Work as if you live in the early days of a better nation

Recommending: Growing your own vegetables

Rhythm of a play

Jane Bodie suggested plays are closer to song and poetry than novels and I think I agree. There’s more rhythm and word play.

Different writers have tried to express the rhythm of their play writing. I’ve come across Suzan Lori-Parks (writer of Top Dog Underdog – great play, worth reading for aspiring writers and others) who has a possibly useful way of describing rhythm. (I’ve seen Debbie Tucker Green use the form too.)

I’m using it in the play I am writing. I show an example here. This and ‘/’ are quite useful markers for playwrights today – I think.

Author’s note:

Active silences. Denoted by repetitions of characters names with no dialogue.





No action is necessary but the characters are active. Directors should fill this moment as they best see fit.

(Rest.) = Take a pause, a breather, an amount of time; make a transition. It can be smaller than an active silence. It will often denote a transition.

Meeting with Paul Miller

Paul Miller came to speak to us at Talawa the other day. One of the points we discussed was dramaturgy. Paul viewed the director-writer relationship as paramount.

I would concur to a large degree. I think as a writer forging relationships with directors can be invaluable. Knowing what you want from a director and the type which you don’t want is essential.

I’ve received Arts Council funding for my latest play.

I’ve received Arts Council funding for my latest full length play. Currently titled Yellow Men, although this will likely have to change as it’s very similar to a recent play called Yellow Man.

I’m supported by Yellow Earth Theatre and I think I’ll have some help from Talawa.

The production is likely to be beginning of 2006. My creative team includes Bronwyn Lim, David Tse and Ragnhild Morch.

If you are looking for theatre experience in London and think you have something to offer, drop me a line.

This is the second time the Arts Council have supported me, so I am grateful.

The first time was for my play, Lost in Peru (design here), (mixed review from Lyn Gardner at the Guardian, here; TimeOut liked it) directed by Sarah Levinsky, who went on to win the Oxford Samuel Beckett Trust award.

Royal Court Mission Statement

All those years ago, George Devine argued for a theatre, The Royal Court.

His arguments, I believe, still hold very true today, although quite how closely the Court or anyone else follows them is perhaps open for debate.

Part one – the argument

Although the major classics are now well catered for by the Old Vic, the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, Sir John Gielgud’s productions, etc., there is no theatre in England, which consistently presents the whole range of contemporary drama. Modern movements in music, sculpture, painting, literature, cinema and ballet all have reasonable circulation, but the comparable body of work in the theatre has not outlet.

This bound, in turn, to affect the quality of original work produced, and is probably largely responsible for the lack of interesting new plays in this country.

The commercial theatre cannot be blamed for this state of affairs. If there is any chance of an interesting play becoming a possible commercial proposition, it is given a production, eith er in the west End, on tour or at a try-out theatre. But there is a point of risk below which a commercial management cannot afford to go.

There are however many contemporary plays of great interest, which by their nature, can never command a large public, and other which are at pronounced “ not commercial” because they are in advance of normal public taste., as much modern music and art is. But the whole international range of these plays should be available to English audiences, and they might well have a stimulating affect on dramatic development here.

For dramatic development, the urgent need of our time is to discover a truly contemporary style wherein dramatic action, dialogue, acting and method of presentation are all combined to make a modern theatre spectacle, as definite in style as it has been in all the great periods of theatre. Much successful effort has been expended in this country on bringing the dramatist of the past into focus for the present, but no comparable attention has been given to the future. There should be a theatre where all the experimentalists of the modern era may be seen – from Buchner, Pirabldeelo, Stringberg, Wedekind to Crommelynck, Giraudoux, O’Casey, Lorca and Betti, Brecht, Eliot, Odets, Tennessee Williams, John Whiting, to select some important names at random. These are all hard-hitting, uncompromising, writers, and their works are stimulating, provocative and exciting: they belong in a vital modern theatre of experiment where the intention will often be as important as the achievement.

A theatre of this sort cannot be created overnight, nor can immediate results be expected. But it must be able to keep going, and to do this it must collect a public, which will come finally to support its policy. BY associating with similar ventures in the other arts, by taking trouble with the promising dramatic, and by providing an instrument for all kinds of modern theatre experiment, it could become an essential part of London theatre life.

How long should a play be?

Billington (Guardian) has come out attacking the length of plays that playwrights are currently writing.,11710,1460809,00.html

He says

“the new, slavish obeisance to the 90-minute rule stems, I suspect, from a mixture of fashion and ignorance; in particular, a shocking unawareness of even the recent past when drama moved beyond a single situation or point of crisis to examine causes as well as effects”< ?xml:namespace prefix = o />

I know he is all for the “state of the nation play” but I think he misses the point about what playwrights are trying to do now.


Here’s a riposte to Billington’s no 90-minute play article.

One from Ian Rickson (artistic director of the Royal Court),11710,1463920,00.html

I like “New cultural and political eras demand new forms” and “We live in a time when there is a disappointment with unifying ideology and a greater consciousness of contradiction. The old forms in which the writer diagnoses and hypothesises no longer speak to today’s playwrights.”


Another from David Elridge, who has just had Incomplete and Random Acts of Kindness go up at the Court.,11710,1471207,00.html

this riposte is elegant, thoughtful and something I empathise with.

I like:

“I am getting impatient,” Michael Billington wrote in the Guardian recently, “with … dramatic driblets that offer ideas for plays rather than plays of ideas.” Well, not half as impatient as play-wrights are with him, as he tirelessly pursues his own agenda of trying to encourage the re-emergence of the old-fashioned polemical play whose prime function is “social analysis”.

Jane Bodie’s questions I

Jane asked

What are the problems, possibilities, concerns that we think shoud be written about?

I think this question as writers we should continually come back to.

  • About me

    I'm a playwright and investment analyst. I have a broad range of interests: food, gardening, innovation & intellectual property, sustainability, architecture & design, writing and the arts. I sit on the board of Talawa Theatre Company and advise a CIS investment trust on socially responsible investments.

  • Recent Work

    Recent plays include, for theatre: Nakamitsu, Yellow Gentlemen, Lost in Peru, Lemon Love. For radio: Places in Between (R4), Patent Breaking Life Saving (WS).

  • Nakamitsu

  • Yellow Gentlemen