There’s a recurring dream I have. I’m stood at the window of my bedroom, in the house on the small estate in Worcester, where I lived until I was twelve. I’m looking out onto the garden, like, one of those long gardens, indicative of the post-war project to provide decent accommodation to working families. Sometimes, I’m in the hallway, same house, at the bottom of the stairs. Or I’m entering the lounge, through a door with a hole in it. And it’s always exactly as I remember. Like David Rodinsky’s room, discovered after twenty years, above an East London synagogue. Untouched. Unnervingly untouched.
I live in Birmingham, now. Just a train’s ride away from Worcester. I regularly strike out there, choosing sometimes to pass by the actual, physical house from my dream. Places and spaces, particularly houses, operate as a sort of carrier bag for memory, and walking through an area I know well has, over the last few years, become a key part of my creative process. The late, great writer W G Sebald, one of the key influences on my play Here, and on my writing more generally, asks whether we might have ‘appointments to keep in the past’, and it is with this strange and fascinating idea in mind, that I have been able to explore the inner workings of an ordinary West Midlands family who find themselves, here, in a house, haunted by its own history and willing, at the point at which the play begins, to finally spill its ghosts into the present.
With the support of Papatango, one of the finest new writing companies around, I’ve spent close to six months now attempting to bring my version of the ghost story into sharper focus. I’ve taken walks from Kidderminster Railway Station to Stourport on Severn, the loose setting for the unnamed town in which our house sits. I’ve even roped the director, George Turvey, along, too, sparking up a conversation with two ladies, Sheila and Jennifer, who showed us around St Michael’s Church, a location mentioned in the play. On day one of rehearsals, we used a map of Stourport itself to plot other places referred to, a game of cartographic pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey, with remarkably close alignments to the actual locations themselves. And I’ve watched as four brilliant actors, a brilliant director, a brilliant creative team, and a brilliant theatre company, bring a house I imagined, uncannily, to life.
Sometimes, I wonder,
Am I dreaming, here, too…?
Here runs at Southwark Playhouse until 3 December 2022.