind of not that cool?
The most important tv show I ever watched was a Mr Motivator episode where he tried to be cool. So he wore a baseball cap and went skateboarding and, in a telling insight into how far we’ve come, ate a hamburger, but he still wasn’t cool. He was still wearing head to toe Lycra. Then a kid told him that being cool was about being yourself, and being happy with yourself, that there was no such thing as absolute cool. But in general, I think your question has too many undefined terms (credible, right, cool) for an answer to be possible, so – Wittgenstein, Tractatus, clause 7.

Anything that you’d like to add?
I think I’ve done quite enough damage already.

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Mr Motivator

Cheers!:-)