Category Archives: Original Content

LPB Memberships: One Year On!

Can you believe it has been a whole year since we launched our members website?  Here co-founder, Kimberley Andrews, reflects on the past year, talks about the overwhelming support received from members, and discusses what’s next for LPB…

Why did we launch our membership scheme?

In the summer of 2017, A.C Smith and I knew that we were at a crossroads with LPB. We’d had a fantastic four years supporting an incredible range of emerging writers and watching our community grow. However, it had been quite a challenge!

As our work grew, we needed the infrastructure to support it. And, despite the fact that our team worked on a volunteer basis, it was still really hard to find the funds to cover our basic costs (all the boring stuff like accounting fees, web hosting and insurance really adds up!).

We knew we had to do something radical if we were to continue in our quest to support the next generation of playwrights but we also felt strongly that, as the ‘bread and butter’ of our work, the resources on the London Playwrights’ Blog site should remain free.

That’s how we came up with the idea of asking our subscribers to help support us and in return, we’d offer them some exciting new content –  and with that, our members site was born!

What has the response been like?

It’s been incredible! We weren’t sure how it would go down – it’s never easy to ask people for money and accessibility really is at the heart of what we do; after all, as playwrights ourselves, we know how hard a world it is to break into.

We set the price as low as we could, at around the price of a coffee per month, with the option for writers to pay more if they wanted to/ could.

We’ve been overwhelmed by the support we’ve received in the past year and as we edge towards having 300 hundred members, we’re hoping this is a sign that we’ll be able to keep growing, and keep expanding on the work we do for writers.

What have we achieved this year?

In January, we ran #WrAP2018. a challenge for our members to write a play in a month.  Over 150 writers took part and we were ecstatic to hear that many of you actually completed  first drafts or at least did the groundwork for developing a new idea.

We’re currently running an online re-drafting course and an online book club to encourage writers to read more plays. We’ve also had lots of members take us up on the reduced rate for our script consulting service and we’ve seen some really exciting writing as a result of this.

One of our best achievements has been building a community of playwrights, both online and in person at some of our fantastic LPW member meetups. It’s amazing to see writers come together and how they flourish when given support from their community – it really feels as though we’re at the start of a big movement for playwrights, and hopefully that’s something we can continue to nurture.

And last but not least, through the support we’ve received from our members, we’ve been able to continue the work we do at LPB, bringing you the latest playwriting opportunities for free.

What’s next for our members?

We’ve got a series of mini online workshops coming up designed to keep people writing during the summer lull (if you’re anything like us, writing somehow ends up taking a back seat when the sun is shining!) and then in Autumn we’ve got a longer course coming up which looks at writing in regional dialect in detail.  We’re currently working on the rest of our Autumn programme and developing other new exciting content for our members, so watch this space!

In terms of our bigger ambitions, we plan to keep building our online resources, expand on the variety of courses we’re offering, and to  further support writers in their journey to getting their work produced. The bottom line is though, the more support we get, the more we can do, so please join up if you can!

And if you are thinking of signing up, you should know that all previous content stays up on the members site, so you won’t have missed out on things like #WrAP and the re-drafting course if you join now.

What would we like to say to members?

THANKS! And we mean that from the bottom of our hearts! The support you’ve given us over the past year has been phenomenal and it has allowed us to keep doing the work we do to support  emerging playwrights just like you. It’s been so inspiring to have so many of you on board with an idea we’re really passionate about, and we really do appreciate every single one of you.

What can you do support us?

Become a member! And if you already are, then stay with us! You can also support us by doing your Amazon shopping through our affiliate links, coming along to our workshops, choosing us for script consulting,following us on Twitter, and by spreading the word about our work to anyone who will listen!

London Playwrights’ Blog is at London Writers’ Week next week! Check out the details here. 

Image via MattysFlicks Flickr CC

Become a member here!

Working class voices: vibrancy, determination and finding inspiration in the ordinary

The lack of working class voices in UK theatre at the moment finally seems to be coming to the forefront of discussion, with theatres such as the Royal Court attempting to address the issue.

 

In this guest post, playwright Joanne Sherryden reflects on being a working class writer, talks about why we need to hear working class voices and shares some advice…

“Writing about working class characters and their stories wasn’t something I did consciously. It’s just what I did.”

Until recently, it genuinely never actually occurred to me that I was a ‘working class’ writer. Writing about working class characters and their stories wasn’t something I did consciously. It’s just what I did. These are the voices that I hear in my head. Their stories are the stories that I want to tell.

For me, I believe that theatre, like all art, should represent the full spectrum of society. Nothing thrills me more than seeing, characters on stage who speak like me and tell stories about people where I come from. Not literally, although that’s great, as well. But I’m talking about working class characters worldwide. Their stories, when told well, are universal. And I have to say most of these characters don’t happen to be racist, scrounging, uncultured, thugs. And they tend not to be victims, either. They have an energy, vibrancy, dynamism and visceral drive that, for me, is life affirming. These characters come more from the heart, rather than the head. Soul music, rather than classical. I love the poetry and bite of their language. The colloquialisms, the slang, the banter. I’m not gonna lie – I also love a cheeky swearword. I think there’s an art to swearing. Just as I disagree that sarcasm is the lowest form of wit – I love a sarcky put down, I also think there can also be a sublime eloquence to a perfectly placed swear word.

“Nothing is wasted. Life experience fuels my writing”

I’ve been asked if I have any advice to give other writers. I am the last person to give advice! But I would say if you have to write, you will write. I would also say writing is hard. But it’s meant to be hard. Get used to it. Like most people, I don’t have a trust fund, so I also work a ‘normal job’ and I have two children. Although my life is busy and can get in the way of my writing, I’ve also learned that nothing is wasted. Life experience fuels my writing. The main protagonist in my play, Lia, was inspired by someone I met at a bus stop on my way to one of my many crappy jobs.

“Send your stuff out.”

I sent my play Mermaids out in response to a call out for working class writers – and now it’s being produced. There is no way I would ever have been able to afford to produce my work in London. But it all started because one person, our director, Shiv, read my play and liked it. It’s now being produced in an Off West End Theatre with all creatives being paid on an Equity Scale. Hat’s off to the King’s Head who put their money where their mouth is.

“Believe in yourself”

Finally, believe in yourself. Of course you’ll have days when you think you’re crap. But overall, you have to believe you have something to say and a unique way of saying it. Cos if you don’t believe it, no one else will.

Joanne’s play, Mermaids takes place from Monday 2 July 2018 – Friday 6 July 2018 at the King’s Head Theatre and is directed by Siobhan James-Elliott. Find out more and book tickets here.

LPW Online Book Club – A Midsummer Night’s Dream

The LPW Online Book Club is just one of the things you can access if you become a member! Not a member yet? Well, if you want a jump start for your writing for the price of a cup of coffee, what are you waiting for? Sign up here today! (Want more reasons to join and a bit more info? Read this).

As a result of your feedback, we’ve changed the way we do book club, find out more here.

This month’s pick

For our July selection, we’re going to be reading A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare.

Why did we pick this?

Well, it’s summer isn’t it?! And we thought this light-hearted comedy would be the perfect accompaniment to the sunny weather and longer days.

There’s so much to like about this play, from fairies to magic to unrequited love to a man turning into a donkey (stay with us!) Perhaps down to the comedic themes, this feels like one of Shakespeare’s more accessible plays and is a really good one to read if you want to explore his work and style in an enjoyable way.

How it works

All you need to do is read the play then head on over to our Members Facebook Group from the 15th of the month to join the discussion! Book club threads will be marked with the hashtag #bookclub, so it will be easy to find the discussion. Feel free to comment on existing threads or even start your own, the more discussion, the better!

Once the discussion is open  on our Facebook Group, it will stay there, so you can dip in and out throughout the rest of the month as much or as little as you like, whenever is convenient for you.

(Please note, to avoid spoilers for those who haven’t finished the play yet, any comments posted on our Facebook Group prior to 15th of each month will be deleted). 

Need a copy?

If you need to buy a copy, you can do so at the link below. (And if you buy through this Amazon Affiliate link, a small portion of the sale will go towards supporting LPW – at NO extra charge to you!)

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Want to plan ahead?

Our next Book Club texts will be: 

August: A Raisin In The Sun (Lorraine Hansberry)

September: Look Back in Anger (John Osborne)

Find out more and sign up to become a member here!

 

Image courtesy of Dimitris Kamaras via Flickr Commons 

7 Playwrights On Why They Write

For National Writing Day, we chatted to some brilliant playwrights and posed the trickiest question of them all: “Why Do You Write?” Here’s what they had to say…

Nicole Acquah

Nicole is a performer-writer currently based in Essex who wrote For a Black Girl that was on at this year’s VAULT Festival,  and her new show N*gger – A One Woman Show is on at Omnibus on 27th June 2018 as part of their Engine Room.

“I write because I like to communicate ideas, thoughts and images. Writing is one of the ways I choose to talk. I’ve always found it easier to tell someone how I feel through written, rather than spoken, word.

I tend not to overthink it. Writing is something I have done since I was a child; I enjoyed hearing stories, reading them and creating my own. I actually use childhood as a motivation for many of my actions. How do children operate? Children do things because…they just do. It’s in their nature to do what makes them happy and their duty to be true to themselves.

When I write I’m being true to myself and who God made me to be. I think we’re all born with a desire to create and a talent with which to create it. I think it’s our duty to follow that – anything other would be silly.”

Lucy Burke

Lucy is a Manchester born playwright currently living in London.  Her new show WEIRD explores the highs and lows of living with obsessive compulsive disorder, and will be showing at Theatre 503 and at Pleasance Theatre as part of the Edinburgh Fringe.

“When I left drama school I felt like no one was writing the sort of narratives I wanted to hear so I decided I’d just do it myself. Being born and bred in a working class town in Greater Manchester, I was disappointed by the lack of regional voices in theatre, so I decided to do something about this.

Graduating age 22 and coming into the industry as a young woman, I also wanted to write the sort of roles that my fellow female graduates would be excited to play – meaty, strong women rather than the archetypal roles that felt all too common but not necessarily accurate.

Now I write for characters of all ages from different walks of life, but they are still characters that are marginalised in some way, be that because of class, disability, age, gender or all of the above; these are the stories we most need to tell.”

Peter Darney

Peter wrote and directed the award winning 5 Guys Chillin’, which won the Best LGBT Production award at Edinburgh Festival 2017, and he is about to direct Free and Proud, which will run at the Assembly Festival as part of the Edinburgh Fringe 2018.

“I started writing 5 Guys Chillin’ when I saw something happening that no-one was talking about, with some people getting drawn into a potentially destructive world without necessarily free choice. I wanted to provoke a community discussion, and am now trying to do the same thing through film with my screenplay Clapham Trashbag.

My new play A Tidy Boy looks at what is to come out in a working class Welsh town, and gender inequalities in our perception of what constitutes abuse. So I think I write because I want to try to give voices to people who might not otherwise be heard, to provoke people to look deep into a person, not just their outward facing aspects; to see, understand and accept.

It’s easy to judge a behaviour, it takes more effort to understand the cause, but stories can really help with that. So ultimately I think I write to try and promote understanding, tolerance and eventual acceptance.”

Nathan Ellis

Nathan’s work has been performed at Theatre503, CPT, The Pleasance Theatre, Theatre N16, and The Cockpit Theatre. His latest play No One Is Coming to Save You is showing at The Bunker Theatre until 7th July 2018 and will run at the Edinburgh Fringe.

“I think about tangled wires a lot. About how people’s experience of the world is knotty and complex. And I think of writing as trying to engage with that complexity.

And the amazing thing about writing for the theatre is that a bunch of people then go to a room to hear those words being embodied and try to untangle the whole thing and you get to sit with them and try to do it too. That’s the incredible privilege of writing.”

Rabiah Hussain

Rabiah was part of the Tamasha Playwrights programme in 2016 and is currently part of the BBC Drama Room. Her show Spun is showing at The Arcola Theatre from the 27th of June until the 28th of July 2018.

“Because I think I write better than I do anything else.

Because I realised a long time ago that it’s all I’ve ever wanted to do.

Because I finally understand that my voice counts.

Because not writing is even harder.”

Hannah Khalil

Hannah has previously been a part of Bush Theatre’s Project 2036, and her show Scenes from 68* Years has been on at The Arcola Theatre, and her show The Scar Test was performed on tour and at Soho Theatre in July 2017.

Photographer: Richard Saker

“I wrote my first play when I was 20 and it was in response to someone telling me I needed to get serious about finding a boyfriend or I’d end up alone forever. I was incensed. I wrote a short play. Basically I write when I’m angry or upset about something.

I’ve a keen sense of injustice (no doubt fuelled by my Palestinian Irish blood) and so use my writing to try and shake myself out of inert rage and encourage empathy in others. But it’s more than that – without sounding pretentious – I kind of have to write, for my mental health. When bad things happen and I’m finding it difficult to cope, escaping to a world of my making on the page is a life-saver for me. I can’t imagine ever not doing it.”

Andrew Muir

Andrew has had plays produced throughout the UK, including Push, which was awarded ‘Critic’s Choice’ when it was on at Union Theatre. He is also a co-creative director of Ardent Theatre, who have an upcoming week-long residency at Soho Theatre.

“I grew up in a pub listening to people tell me their story. For years I listened, not knowing that there would be a time when I would want to start sharing those stories with a wider audience. Not just those stories, many stories; but the pub and its regulars was definitely where it all started for me.

One of my favourite aspects of writing is when you uncover a fresh story – something that you are completely unfamiliar with and yet resonates to the point that it simply won’t leave you alone. For days, then weeks and sometimes months this ‘story’ is whirring until finally you commit.

The story has got you and it won’t let you go. Until you sit down and do something about it. That something may just be a line of dialogue, or a character profile or maybe a scene. But sometimes, it grows into a play. And that’s brilliant.”

Has someone mentioned the reason why you write? Or is it something else entirely? We'd love to know! Share your thoughts with us @LDNPlaywrights.

Five things I wish I’d been told before I started writing

A year on from her first short play being staged, Editor Jennifer Richards reflects on what she’d go back and tell herself (when she gets her hands on a time machine…)

I never studied playwriting. In fact, I’m completely degreeless! I’ve learn through reading plays, Google and, whenever I’m lucky enough to chat to anyone from the theatre industry, asking lots and lots of questions.

And, a year on from when my first short play was staged, I’ve learnt about form, characterisation, dialogue, action and all that good stuff. But there’s other learning curves, outside of actual playwriting techniques and tips, that I’ve just been experiencing as I go.

This includes how to look after my wellbeing and how to find a community within theatre, and also what it means to actually call yourself a writer. Because, as it turns out, playwriting is a lot more than just the words on the page.

So, here are the five things I wish I’d been told before I started writing:

  1. You don’t need to write 24/7 to be a writer

None of the writers I know write full time. Often they’re a writer slash something, whether that’s a teacher, lawyer or actor.

But I used to worry that if I wasn’t constantly working on something new, I’m not allowed to call myself a writer. Like some sort of weird theatre police would appear and snatch the title off me.

I wish I’d just been more gentle with myself, as balancing a job, seeing friends, and looking after my health, all alongside writing, can be tricky at times. I definitely shouldn’t be making myself go to bed at ridiculous times just so to squeeze in writing a few more scenes.

And it’s not just a matter of finding the time. Sometimes I need to take a break from writing to recharge and find something to spark a story again. Turns out it’s counterproductive to glue my hands to my laptop, as I definitely won’t be creating anything interesting if all my creativity’s gone…

2. Don’t be scared to share your work

I’m sure I’m not alone in being scared of people’s judgments. I never wanted  to share my writing with others for fear someone would take one look at it and throw it in the bin.

But feedback is such a vital part of playwriting, which I found when I forced myself to share my writing my joining a writers’ course (which I highly recommend if you have the fear like me!)

Image: Eulanda Shead Photography

Now receiving this feedback is what keeps me going in the re-drafting process. It’s encouraging, rather than scary, to know I’ve discussed and shaped this idea with others, and feedback from them has helped spark new directions for the script.

3. You don’t need to know all the answers when you start writing

My old English teacher ingrained in me the saying: ‘If you fail to plan, you plan to fail’. Though he was talking about essays, I also applied it when it came to playwriting, believing that if I hadn’t worked out exactly what was happening in each scene before I started writing, the script would be a mess.

But I’ve found that writing to a storyboard feels constricting, as I force myself to cover each bullet point, rather than led my characters led my story in a direction that feels more truthful.

Image by Stephen Dan via Flickr CC

Now when I write, I often don’t know what the script’s really about until I finish the first draft. It’s only after having written the script that I then plan, reading back through it to find out what the story is and what I’m really trying to say. Then the script goes through quite a dramatic editing stage!

4. Writing doesn’t have to be a solitary activity

We might picture the writer as a lone wolf, sat alone at their desk, but the brilliant thing about theatre is how many people are needed to bring a script to life.

I’ve got to work with directors, actors, producers, set designers, stage managers, dramaturgs, fellow writers and so many more. And getting to work with a team makes writing feel like a pretty sociable job!

If you’re looking for it to be even more sociable, write in cafes or co-working spaces, or even join a writers’ group!

5- Just because you love writing, doesn’t mean it should take over your life

‘Pursue your passion’ is a cliché that my old Head of Year would have (correctly) told me off for writing in my UCAS application. But by being a part of scratch nights, or taking my plays to fringe shows, or even by joining a theatre group, that’s exactly what I’m doing.

And because writing’s my passion and something I’ve always dreamt of doing, it’s really easy for me to let it take over my whole life. To cancel plans as I’ve got writing deadlines to meet, or to stay up all night stressing as I know people are waiting on me to finish scripts.

But just because something is a passion, it’s not a reason for me to let it be all-consuming. I’ll often find myself committing to more writing opportunities than I can manage as I’m so scared to let an opportunity slip through my fingers and for my dream (more clichés, I’m sorry) to suddenly fade.

And honestly? I’ll hold up my hands and say I’ve not quite managed to find the right balance yet of pursuing writing opportunities while not burning myself yet. But I’m learning that it’s okay to say no. Because even though the dream may be writing, I don’t want to end up hating it while I work to make it a reality.

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Did your inbox get a bit crowded during the GDPR madness?

If you meant to reconfirm your subscription to our newsletter but didn’t manage it in time, don’t panic – you can resubscribe at the link below:

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If you want to get the Opportunities Weekly Roundup direct to your inbox, all you have to do is click to sign up.  You’ll also have options to tailor your preferences about exactly what you want to hear from us, so you’ll never miss our latest news – or a playwriting opportunity!

Image: Ninita_7 via Pixabay CC Licence (https://pixabay.com/photo-2828146/)

How I Learnt To Love The Redrafting Process

In this post, Editor Jennifer Richards shares her tips on how she gradually fell in love with the re-drafting process, as editing exercises and tips and tricks helped her realise how vital re-drafting is for playwriting success!

Re-drafting a script used to be the dreaded monster I’d put off at all costs. It got to the point of not even wanting to write the script in the first place, knowing I’d just have to take a sledgehammer to it later. It seemed pointless to pour time and energy into a script knowing that I could end up with only a few lines from that original script making it into my final draft.

Image by Stephen Dan via Flickr CC

Of course that’s a very dramatic editing process, but I’ve always had a flair for drama! And I’ve learnt that it takes real determination to not mind, or even to like, the fact that I could go through 30 drafts with only one line from the very first script making it into the last one.

Now I’ve got to the point where I can actually enjoy getting to cut out characters, or moving where the story takes place, or even changing it from a four-hander to a monologue.

So here’s the tips and tricks I discovered to help make that re-drafting process fun rather than frightening…

1- Start with a blank page

Editing seems a lot more cruel when I’m actively having to cut out lines and move big chunks of text around. I found I’m a lot happier to make bigger changes if I start from a blank page again.

This doesn’t mean I need to re-write everything; I can just copy and paste across the bits I need, but it ultimately means I’m a lot more honest about the bits I definitely don’t need.

2- Get a buddy group

Sometimes when it comes to do what feels like my 30th draft (or, in some cases, my actual 30th draft), I find myself loosing interest in my story.

After having spent so long trying to get it right, it still doesn’t seem to be doing what I want. Often I’ve got so wrapped up in my own head that what I need is an outside perspective to give me a bit more clarity.

I’m lucky enough to be in a buddy group with three other playwrights, which has been incredibly helpful in having peope to offer feedback on bits of the script that I’m struggling with, or just as a way to soundboard ideas off of. It helps ignite that love for the story again and make me feel like maybe, yes, I can give the 51st draft a go.

3- Remember you’re not the story

When I write something more personal, it’s hard to distance myself from the story. And though that can definitely make it very hard when it comes to reading reviews, it can even make it difficult to edit.

When something feels so close to you, it’s a struggle to look at it objectively and decide what is and isn’t necessary for the  narrative. Yes this one detail may be really important to me, but does it actually matter to the story? I constantly have to remind myself I’m not editing out my history or any of the real story I’m basing the play off of, I’m just making the best play that I can.

Image by Barman Farzahd via Flickr CC

4- Take your characters out of the script

I’m someone who has a total fear of wasting time. So the idea of spending time doing writing exercises rather than writing the actual script makes me feel a bit nauseous. But it’s actually a great way of exploring characters.

Whether that’s freewriting an extra scene that maybe the audience don’t see on stage but I’d like to explore, or putting two characters together who don’t interact during the play and making them have a cuppa, it’s a great way of putting life back into the script.

This means redrafting seems like creating something new and exciting rather than a chore, which makes that editing process a whole lot more enjoyable!

And if you want to find out about more tips for the re-drafting process, you can become an LPW member to get access to our new re-drafting toolkit that’ll help you tackle all those editing problems!

Our new privacy policy

As one of our LPW members very accurately (and humorously) stated, you’d have to be living on another planet not to know about GDPR!

You’ll have received an email about how to reconfirm your subscription to our mailing list, which you’ll need to do if you’d like to keep getting the Weekly Roundup to your inbox.

If you’ve acted on that email, you’ll be all sorted, and don’t need to do anything else!

If for some reason you haven’t seen this email, you can access the newsletter subscription form here to indicate what kind of information you’d like to get from us.  (Please note that if you’re already a subscriber, you might be prompted to follow a link from your email to update your account instead.)

And in the meantime, if you’re curious about how we safeguard your data and security, you can access the full details here:

Read our new privacy policy

This policy applies to both London Playwrights’ Blog and London Playwrights’ Workshop (and can be viewed on both sites).  If you have any questions, you can always reach us at londonplaywrightsblog@gmail.com.

Thanks for reading, and happy writing!

Image: BiljaST via Pixabay (CC Licence)

LPW Online Book Club – A Doll’s House

The LPW Online Book Club is our latest initiative, exclusive for our members.

Not a member yet? Well, if you want a jump start for your writing for the price of a cup of coffee, what are you waiting for? Sign up here today! (Want more reasons to join and a bit more info? Read this).

This month’s pick

For our May selection, we are going to be reading A Doll’s House by Henrick Ibsen.

Why did we pick this?

First performed in 1879, this play caused quite a stir at the time. The play is set in Norway and is about the life of a married woman, who is trapped by the male-dominated world she inhabits. Questioning the place of women in society was pretty forward thinking for the time and initial performances of the play caused controversy. That said, the play went on to become very popular and the issues it raises are still just as relevant in the world today.

We think this this play will spark interesting discussion and it’s also a great example of the traditional three-act play structure.

 

How does it work?

All you need to do is read the play and come on over to our Members Facebook Group to join the discussion! Book club threads will be marked with the hashtag #bookclub, so it will be easy to find the discussion.

When does it start?

Discussion will start on Wednesday 30 May at 7.30pm.  Don’t worry if you haven’t finished the play by then, we’ll be starting at the beginning with our discussion, so there will still be a lot that you can get out of it.

However, we can’t be held liable for any spoilers, so if this is something that will bother you, probably best to finish the play before the book club starts.

We’ll be leaving the discussion on the play open on the Facebook Group, so if there’s a question or a topic you want to explore with a group of writers, this is the perfect opportunity.

Need a copy?

If you need to buy a copy, you can do so at the link below. (And if you buy through this Amazon Affiliate link, a small portion of the sale will go towards supporting LPW – at NO extra charge to you!)

A Doll’s House by Henkrik Ibsen

Find out more and sign up to become a member here!

Image by Maxwell Hamilton via Flickr CC

Detangling power, money and privilege: finding your path as a playwright

In this guest post, writer Naomi Westerman discusses problems with privilege within the theatre industry and how becoming a playwright isn’t a simple as picking up a pen.  

The first time I stepped foot in the Royal Court Theatre was five years ago. That was the same year I met Simon Stephens, which was the first time I’d met a working playwright, making it the first time I’d realised ‘playwright’ was a job people could do for a living, despite it not being the 16th century.

Better writers than me have spoken out recently about the difficulties of earning a living from theatre, and the dirty secret that most ‘successful’ playwrights have alternative sources of income. It’s important stuff, but the debate about privilege has to go further.

When I wrote my first play, Tortoise, I had no ambition to be a playwright and limited experience of theatre. I wrote it simply because I had a burning need to tell that particular story, about the experiences of being a woman in the NHS mental health care system.

I sent the first draft to a small regional theatre, and to my naive amazement they rang me up and offered actual cash money to produce it as part of a festival. I promptly went onto google and invited every theatre I could find (I guess I did have some hidden ambition after all), to a flood of replies saying, “Lovely… let us know if it comes to London.”

So I self-financed a one-off showcase in London, and stepped out from behind the curtain (hey I was self-funding; I had to save on actor fees) to find a completely packed house.

The next day I woke to over 20 emails and voicemails from literary managers and agents, offering meetings, places on writer’s groups, rehearsed readings, showcases, scratches, “development opportunities”, chances to get to know them… everything, in short, except for actual production offers.

Though I was thrilled to have a sell-out show, making money is sadly still no a guarantee. And even now several productions and years later, when a major theatre asked me to extend a short play I’d written to full-length, they expressed this with a keen but non-contractual and unpaid interest.

With these productions behind me, I’m definitely not a new writer anymore. In fact, as someone who didn’t start writing professionally till 30, I’m practically an OAP in an industry obsessed with youth and newness.

Theatre’s obsession with youth only seems to be growing…

And it’s this obsession for newness and discovering ‘raw talent’ that’s made finding my path as a playwright more difficult. I was surprised when someone asked if I’d sent Tortoise to the Royal Court. I assumed any major theatre would laugh at the hubris of an inexperienced wannabe assuming their first script might be Major Theatre-worthy.

I was raised to work hard, study hard, and work my way up from the bottom. This meant I decided to write small plays and put them on at fringe festivals, so I could learn to walk before I tried to run.

Four years later and I’ve still never submitted a script to the Court nor any other major theatre. Maybe it’s low self-esteem but I just don’t think I’m ready.

Not long ago I was in a meeting with the literary manager of a major theatre, who told me, “The ideal X Theatre play is a brilliant play by someone who’s never written a word before, and maybe never been to the theatre.”

Half of me thinks, God I wish I’d known that. I wish I hadn’t wasted my newness. But the other half thinks, bollocks to that! We’ve been indoctrinated by Mozart documentaries and TV talent shows into thinking genius springs unbidden from an underground source, and that passion and the right sob story trump hard work and dedication.

I’m not denying that writing talent exists, but regardless of any innate gift, only watching and learning and DOING will teach you the skills of structure and stagecraft.

And more than anything writers have to find their own path and that takes time and the space to make mistakes – something that the ‘newness’ obsession often prevents.

I’ve seen first time writers of undeniable talent thrust into the spotlight before they were ready, plays of great potential but little polish re-written by more experienced directors desperate to show the world their shiny new toy. Plays that achieve stunning success (then everyone acts shocked when the second play fails to live up to expectations).

This fetishisation of ‘raw’ talent is problematic. Even the current debates about privilege often focus on money and downplay or ignore things like access, education, and ability status.

Eight million adults in the UK are functionally illiterate. People who speak English as a second language have to work twice as hard. Ditto people with disabilities, chronic illnesses, those living in poverty or coping with trauma. And that’s making the assumption that these people (me included) even know about, and have access to, theatre in the first place.

There’s also a danger that “raw talent” is conflated with a very specific and potentially tokenistic style of theatre. As a disabled, queer, mixed-ethnicity, former homeless, high school dropout (and a diversity box ticker’s dream!)

I’ve had people trying to push me into writing “issue” plays: “disabled” plays; “queer” plays; “Jewish” plays; and even working class plays despite not being working class. But that’s not what I want to write, and it’s not something I could write.

Naomi’s recent show at VAULT was a one-woman crime noir

I like to write dark comedies, and sci-fi, and surrealist nonsense. I like to play with concepts of language and time. I studied anthropology, linguistics, gender studies, and neuroscience over the course of gaining my multiple degrees (are you changing your mind about my level of privilege, yet?), and God help me I’m going to use it. Middle class white men are allowed to write anything they like. When are the rest of us going to be allowed that freedom?

And the truth is these ‘issues’ theatres are so keen for me to write about can’t be contained to a 90 minute play. I don’t like talking about my health but disability is not an abstract diversity-questionnaire concept, or something that can be access’d away (suffice to say I’ve spent five days this month in an NHS cardiac unit, and attended a press night with wires sticking out of my torso, which probably would have made for a wryly amusing and self-effacingly glamorous Instagram post. But in reality you can’t write when you’re seriously unwell. You just can’t).

I was also harassed and groped by a famous man, then told earnestly and with the best will in the world by a woman, who you’d think was successful enough not to need to play handmaiden, that if I ever told anyone I’d destroy my career. I didn’t listen, and I still don’t know to what degree she was right.

Since these setbacks I have yet to start another new play and the more I learn about playwriting the more of a mountain it feels like to write one, let alone guide it to the stage.

The expectation of ‘raw talent’ makes it difficult to give yourself breathing room as a writer, particularly when others have decided what type of writer they want you to be (here comes that diversity tick box again…) That, coupled with a need to make money, means the dream we’re sold of being a laid back, go-where-the-creativity-takes-you type of writer may simply be just that: a dream.