And now… introducing Jonathan Skinner

Continuing our introductions to this year’s StageWrite writers, it is with great pleasure that I introduce Jonathan Skinner. Jonathan comes with numerous accolades and writing credits in both theatre and film to his name and we are thrilled to have him as part of the StageWrite team of writers this year.

So, Jonathan, how about you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Well Phil, I’m a London-based writer who gave up a varied working life a few years ago to concentrate on writing fulltime. I’ve had a variety of jobs over the years, including wine tester, tyre fitter, working shifts in a food factory, project manager, and training as a commercial pilot – not all totally enjoyable at the time but great experience to call upon as a writer!

 

I could definitely be a wine tester. If you could give me the details, I might give them a call… How long have you been writing plays for and what got you started writing?

I’ve been writing stage plays for about three years. Before that I wrote a novella (which was recently shortlisted for the 2014 International Rubery Book Award). I then concentrated on writing feature screenplays but discovered how difficult these are to get produced due to the finances involved. It was then that I discovered the opportunities that the fringe theatre scene offers and have been lucky enough to have a number of plays produced since, both here in the UK and also abroad. I began by writing short plays and more recently have tried my hand at longer one-act pieces such as Intercourse.

And what prompted you to write Intercourse?

Believe it or not there are real online forums in which paying clients compare notes about escorts whose services they have employed. A while back there was an attempt to ban such sites – this failed but ironically gave them the oxygen of publicity. Reading about the attempted ban in the press gave me the idea that here, perhaps, was the basis for a play. I’m always brainstorming ideas, looking for conflict situations which might make good drama. A client and an escort together in a hotel room, for the same purpose but with very different agendas, seemed to be a good basis for a play. The forums and the “reports” they contain were invaluable for researching the general feel of the play and some of the terminology used – reading them was something of an education too! There is definitely an element of voyeurism, which I suppose transfers to the play as well – the sense of being a fly on the wall watching an essentially very private encounter. Having said that, I like the teasing nature of the title – the only actual intercourse that takes place in the play being of the verbal variety. I wanted to try to avoid clichéd characters, so rather than a sleazy businessman and a trafficked girl, I opted for a somewhat naïve and nervous first-time “punter” with an ordinary college girl type as the “service provider”. With somewhat edgy subject matter such as this it’s an enjoyable challenge to attempt to find humour in the situation as well as drama; it remains to be seen whether I’ve managed to do so.

Well we certainly think so. Tell us a little bit about your process of writing.

It really depends what I’m writing. With screenplays I like to build up the story structure first, like doing a jigsaw puzzle and starting with the corner pieces. With stage plays I need to find the characters’ voices first, have a vague idea of the shape of the play, and then let them talk to one another – and this, for me, is the most enjoyable part of writing. Unfortunately, the first draft is rarely very good so a lot of re-writing is then required; it’s not unusual for me to rewrite a piece several times, honing it, shaping it, and cutting large chucks that either don’t work or don’t belong. I’m also a big believer in putting work aside for as long as possible – weeks, months, even years. It’s then much easier to read with fresh eyes and the problems within a script highlight themselves all too easily. I also like to read my own work aloud (in private I hasten to add); luckily for audiences this is as close to acting as I’ll ever get, but it’s a vital stage for hearing if the dialogue sounds right – and for timing the piece.

You can read more about Jonathan and his work on his website here and you can see Intercourse performed on Saturday 14th March. Tickets are available online here or from the Central Box Office on 01234 718112. We look forward to seeing you there.

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