Did my last post peak your curiosity? If yes, (and of course the answer is yes!) then do I have a treat for you! I was lucky enough to be able to as the writer of the Camden Fringe play “Nuclear Winter.” Some questions about his play, his writing history, and what he plans for the future.
A- Can you explain a little bit about your writing background?
I started when I began writing poems as a way of coping with a breakdown that I had. All the poems were about my mental state and some of them appear in the play. I found writing the poems very helpful and as time passed I started to write lighter stuff, which I started to perform at open mike poetry events. Later I joined a scriptwriter’s workshop run by a wonderful lady called Angela Street where I learnt more about the ins and outs of the scriptwriting process, and following the suggestion of an actor who I met through them I ended up writing this play.
A- In the program it mentions that the play is based on real events, can you go into a little more detail about that?
The play is based on various events that have happened to me throughout my life as a result of the mental issues I have had. The play looks at the different ways that various people have reacted towards me because of who I am and what they perceive me to be. The back-story of one of the other characters (Jenny) is based on an interview I conducted with a friend of mine who was also a member of the above-mentioned scriptwriter’s group.
A- Explain the message you are trying to send audiences with this piece (if any).
I want to try and show the reality of mental illness in contrast to some of the many myths that some people believe about it. Mental illness is one of the last great taboo subjects and yet statistically 1 in 4 of us will have to cope with at some point in our lives. That contrast is quite mystifying.
A- Can you explain the process you went through in creating this play?
The process was a gradual one. I started writing the play when I was a member of the above-mentioned scriptwriter’s group, and every so often I was able to workshop small sections of it in front of an audience. Later on I moved to London and through weird series of coincidences I came to know Lennie Varvarides who helped me workshop more of the play at her Sunday Surgery group. We worked on it (on and off) with various directors and actors for about a year or so, editing the script and making refinements to it.
A- How were you able to get your work into the Camden Fringe? Can you describe the process a little bit?
The Camden Fringe Festival is an annual event and it was a case of applying, then finding a venue, finding people, and then doing all of the preparatory work for it. It is quite hard work to sort all of the tasks involved, and Lennie was invaluable with help and advice as it is the first time I have organized anything like this.
A- I see there was a separate director working on this piece. Did you also put in your direction or did she do all of it? Also, how do you feel about the choices made throughout the play? (Anything that you liked or hated about the sound, staging, way flashbacks were introduced, etc.)
I was always free to make suggestions about how things could be done and to explain how I had seen things “in my mind’s eye”. Alice Williams (the director) was happy to listen to me, but there were several occasions where she was able to do things differently to how I had envisaged, but make the play better as a result. Some of things in the original script had to be cut for reasons of timing and there were some things that I was sad to have to leave out, but it was a case of having to. Alice made the final choice on these things, and I am glad she did, as she was able to look at the play from a more objective stance.
A- How did you feel about the finished product?
A- Do have anything planned for the future (either with this work or with future plays)?
I am considering the future right now. I have enjoyed this experience immensely owing to the goodwill, support and downright hard work of all the people who have worked with me over the development of the play and in particular Alain English, Siobhan Schulz, Ed Degaentano, Anna-Maria Geogiades, Alice Williams, Elaine Lau, Lennie Varvarides, Kaz Bielecki, the National Autistic Society and the Arts Council who have made this production of it happen. I certainly want to take things further.
Thank you to Lennie Varvarides and Anthony Fairweather for making this interview possible!
Till next time!