I learnt my craft as a drama teacher. I started writing because I felt my students and I were slowly getting into a ‘large-cast musical’ rut – enjoyable but still a rut. Writing my own material allowed me to create demanding work for large numbers of students. I wrote to their abilities and then added the challenge. I owe them a great deal for the trust they had in me and the belief they developed in themselves.
At the same time I began to direct at NVT in Brighton, working with both professionally and non-professionally trained actors. This provided me with the opportunity to write small-cast work which led to commissions from Radio 4.
As the writer, I see myself as one part in the creative process. I find an idea. It may come from a situation I observe or from something that someone might say – or does not say. In the writing process I become a conduit for the characters’ stories. At its best it is like taking dictation.
When it’s done – as opposed to finished – I hand over my text to a director who, in turn, hands it over to the actors who then, through performance, hand it on to an audience. At this point, if everyone and everything has worked to become the very best that they and it can be, the story passes on into the ether. Beyond the theatre, the audience continue to think and feel about the story and the characters; they may talk about it; it might affect the way they engage with and respond to other people – it becomes the story of a part of their lives. It is then that another writer senses that story – sees and hears and feels its impact – and begins the story-telling process all over again. None of us own it. Rather we contribute to it.
This makes our stories important – they nourish us; through them we understand. No culture has existed without its stories and its story-tellers. Being a part of that process is a privilege. It also blows me away every time.