Strictly speaking I’m a Geordie. But I’ve been here a while so no one holds it against me. A fruitful area? In one very important respect – yes. Because in the shape of Eastern Angles it has provided me with a theatrical home.
How does Bentwater Roads differ from your previous work for Eastern
Angles, and why?
Bentwater Roads was always conceived as a site-specific piece. We’d taken other plays into the extraordinary space of the Hush House but this time wanted to produce something that made the most of its wonderful Cold War industrial architecture and magical acoustic. I went away, sat down at the desk and, sure enough, eight and a half years later we had a play. The previous plays I’ve done with the company were designed to tour – they could all fit in the back of a van. Bentwater Roads is on a much bigger scale with at times up to 30 people on stage. The play is also firmly rooted in the East Anglian soil where it will be performed. My other pieces for the company were less focused on the location. Message from Neptune for example was a comedy about the discovery of the planet Neptune. The Anatomist was an unreliable account of the life of Andreas Vesalius, the father of modern anatomy. And as you recall from your Renaissance history, he wasn’t operating in Cromer!
What other plays have you written for other companies?
All my theatre work has been done with Eastern Angles. Beyond this I’ve written mostly for radio which I love because I’ve been able to work with people like Juliet Stevenson and Harold Pinter. There was some television too – minor adventures in soapland and several episodes of Where the Heart Is.
How did you become a playwright?
The conventional route. I locked myself away in the shed at the bottom of the garden. The radio plays came first. After seeing a production of Waterland by Eastern Angles I sent the artistic director Ivan Cutting a piece about Izaak Walton and suggested it would be a fine idea if he got me to write a play for them. He seemed entirely unfazed by the fact I hadn’t written anything for the stage before. That first play – The Bluethroat – toured East Anglia, was turned into two separate radio plays, and then Screen East funded a screenplay. After that Ivan thought he’d better ask me to do another one.
What's your next project?
I’m writing a play about a famous photographer’s reaction to finding the body of his dead son – which was to take pictures. (At this point it’s traditional for me to say, “Of course Eastern Angles couldn’t do this one”. And for Ivan to say, “Oh, yes we can”). It’s called The Boy in the Room. Of course it’s not one Eastern Angles could do…