E V Crowe: 'I tried to be honest about my experience of the internet'
E V Crowe's new play ''Virgin'' premieres at Watford Palace Theatre this week (26 September) as part of the venue's Ideal World season, exploring the impact of digital technology
What inspired you to write Virgin?
I tried to be honest with myself about my experience of the internet and how that experience relates to 'real life' and to what extent the two things mirror each other. As in, to what extent the internet is simply an extension of our behaviour and relationships 'offline' and how far we are able to explore new facets of our personalities or hopes or dreams or indeed weaknesses through being online. I wanted to locate the play in one of the real life areas of rural Britain which still don't have broadband access, and for whom 'the future' is yet to arrive, even though residents campaign and lobby hard for broadband provision. To consider that sense of missing out, and in turn the hope and belief in what 'the internet' will bring, and then to explore a version of its possible impact once it arrives.
Can you give us an overview of the story?
Emily and her husband Mark both want the internet to come to the remote area they live in. Emily works in the nearby town and gets an opportunity to work on the pilot scheme which will bring broadband to them. Sally comes to stay with them for the duration of the project and Emily is forced to weigh up how far she is willing to fight for the kind of existence and opportunities she feels she needs, both in the workplace and at home. Will it be the kind of future she had imagined or deserves?
Your last play Liar, Liar involved heavy use of mobiles, and this is centred on the internet. Do you have a particular interest in technology?
I've been interested in technology for a while. Before I became a full time writer I worked on a project that engaged with young people's personal and social issues, through online engagement. It was there, I think, that I saw how pervasive technology can be, how it can become an extension of our emotional lives without us even noticing, and how that intersect or fault line between abstract notions like coding, java, binary data and the human notions of love, death and transformation can reveal more about us than we expect. I enjoyed the text language of Liar, Liar. It's like a new idiom that enables us to express new intimacies, new needs, new feelings, simply because we have new words. I appreciate text language for its specificity in what it reveals, and the ownership that some young people have over its use and evolution. In Virgin, when the internet comes into our characters' home, it enables an audience to see the characters in a new light and to witness the consequences of their small and personal digital revolutions and the idiosyncratic and specific ways that can manifest itself.
Tell us a bit more about the Ideal World season
It's three new plays, all about digital technology! I think it's a brave season, and if I wasn't part of it, I would want to see it. I'm excited to experience some kind of reflection on all that has happened technologically, and I love how 'human' theatre is, and the way those two conversations might sit along side each other; real people standing on stage telling a story about something that we know, understand and feel but is invisible somehow.
What prompted you to be a playwright in the first place?
I never thought I would be a playwright. I didn't know what that was I don't think. But I always felt like the version of the world I was introduced to was not the same as the one I was experiencing. And I always reacted against that in various ways. I always wanted to find out what or who was responsible for the mis-truth, and then to retell things. I always prefer to know where I stand even if it hurts.
How important was your training as part of the Royal Court young writers' scheme?
The Royal Court Writing programme was the missing link between 'writing' and writing for an actual theatre that produced new plays. I didn't grow up in London, so I wasn't aware there was such a place. Being taught by real writers, and being surrounded by people who also wanted to write plays was transformative.
You do a lot of work with teenage writers – what advice do you give them?
I think the hardest thing about trying to write when you are a teenager is imagining the possibility that your experience of the world is valid and that other people would be interested to hear it. It's difficult not to mimic what we think a play should sound like, or to imagine that the thoughts you are having in your head are not the right ones for a play, that better grander thoughts will arrive.
That besides, what else is coming up?
I'm working on a play for the National Theatre set in another rural community, and a play for the Royal Court.
The Ideal World season continues at Watford Palace until 19 October - click here for further details.