Tag Archives: Playwright

INKSPILL Guest Writer Interview David Calcutt Part 2


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Earlier on we brought you the first GUEST WRITER interview from David Calcutt.

Here is part 2

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David Calcutt – Playwright

The thing to remember when writing a play is that no matter how much you work at the writing of it, no matter how many drafts you might go through, the finished script is not the finished piece of work. A play is only truly complete when it’s performed with an audience present. That’s when whatever life it has comes into being. The writer of a play should bear this in mind throughout the whole process of composition. And it’s not only that they’re writing for an audience. They’re writing too for the actors who have the responsibility of portraying the characters the writer has created and of enacting their story onstage. It’s an awareness of this that will help with all those practical aspects of playwriting, such as how to bring characters on and offstage, when to change from one scene to the next, how to make dialogue sound if it’s really being spoken by the characters and so on. And, very importantly, how to keep an audience entertained, gripped, enthralled throughout the entire performance. One of the best ways to bear all this in mind, of course, is to write for a particular group of actors and for a particular space so that you can constantly test if what you’re writing is working are not. I’ve been lucky enough to have done a lot of work in the past with youth and community theatre groups so I’ve been able to develop and hone my playwriting skills through writing in the very practical way. But if you don’t have that opportunity, then it helps to create that theatre space and those actors in your head and write with those in mind. And to keep stopping to read the dialogue out loud, playing all the characters yourself. Finally, it’s important to keep in my mind that the story you are telling in the play is a story for which the audience is taking place in the present. They are watching the story happen as if for real before their eyes, being involved in a moment by moment unfolding of events, and that there are forces driving these events on towards their conclusion. So, when writing the play, every single word spoken, every action and movement, must feel fresh and true and instantaneous. Nothing can be wasted.

My most recently completed work for theatre, by which I mean a piece that’s actually being performed, is a one-man play called “The Life and Times of the Tat Man”. It was originally a piece commissioned by my local museum as a way of bringing attention to some of its artefacts, and was scheduled for six performances only, in the museum itself. I came up with the idea of having a scrap merchant, a tat-man, tell stories about some of those artefacts as if they were pieces of scrap he’d collected. But during the writing process I struck through to a much deeper vein. The Tat Man himself, originally intended to be simply a storyteller, became more complex, a character in his own right who had his own story to tell too, and this became bound up with the objects he was telling stories about. This was in part practical, because I felt that, in order to hold an audience for ninety minutes, the piece needed to be more than a simple storytelling piece, it needed to have all those dramatic elements to it that I’ve just been talking about. The Tat Man needed to be a living, dramatic presence himself, so that the audience began to realise, as the play progressed, that there was some secret, inner life to the character that was slowly being revealed, and that they were witness too. But also, during the writing, there came a moment when the character himself suddenly came to life, and I began to hear his voice, and to gain access to that inner life of his. The writing then became an act of discovery, and the more I discovered the deeper became the character and the deeper the levels on which the play seemed to be working.

The challenge of writing a one man play is that you do only have that one character, and therefore the only other people they can talk to are the audience. But this is also one of its strengths. The fact that the character onstage is talking directly to them means that they can’t help but be involved. Also, for the character, the people in the audience are characters too, characters in their own story, so the audience, instead of watching passively are actively taking part in the play, they are part of the story’s dramatic unfolding. All this can make for a gripping and intense performance. As long writer, the actor and director are all working together to ensure that happens. In every performance.

From its original six performances in the museum, “The Life and Times of the Tat Man” has gone on to tour more than thirty more performances over the past eighteen months and shows no sign of stopping yet. We’re already receiving bookings that will take the show into autumn next year.

Other things that I’m working on now: I have a novel I’m trying to get published, a new play we’re looking to find money to produce and tour, and a very new piece of work that I’m not quite sure what to call yet. It has elements of prose, poetry and drama, and the closest thing to autobiography I’ve tried tackling yet. I have no idea how it will turn out. I’ll just have to wait and see.

What excites me in theatre today is what I think has always excited people – theatre that is both visceral and poetic, that is both an emotional and physical experience. Theatre that doesn’t try to hide anything behind elaborate sets or lighting or costumes, but is nothing more nor less than that simple and profound act of human beings in an open space telling their stories to fellow human beings, in a language with artifice or pretence. It’s very rare that you come across it, but is a precious jewel when you do.

Huge thanks to David for the exclusive INKSPILL interview.

honeyman Based on an interview by Nina Lewis

Visit the INKSPILL shop to buy David Calcutt’s books.

https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2015/10/24/inkspill-shop/ CC bookshop-window Garry Knight

INKSPILL Guest Writer Interview David Calcutt


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GUEST Part 1

1) How did you become a writer?

I suppose you could say I started writing with a view to being published when I was in my late teens. This was when I began to think seriously about the possibility of someday making my living as a writer. I’d discovered at school that I had a talent for it, had written poems and stories for the school magazine, written short sketches to perform with my friends. And when But it was when I was at college, helped by the encouragement I received from some of the lecturers there – two in particular I can think of – that I really began to work at writing, and to think about publishing it. But that didn’t start to happen until I was in my early twenties, and for a few years then it was mostly poetry that I was writing and publishing. It was having two poems broadcast on Radio 3, on a programme called “Poetry Now” that was produced by the poet George MacBeth, that in a roundabout way turned me towards playwriting.

I found I liked the medium of radio and began to think of other ways I could have work broadcast, and one of those ways, of course, was to write plays for radio. So I started doing that. It was some years before I wrote one good enough to be broadcast. There was a lot of learning to do, trial and error, listening to radio play, thinking about the medium and the form and what was required to make them work.

2) You are a successful writer and playwright. What are the challenges distinct to each medium for you and what are the strongest similarities?

This is what’s true about all forms of writing. They all have their own particular challenges, strengths and limitations. You need to learn what those are, work to their strengths, try and make the limitations into strengths too. And, once you have a hold of the form, practice manipulating it, shape it to your own particular voice, so that you’re speaking through the form, and it feels natural to you. There are areas of crossover between the forms of course. What it was that attracted me to playwriting – first for radio, then a little later on for theatre as well – was that of all the forms I’d worked in – poetry, mainly, and some short fiction – it seemed the most fluid and adaptable, seemed, and still seems, to contain within it and to embrace the most important elements of poetry and narrative. Theatre especially has the same kind of tight restraints that poetry has that force you into a compactness of language and structure that combined with its narrative drive, it it’s done well, creates for a real forward thrust of energy. And what live theatre has that the other forms don’t have is that it takes place with and for and audience, who bring their own energy to the piece. So, while I do get a lot out of writing poetry and prose fiction, it’s writing for theatre that gives me the sense of being most deeply involved in the actual act of writing itself.

3) What’s the first hook that gets a new play started for you? Is it an image, a theme, a character?

I suppose it’s the search for that initial spark of energy in writing a play that gets me started. Trying to find that piece of action that will get the whole thing started. And a play does for the most part start with action. At least one character has to come onstage before they can speak, and they have to come onstage for a reason, have a real need to be there, a real need to say or do whatever it is they say or do first. It usually takes me a long time to get at those first few moments and I find the play can’t really take off until I’ve found them. Once I’ve done that – or once they’ve found me – then I try to imagine the whole theatre space, create it as real, and watch the characters as they enter the space and start to move and speak, listen to what it is they have to say, while at the same time being in control of the plot and the action, the story I want to tell. Those two modes of imagining are more often than not in conflict at the beginning, but once they come together, and the story I’m trying to tell is in harmony with the real, inner lives of the characters, and what they say do and do is both what is natural to them and what I want them to say and do, then I know that the play is really working.

Part 2 COMING SOON – Check in after the Character Workshop



Huge thanks to David for giving us an exclusive interview for INKSPILL.

honeyman Interview by Nina Lewis

FIND PART 2 HERE https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2015/10/24/inkspill-guest-writer-interview-david-calcutt-part-2/