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.

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