Regular readers (if there are such a thing) of this blog will remember that I was interviewed by a lovely French lady called Vanessa Jaunet back in August. The first part can be read here: Interview With A Playwright (Part One)
Maybe because it’s the translation of the French to English, but I find Vanessa’s questions really pure and quite probing. Their simplistic nature catches me off guard, like when you think you know how to get to somewhere but then as you start off your map unravels…
Vanessa has kindly said I could post the second part of the interview up here.
Do you believe that the main character of a story is always connected with the writer’s personality?
Good question. My response is that I rarely put all of my personality into my characters as that can be extremely painful (or at least odd) to hear aloud or see. What I will say is that I thread in elements of my being more than I realise, but I don’t do it purposefully. At a post show Q&A for my play, “I Still Get Excited When I See A Ladybird” I was asked if there were any bits of me in it. And there were – fragments of my life or my thoughts or those close to me. But I’d never flag them up as to what they are because that’s not what a play should be about. It should be about what it reflects onto the audience and what they take away from it. I think the main purpose of writing is to excavate ourselves as humans – we’re unfurling an idea of how we’re trying to understand the world. So to a point you do write with a connection, but it could possibly be the disconnection of yourself to those around you and we’re seeing the exploration.
And do you think we write to speak about something hidden inside us as a therapy?
I think I personally write to understand myself a bit more, to understand myself as a human and the effect we can have on each other. Other playwrights will disagree, but I don’t think you can rely on writing as a therapy. Even if you were to write nonsense you’re still confining yourself to sentences, punctuation, grammar and the urge for a structure. I do, however, feel that you unlock different caveats of innermost thoughts when you write… But it could be that you never use them but the journey was there to inform your writing.
What do you find more fulfilling writing plays or seeing your plays on stage?
Writing plays is a long stint of anything I do and seeing them on stage is the goal obviously. But that doesn’t always happen so you become mother to these piles of pages that you desperately want to morph into real movements on a stage… So I’d say, for me, it’s a strange concoction of the two. I realise the ultimate goal of any script is seeing it on its feet on a stage in front of an audience… But there’s also a perverse notion of whittling down your idea in your head on to the page and the motion you take as a writer to do so.
What do you feel when an actor acts your words?
My brain is always looking to work on the next project so as soon as I’ve finished one script, I’m on to another. What this means is that I more than often don’t remember what I’ve written. Actors could fluff whole paragraphs of text and I may get the notion that they’re saying it wrong, but I wouldn’t be able to tell them what is correct. It is an alien sensation to watch something that you have pinned to the page, as a two-dimensional act of printing words on paper, suddenly unfurl into real living human beings. I feel extremely grateful whenever I’m in that position because the theatre industry is a busy one, and when you get the opportunity to truly see your work come alive, you realise why you still do it. No matter how many times it happens, the first time I watch a piece of my work with an audience my heart sits at the back of my throat and beats loudly, my ears feel like they’re breathing. You’re an unidentified speck in among a crowd and no one knows you’re the one responsible. You try and not make any sudden movements, breathe too loudly to not draw attention to yourself. But at the same time you’re trying to read your audience – are they focused on the action? Are they laughing? Are they crying? You find yourself trying to decipher different types of silences. Your body becomes this sensor and overrides your ability to sit and receive it like the rest of an audience. That’s what it feels like to me and I crave all of that.
Zimmy Ryan in ‘mph’ at Battersea Arts Centre
Josh Darcy and Geraldine Alexander in ’18+’ at The Miniaturists
Dan Abelson reading ‘The Thump You Feel When You Fall’ for Soup To Nuts Theatre Company
If you could choose any actor for your plays who would you choose?
I’ve always wanted to work with Eddie Marsan. I think he’s got such an intricate way of expressing his character, his face especially. He’s a really physical actor I think. I’ve seen him play fragile and also gut-wrenchingly disgusting and his range is superb. I’d be very happy if I got to work with him, I’d be ecstatic!
Peter Capaldi is another actor who I have huge respect for because of his range, his eyes are so expressive. Alfred Molina is someone who I would openly beg to be in one of my plays, his voice is brilliant. Philip Seymour Hoffman is another actor that I would do anything to get to work with. I’m being cheeky here and listing more than one!
Female wise I’d really like to collaborate with Laura Linney, I adored her in The Savages (a film I wish I had written, Philip Seymour Hoffman plays her brother) and she is phenomenal in You Can Count On Me (also a phenomenal film). I’d jump at the chance to write specifically for Julia Davis, she inspires me with her approach to writing when she merges the dark with the tragicomedy of life. Tilda Swinton, now there’s a lady I would sell what little I have to put on a stage with my words, she’s powerful. And who wouldn’t want to work with Olivia Colman? She is superb.
Would you been interested to write a movie? Or even to direct one of your plays on big screen or TV?
I initially trained in writing for film and television at Bournemouth University and would love the opportunity to write for the screen. I’ve dabbled with short films as they’re cheaper to do and more flexible, but I haven’t put my heart and soul into anything larger as my heart is truly in theatre. If someone where to give me the opportunity though I would definitely jump on it. As for directing, I have done some in my time but I would never take on that role right now. Not whilst I’m still trying to make a name for myself with my writing. There are plenty of other people who do that job well and sometimes having a fresh set of eyes on a piece can raise it higher than you realised.
Have you ever considered writing a book using photographs you have taken because I understand you are a keen photographer?
When I write I’m always thinking of the visual impact on an audience, what they will see and always aim for striking images. So I suppose I’m very visually led and I often get distracted by colours or naturally framed objects when I’m travelling around. I’m a very spontaneous photographer. If I tried to go back to using proper cameras and plan things I wouldn’t get what I’m after. I use my iPhone and nothing more. It’s handy because I always have it and I can take pictures of people without them realising too. And if I’m honest I take photographs for my own pleasure, things that catch my eye, and then share them online (Facebook/Twitter) if they’re interesting or representative of where I am. People seem to enjoy them, but they’re just moments that I’ve seen and tried to capture. A bit like holiday photographs really, for some people it’s interesting and for others it’s boring.
I like taking photographs when I’m out and about. I live in a rural village so there’s lots of natural beauty, but I would never call myself a photographer as such. When I was at school I studied it as an A Level topic and the frivolous nature of it all appealed to me. I could wander with a camera and just see what stories unfurled before me. Occasionally I’ll look at a situation that’s going on around me and I’ll reference photographers in my head, “oh that’s very Martin Parr” or “that reminds me of Bresson”. Aside from that I’ve forgotten all knowledge of the darkroom, the chemicals, the lenses. It’s sad really, I’ve forgotten a lot of the things that I used to do when I was younger. I miss painting but my attempts now would seem idiotic, painfully naive. I also miss dance, that too would be a horror to see me do.
If you could be collaborated with another playwright who would you choose?
Good question! I have a feeling that it fluctuates every time I see or read something. But I’ve always wanted to melt my brain with Martin Crimp’s and see what came out. I’m pretty sure I could write a raucous collaboration with Simon Stephens too.