What is the project you have just worked on with Boundless Theatre?
I was a writer on the Commissioners project. I went into a school, met a class of Year 9s, and wrote a play for them based on their interests and what they’d told me.
What can you share with us about the classroom?
Every time I left that classroom I had way more energy than when I’d got there. It was a very invigorating environment. The best thing about teenagers is that they’re so straight with you. If they don’t like something, they’ll make it obvious. I love that. I hate bullshitting.
What have you learned about young people?
They’re much funnier than I remember being at that age. A couple of them were funnier than most adults I know. And they’re obsessed with demon possession. Also a lot of them thought cats were evil, which was a blow.
“An extremely fun way to let teenagers into your creative process.”
What surprised you the most about working on this project?
Probably how well I got on with the kids on a one-to-one basis. When faced with them all as a group it was a bit daunting, but when I went around and chatted to them, I was so pleasantly surprised by how fun and nice they all were.
Did you enjoy seeing your play performed to your ‘target audience’?
It was exciting making work for a specific audience, then watching that specific audience watch the work. There were details and jokes in there I took directly from things they’d said to me, and I think that was fun for them.
How would you sum up the Commissioners experience in a sentence?
An extremely fun way to let teenagers into your creative process.
What made you want to become a playwright?
I love theatre. It’s my favourite thing in the world. I actually wanted to be an actor, then halfway through training the head of Acting sat me down and was like – look, you’re not going to be an actor. You’re going to be a writer or director. I was really pissed off at that. But then I graduated, acted in some dreadful fringe play, hated it, and thought – well I might as well try writing a short play. Which turned out to be much more fun.
How important is it to make theatre for young people?
Theatre is not a thing where I grew up. My school barely offered it as a subject, there were no theatres nearby (other than a commercial theatre that houses Chuckle Brothers tours and awful pantos). I was just lucky that my Mum has loved theatre her whole life, and she’d take me up to London to see shows. But that shouldn’t be the way – theatre can give so much to people and you shouldn’t have to have a parent who can afford to take you once a year to access it. I always think of theatre as this open space where you can sit in the dark and just feel things – really feel things, bigger than in real life, and cry and laugh and absorb the liveness of it. Plays can do things for you. A play once made me quit smoking. Everyone should be given the opportunity to love it, and school-age kids should be exploring it as much as they are literature and science.
(I was terrible at science so I might be biased on that).
Read more about playwriting here.