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Brief Encounter With ... Much Writer Hannah Patterson

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Hannah Patterson's first full-length play, Much, premieres at the Cock Tavern Theatre this week (23 February-20 March 2010).

What is Much about?
Identity. The extent to which our identity – who we think we are – is shaped by other people, by society, and often by what’s closest us, by family. And how those expectations manifest themselves in our choices and behaviour. Also the extent to which our sense of identity is shaped by what we do. How we become defined by what we do. So, the characters in Much – whose work straddles the art and business worlds – dramatically embody all those tensions.

Where did the idea come from?
Out of our current obsession with success, fame and wealth. I wanted to explore how Much is enough… How Much love, how Much money, how Much acclaim?

Did you find taking the step up to writing a full-length play a challenge?
It was a challenge making the structure of this work because it plays around with time, moving from the present into the past, and the action takes place over the course of seven years. I would say it was a bigger challenge finding collaborators that I felt would best serve the material.

How did you get into playwriting?
When I first came to London I worked for The London New Play Festival reading plays at a time when they were doing 5 a day at the Old Red Lion, so I was exposed to lots of new writing. I really enjoy writing dialogue, Much more than prose, so playwriting felt like my natural milieu. I also love the way in which relationships come alive and appear to dramatically play themselves out in front of you in theatre.

Do you think there are enough opportunities for new writers in theatre?
There are certainly opportunities but I found it tricky because I don't fit into some of the schemes that are on offer, such as the young writer's scheme, for instance, at The Royal Court. Also, I haven't written an issue-based play which might have a more obvious home. What was great about the The London New Play Festival was that they could take risks and put on plays that showed lots of promise but weren't necessarily perfect, giving new playwrights a chance to cut their teeth and learn their craft without the pressure of immediately having a success.

Who are your major influences?
Henrik Ibsen, Arthur Miller, Edward Albee, Harold Pinter, Neil LaBute, David Mamet, Patrick Marber... Also great screenwriters such as Ben Hecht (His Girl Friday), Joseph Mankiewiz (All About Eve) and contemporary writer Aaron Sorkin (West Wing).

Dream collaborators?
I'm extremely happy to be working with director Hannah Eidinow, who's so good at mining the minutiae and dynamics of human relationships, which is crucial for this piece. The next play I'm writing has a central part that would be filled brilliantly by Tilda Swinton. I'd also love to write screenplays that would attract directors of the calibre of Terence Malick, Todd Haynes, Paul Thomas Anderson or Ang Lee.

Where would you like to be in ten years?
Writing original plays and film scripts, and adaptations for stage and screen. I've also just produced my first documentary so I'd like to continue working in that genre.

Much continues at the Cock Tavern Theatre until 20 March. For more info, visit www.cocktaverntheatre.com


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