DAY. A MAN – EARLY 50’S, GREYING BUT CURRENTLY TANNED – SITS AT A DESK TYPING ON AN APPLE MAC. HE IS SURROUNDED BY THE OBJECTS THAT YOU WOULD EXPECT OF A MAN WHO HAS WRITTEN/IS WRITING AND WHO HAS BEEN/IS A MUSICIAN.
GUITARS LEAN AT ONE SIDE OF THE DESK IN GIG BAGS, MORE TO THE OTHER SIDE ON CONCERT STANDS. OCCASIONALLY HE WILL PICK ONE UP TO STRUM AS HE BREAKS STATE FROM HIS WRITING.
THE DESK IS COVERED WITH COMICS, BOOKS – THE MOST RECENT ADDITION TO THE PILE HAVING ARRIVED IN THE LAST TEN MINUTES AND CONTAINING A CHAPTER THAT HE WROTE APPROXIMATELY NINE MONTHS EARLIER.
THE WALLS CONTAIN ORIGINAL ARTWORK FROM A COMIC THAT HE WROTE IN 1990, A MOOD BOARD THAT HOLDS FAMILY PHOTOS, CONCERT TICKETS, A SET LIST FROM A SHOW HE PLAYED IN 1987. TWO CERTIFICATES ARE FRAMED SHOWING NOMINATIONS FOR NATIONAL PRIZES, A SIGNED POSTER FOR HIS FIRST PLAY HANGS BEHIND HIM.
HE LOOKS UP AND SPEAKS:
This is what you need to know. No, let’s start again, there are several things that you need to know and they’re all equally important.
I always wanted to write.
HE DIGRESSES FOR A MOMENT. HE HAS A TENDENCY TO DO THIS.
Did you see that TV play last year? ‘Fabulous’ I think it was called. Toby Jones playing a guy who wanted to be a clown, ended up as pitman for Stoke City. True story. Inspiring. About a man who the rest of society would think of as ‘handicapped’ but didn’t believe that idea himself. Fantastic quote in it; ‘I always wanted to be happy so I decided to be.
That’s an attitude, that’s THE attitude. Decide what you want to be then do it. Believe in what you are, in what you intend to be.
I always wanted to write. So I wrote. It just took a while.
I worked in a record shop. For twenty seven years. Then I stopped and I became what I was supposed to be. I joined a writing group – Merseyside Script Initiative as it was at the time, MSI for short – to find out whether I actually could write. Sometimes that’s what you need: an external voice, some feedback, contacts, a way to break in to an arena that can appear closed. And one night, this one night –
HE DIGRESSES AGAIN.
Yes, I know that I’ve started a sentence with the word ‘and’. And I know that you can’t do that. Are you going to pay attention to people telling you what you can’t do? Or are you going to tell people what you can do, what you’re going to do? I chose the latter. I choose the latter.
This one night then – the idea of a festival is mentioned. A festival of new writing. Of one act plays up to an hour in length.
I’d written nothing over ten minutes. I didn’t believe that I could write an hour long play. “We’re taking monologues” said John Mc, the organiser of the festival. That? That I could do. Talk for an hour? Easy. (Although, in fairness, asking an actor to learn an entire hour of script is another thing altogether, THAT’s hard.)
I submitted. Anonymously as the rules dictated. And waited.
And in the gap, while I was waiting, I wrote. And wrote. I wrote a full length play for a national competition. For the second biggest competition in the country. And I waited on that as well. And wrote. The first play that I wrote – or ‘wot I wrote’ if you’re of a Morecambe and Wise age – ‘Venus Rising’, was selected for the Page To Stage festival. Meetings began. Meetings with the other writers who had been selected (one I’m in very regular contact with still, one I bumped into in Buxton as my third play was due to premiere), meetings with potential directors.
The meetings are vital. I met with two extremely talented directors. One, I bumped into at his last piece at the Liverpool Playhouse a few weeks back, the other I’ve been working with for over a year now. We changed things round a bit. The director (Anna) had an interesting vision for the monologue. It became more than a monologue, it became a play. I rewrote. And once we’d cast the actors I rewrote again. Actors make a hell of a difference to your play – you want a performance, give them something to play with, collaborate, the collaboration is vital.
We performed five times: 81 Renshaw St, The Lantern, The Bluecoat (THE BLUECOAT!!) and The Treasure House in the World Museum where I used to go and look at the mummies when I was a kid. We performed, we rehearsed, we had a hell of a summer. I did that thing that writers aren’t supposed to do; I was at every rehearsal. I stuck my oar in. The joy of the way P2S (let’s call it that, shall we? I feel we’re all friends by now) worked was that I was a producer. Me and the director were the producers. Not The Producers, not Bloom and Bialystok and definitely not the musical version, that’d be weird. I made decisions about where we were going, what we were doing and I learned stuff. The learning is vital. The learning is always vital.
The other vital thing? The contacts. The actors that we’ve worked with again and again. On short films, on other plays. The contacts who will listen to you because you’re not a guy who works in a record shop (let’s be clear about that one as well – I was a manager of a major retail outlet. You know what production is? It’s management, no more, no less, piece of cake, make things happen. MAKE THINGS HAPPEN) you’re a playwright.
People ask me what I do. I’m a playwright. And a journalist and a film producer and a broadcaster.
Venus Rising was my first thing.
You need a first thing. The second thing can’t come without a first thing. Venus Rising told me – before it was selected, just in the act of doing it – that I COULD write.
The second thing?
‘The Comeback Special’ – Highly Commended in the Liverpool Hope Playwriting Prize 2015. To be produced later this year.
The third thing? ‘Half The Sky’; it’s a truly unique night of theatre and music that happens because of contacts, because of saying ‘we could do this, this would be interesting’, because of contacts and meetings and experience of MAKING THINGS HAPPEN. And that’s nominated for excellence in new writing at the Buxton Fringe Festival. And the film that Anna and I make – three of us, me writing, Anna directing, Reid acting and providing music – wins the best short film award at Buxton Fringe and is retweeted (because that’s what the cool kids do now) to two and a half million people. By Irvine Welsh and Sally Lindsay and Duncan Jones – who’s a hell of a director and just happens to be David Bowie’s son.
The fourth thing? It’s a secret. It’s happening. Next week I’ll start on the fifth. And that will sit alongside the novel that I’m in the middle of and the collection of journalism that I’ll publish in mid 2016 to accompany the e-book that I published in early 2014 just before all this started.
I am genuinely award winning. I can say that. It’s not pretentious, it’s fact. Simple as that. I have awards, in this room, on the wall.
A year ago I was in rehearsal for my first play. For my first ever play – oh yeah and we’ll take that to Edinburgh next year as well, works should have an afterlife otherwise why did you do them?.
That was the start. Everything needs a start. You can’t embrace every opportunity without embracing the first one. You want to be a writer? Write. You want to put a play on? Write a play, produce a play, write yourself a new life.
Make things happen.
HE SMILES, TURNS AWAY FROM US, OPENS A NEW DOCUMENT AND STARTS TO WRITE.
END. OR START.