Well, we are literally just around the corner from StageWrite which kicks off next week. I am so excited by it and there’s still lots to do. I have been working with some smashing students today up in Chichester on a film for their final project! Student films, often get a bad rap, probably largely because they don’t have any money to pay you. These guys were slick, professional and did a great job and yes, they only paid expenses but we all start somewhere so I, for one, enjoyed helping them out. Anyhow, I’m going off topic… we’re here to talk about StageWrite and it’s my absolute pleasure to introduce to you today the rather marvellous, David Weir, whose excellent piece, Lions (which I’m in and rather excited about, to be honest), kicks off our Saturday evening on 12th March.
I was born and brought up in Edinburgh, but live in London now having travelled the country until I got here, via Hampshire and East Anglia.
Nice…. It’s a long way from Edinburgh to London so it makes sense to break up the journey!! And how long have you been writing plays for and what started you off writing?
I’ve been writing since I was a kid, but hit on plays seriously about six years ago now, after realizing there are a lot fewer words than there are in a novel. The first one was a drunken challenge: I told a director at an after-show party for a bad play that I could do better, and he said ‘Go on then’. The play that resulted was a murder mystery spoof that 1,200 people saw, and that’s as good a way as any I know to get the bug! Since then, I’ve sat in small theatres, pubs and a football club function room In London, Arundel, Windsor, and several locations on the Isle of Wight, among audiences ranging from 100 to 25 or so, loving what good actors and directors can do with what you’ve imagined.
Wow, that’s a great story. And how cool, to have 1200 people see your first play. Talk about a baptism of fire! What prompted you to write the play that you submitted?
I heard a story about some guy who was vetoed from winning an award for bravery because of some long-ago criminal offence he’d committed. His old offence had nothing to do with his new bravery, but because he’d once been a criminal, he couldn’t be a hero. I’m fascinated by the theme of redemption – can we undo the evil we once did by being good now? I’m also fascinated by the way people are pigeon-holed by one thing they did, or one feature they have, or one perception about them. It seems to me that people are more complex than that, and that no-one is wholly good or wholly bad, or deserves to be seen that way. From that, came the idea of having a character who had done something morally appalling from every point of view, but who had also done something transcendently good. And from that came the idea of having three others who appear ‘good’ and even successful to all the world, but who have their own demons to deal with. All of which is unnecessarily doom-laden and portentous-sounding for a piece that is also meant to be funny, even if it’s laughter in the dark.
Tell us a little bit about your process of writing?
I wish I had one! The one definite thing is that if you want to be a writer, you write: fixed hours (not quite enough of them) each week, even during the times when there’s a lot of staring out the window to be done. The second definite thing is that it’s never finished – first drafts are fast; subsequent rewrites are essential and there’s always more you can do once you’ve seen it on its feet or heard it read. I’ve written about 20 plays now, seven full-length and the rest shorts of varying length, and each has come about differently. For each, though, there has been some moment that sparked the whole thing, and mostly those moments happen after I doodle in a notebook (as this one did – I quite clearly recall sitting at a bar on the Isle of Wight). This doodling is either putting two people in a room and having them talk to each other, or writing down situations and seeing what sparks. Once I have a definite idea I know I want to do, I write out the whole biography/setting thing as the story clarifies in my head, sometimes for weeks or months. That way, when I sit to write, the first draft is really rapid (couple of weeks max), though the subsequent revision takes much longer. If there is a linking feature, a large number of my plays seem to have begun with characters talking about something which, if it makes into the final piece at all, falls usually nearer the middle of the finished script than either the beginning or the end. Off that, how we get there, and what happens next seem to flow (as is the case with this one: the mid-section where Eve and Will talk about his walking on stage is nearly transcribed from my first notes).
Brilliant. Thats for that, David; really interesting. Is there anything else that you think readers of the blog will find interesting?
I’m crazily proud that one of my plays made it to Australia, and only sorry a) that I didn’t, and b) that I didn’t even know about it until three weeks after its four shows were over.
Ha… excellent stuff. That is one heck of an achievement. Well, if you want to catch David’s play, Lions, or indeed any or all of the performances you can find tickets at The Place Theatre website by clicking here. We’d love to see you there. Check in on Thursday when we will introduce our next writer!!