Tag Archives: interview

Jane Pickthall and her play ‘An Illuminating Yarn’



Could you tell me a bit about your play?

It’s about a woman who has lost her job, so she’s pretty fed up with all the government cuts. She lives in a small seaside town, but it’s a bit grim. What she really wants is change- she wants the council to do the town up a bit, put lights on the pier, but they refuse.

To channel her frustration and energy she knits. She knits this series of dolls that represent what Britishness means to her. She has an idea- to put these dolls up along the pier. She ends up getting quite a lot of press coverage for this- based on the story of the Saltburn Yarn Bomber, who was in the news around the time of the Olympics.

So it’s based on a true story?

Well it’s based on two true stories. At around the same time as the Saltburn Yarn Bomber, there was somebody arrested for leaving a suspicious package in the same area. I ended up thinking ‘What if the two stories were about the same person?’

Why should people come and see it?

It has modern themes and strong female characters. It’s about friendship, it’s about mental health, it’s about what you do when your life falls apart- how do you channel your energies? And about how you cope.

Is it the first play you’ve written?

Yes. I’ve been doing a creative writing class for about five years and we do little bits of stories. So when I began another course at Live Theatre, I decided that I wanted to develop one of these short pieces into something longer. It’s been a journey for me as a new writer.

Does your play relate to your life in any way?

I work for a local authority, so yes, there are a lot of redundancies around me.

What is more important for you- character or plot?

I’m quite plot driven. I like the puzzle of working out a plot; but then I do enjoy working on characters and they are always behind the plot.


David Raynor and his play ‘Targets’


Where did you get the idea?

A few years ago a college I worked at was going through a restructure, with many people being made redundant or having to take huge cuts in pay. Leading up to that we all had to interview for our own jobs. It meant friends and colleagues were competing with each-other for the same positions. It was a very difficult time for everybody. It was only a few years later that I reflected on this time and how the pressure of the situation caused people to act and react in many different ways (bringing out the best and worst in people). This experience, combined with many of the challenges faced day-to-day working in a further/higher education institution, provided inspiration for writing Targets. I should add, however, that the college and characters in the play are entirely fictional!

Why should people come and see it?

The play is very topical. So many people will relate to the challenges the characters face. I’m hoping that the characters are engaging and relatable. The story has the potential to amuse, anger, sadden but overall to entertain. (I’ll find out afterwards when I receive the audience feedback!)

Is it the first play you have written? Could you tell me a bit about what you have written before?

Targets is the first full length play I’ve written. Prior to this I have written many short plays and sketches, some of which I’ve directed or acted in myself. A previous short play I wrote, Last Turn of the Night, was performed at Manchester’s 24/7 festival where it was very well received and was praised by Manchester Evening News. I first began writing that when I was member of Live Youth Theatre. An early version was shown at Live, directed by Jeremy Heron.

Have you ever written in another style?

I’ve always scribbled all kinds of stuff; stories, poetry and general gibberish on the back of envelopes. Theatre is the only medium that has forced me to actually finish something, however.

Does your play relate to your life in any way?

 I guess everything we write relates to our own lives, doesn’t it? If it doesn’t it’s probably not worth staging.

What are your ambitions with playwriting?

Once I’ve finished Targets (it’s only the second draft at the moment) I’m hoping that it will be staged professionally. This is only my first play so I plan to write many more. Ultimately I want to keep writing plays, gain a huge international reputation and be paid ludicrous sums of money!

What is more important for you- character or plot?

It’s difficult to say. I feel that character and plot are so entwined. Firstly we have to relate to the characters and find them believable and interesting otherwise any plot is meaningless. Just having engaging characters without a structured plot, however, is also unsatisfying. Both?

Is there anything else you would like to tell me?

Only that I hope people will come and see the play and give me honest, constructive feedback to help me develop it further. I hope people enjoy it.

Playing Up: https://www.facebook.com/playingupwriters?fref=ts
Arts in Touch: https://www.facebook.com/ArtsinTouch?fref=ts

Sarah Gonnet and her play ‘The Last Experiment (no.14)’

Now it’s time for me to interview myself. Ironically talking to myself actually fits in quite well with my play.


Tell me a bit about your play

‘The Last Experiment (14)’ is a play about the human struggle for survival. Robert knows he is going to die. It is the world’s last bitter joke to play on him, that before he dies he must watch a battle between four professionals who want to live forever. The professionals are driven by a need to have prosperity. They get inside Robert’s diseased head and battle to find the ‘Perfect Person’. Robert watches them fight; trying to decide if they are hallucinations or angels taunting him with the possibility of answering the question of reality. Whatever they are they promise Robert that the ‘Perfect Person’ wouldn’t be dead. But are they right?

Where did you get the idea?

Basically I read too much. I missed a lot of high school due to a chronic illness and I decided to educate myself by reading. I wrote an article on this for The Guardian (http://www.theguardian.com/education/2014/feb/28/could-you-be-an-autodidact) I try to learn about as many things as possible, because for me art and science are not opposites- they’re just different ways at look at the same mysteries.

Why should people come and see it?

It’s an intriguing play that also embraces humour (fingers crossed).

Is it the first play you have written? Could you tell me a bit about what you have written before?

Currently I’m developing two full length plays. One is called ‘Flat Space’ and is about revolving door psychiatric patients. The other is called ‘Compulsion’, it is a multi-media, one man show exploring the concept of Outsider Artists on a personal and individual basis.

Have you ever written in another style (e.g. novel, short story), could you tell me a bit about that as well?

I am working on a trilogy of fantasy children’s novels and a pamphlet of poetry. I also do a lot of work as a journalist, mostly about non-mainstream art and culture.

Does your play relate to your life in any way?

Unfortunately yes- I have a lot of experience with hallucinations. I’m not ashamed of my mental illness; it often fuels my creativity and adds depth to my writing.

What are your ambitions with playwriting?#

I would love to have a full-length play produced. If I ever get to that point then I’ll consider what to do after that.

What is more important for you- character or plot?

I can’t choose! Plot is vital to storytelling, but then a good sense of character brings intrigue and a firm root to the plot.

Is there anything else you would like to tell me?

Please take a look at the reviews on this website; they are mostly about local, outsider or independent art. I also write two columns one for Luna Luna (http://lunalunamag.com/2014/02/24/brontefantasyworld/) and one for The Bubble (http://www.thebubble.org.uk/columns/sarah-gonnet/).
And of course please do come along to see my play, and the others that will be put on over the next few weeks. Follow this blog and these Facebook pages to keep up to date with the details.

Playing Up: https://www.facebook.com/playingupwriters?fref=ts
Arts in Touch: https://www.facebook.com/ArtsinTouch?fref=ts

An Interview with Lewis Cuthbert (Playwright)

I met up with Lewis Cuthbert to discuss his new short play, which will be on at The Dog and Parrot pub in Newcastle this Monday (the 17th). The play will be performed as part of a scratch night that starts at 8PM.

Tell me a bit about your play.

“The play I’ve got on is called ‘The Waiting Game’.  It’s the story of a family who gather at the hospital when their father is in a coma; possibly dying. It’s ended up being about how things that happen to you when you’re a child continue to affect you as an adult. Yet besides that it is a comedy, and focuses on character interaction.”

“I’m playing a part in it and I’ve accidentally given myself all the lines! Which I didn’t intend because I only stepped in at the last minute.”

So you didn’t write yourself in?


“No, it was an accident. It’s probably going to look bad though, because the character is very smug and vain, but it honestly wasn’t intended to happen like that.”

Did you study drama?

Yes I studied Drama and English Literature. That’s probably why I didn’t get a job!

Where did you get the idea?

“I’m worried that I’ve stolen the general premise from Arrested Development. “


“But really I think I must have just been a bit bored on Boxing Day and started writing. Although it isn’t very festive!”

Did you write it all in one go?

“The first draft, but that was only about ten pages, and then I expanded it later.”

Why should people come and see it?

“My play is funny and hopefully thought provoking. It’s also great to come and support a fringe venue, and the development of new writing.”

Is this the first play you’ve written?

“No I’ve written…”

(He counts them up on his fingers)

“…Six full length plays and a few shorts. I started writing in 2010, and I soon sent one of my plays off to a national competition called ‘The People’s Play Competition’ and I came second. I also had one play on last year at the Dog and Parrot which was well received, and it was a nice packed house. I’ve also written seven episodes of a sitcom. Most people say I’m mad for that because when you’re submitting your work they usually just ask for one episode.”

Have you ever tried writing in other styles, for example prose?

“Yeah I’ve tried, but I’m not as good at it. Dialogue comes instinctively, whilst with prose you have to think descriptively and I tend to lose interest. But it is something I would like to try and do.”

Does your play relate to your life in any way?

“I hope people don’t think so- in terms of what the characters get up to! However psychologically speaking you could probably unpick something, as is always the case.

What are your ambitions with playwriting?

“Obviously I would like something to be put on in a professional venue some day and that’ll be a start. I’ll think about the future when I get past that.”

What is more important for you- character or plot?

“Character. If you’ve got good characters you don’t actually need that much of a plot, you could get by fine without it. For example I’m writing a play with (a friend) Colin and it’s basically ended up with two characters trapped in a laundrette, debating psychology and philosophy. I mean there is a zombie apocalypse in there as well…”


Some people jump out of planes for adrenaline. It turns out all I need to do is conduct an interview. However, despite the stress of preparation: the paranoid checking and re-checking of facts, and then coming up with some vaguely-intelligent sounding questions; before actually having to do it, it was still overall an enjoyable experience. I must admit that was due mostly to such friendly and enthusiastic subjects, who answered by questions (whether good or bad) with interesting and articulate answers. I was also relieved that I actually managed to work out how to use my dictaphone.

I am writing a preview of ‘Dr Mullins and the Case of the Elephant in the Dock’, for the Juice Festival. That is what led me to a tea-house near Northern Stage (which sold over twenty types of tea. I was woefully tedious and just went for ordinary breakfast tea); in order to interview Cinzia Hardy, Fiona Ellis, Benedict Martin and Charlotte Sisson from November Club. They had a range of responsibilities for the show, as creative director, writer, associate director and actors. This allowed me to interview them about the many dimensions of their latest piece. If you want to read what I wrote about the show, it will be in ‘Culture Magazine’ next month.