Stephen Wyatt on Pick Yourself Up (Queen's Theatre, Hornchurch)
Date: 7 March 2011
You wrote Pick Yourself Up for the Bubble touring company in 1983. This new production is in a theatre, not a tent. How have you altered it, if at all?
The main change has been to expand the piece to fill an evening. The character of Tallulah, the sassy maid, has been added as well as a number of cracking songs and a few extra humorous situations.
Why did you select [Molière]'s play Le médicin malgré lui in the first place?
The brief was originally to create a show which could go into community centres and homes for the elderly incorporating “”olden oldies” from the great era of American song-writing. We were looking for a play which could form a basis for the show and I suddenly remembered the Molière farce. Then I realised the central couple could be a song and dance team and the jokes could be about psychoanalysis rather than seventeenth century medicine. And that was that really.
You write for radio and television as well as for the theatre. Money apart, which medium do you prefer, and why?
I can tell you the one I like least, which is the one I write least for now. Television. The money may be better but the endless editorial interference and demands for rewrite after rewrite made it a wearying experience – for me, at least. The other two I love in different ways – radio for its freedom and its intimacy, theatre for its energy and its direct engagement with the audience,
Do you prefer adapting an existing work – novel, play or whatever – to starting from scratch, and why?
I actually enjoy both. For example, I’ve just dramatised some of the Raymond Chandler Philip Marlowe novels for radio, which was a fascinating challenge. But I also wrote an accompanying original piece Double Jeopard, about the working relationship between Billy Wilder and Chandler while they were writing the script for Double Indemnity, where I had much greater freedom to create from scratch although, admittedly, there was a strong documentary basis.
How did you become a playwright?
The addiction started in childhood when I filled notebooks with endless playlets. After graduating, I was going to be a full-time academic but it didn’t really suit me. So I got a job as writer/researcher with the Belgrade Coventry Theatre in Education team which was my first paid job as a writer. There have been some bumpy moments but I’ve basically earned my living as a playwright ever since.
What's your next project?
Well, we’re recording the second half of BBC Radio Four’s Classic Chandler season in May and to accompany it I’m going to write a play about the working relationship of Alfred Hitchcock and Chandler creating the script for the movie of Strangers on a Train. The play’s called Strangers on a Film and it’s a sort of sequel to Double Jeopardy. I’m actually looking forward to it, which isn’t always the case.
- by Anne Morley-Priestman
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