Tag Archives: lewis cuthbert

“Playing Up” night at Newcastle’s Northern Stage

Playing Up is an exciting new theatre company of emerging writers from the North-East. Amongst the preparations for their scratch night at Northern Stage I caught up with two of the writers involved- Lewis Cuthbert and John Harrison. They were both eager to talk about their new plays- Causeway and Deltic.

Tell me a bit about your play

Lewis: It’s a two-hander. Absurd comedy drama. It’s New Year’s Eve on a remote island. Old friends Colm and Nye meet for their longstanding ritual celebration (Jools Holland from 1996, Guess Who, blueberries, poems, sitting) and to put a brave face on things once again

John: Dave, a member of a local railway society ‘buys’ a Class 37 diesel locomotive and plans to put it in the rear garden of his suburban semi. Dave loves Class 37’s and feels its preservation is being neglected by the society in favour of the more prestigious Deltic locomotive they have recently acquired. Dave’s acquisition quickly brings him into conflict with his Wife, Melanie, his neighbours, the Council Environmental Health department, a vicious local scrap metal dealer and the Police.

Who is your favourite playwright?

Lewis: I’ve got plenty but I’ll go for Harold Pinter at the moment. For the vicious beauty of his language and the work he makes the audience do.

John: Ibsen, Arthur Miller, Shakespeare.

Which playwright has influenced you the most?

Lewis: Lots of people have called this piece Beckettian (which is fair enough given the absurdity and general air of desolation) but I think this piece was probably inspired by Martin McDonagh, if only for the fake Irish accents and repressed violence.

John: I admire how Ibsen and Miller used the theatrical form to critique contemporary society and its values. The controversial nature of their work provoked reaction that was sometimes personally detrimental, yet their dramas neither preach nor sacrifice character, plots, language or structure to political objectives

What compels you to write?

Lewis: I’ve no idea what compels me to write. It’s something I enjoy, a stress-reliever, something that keeps me sane.

John: It brings the reassurance that creativity can occasionally offset the tedium of existence.

Does anything else inspire your writing?

Lewis: Again, quite a hard question. I suppose life in general, snippets of conversation, relationships between people. I’m also reading through the back-catalogue of David ‘not Peep Show’ Mitchell and am very much buoyed by his mastery of different genres.

John: Overheard conversations, media articles, poetry, the writings of Raymond Carver, Haruki Murakami and Jonathan Franzen, and most of all, the love of language and the power of words.

Could you explain a bit about your creative process?

Lewis: Usually I get an abstract idea for a situation or, more likely, one or two characters. I scribble this down somewhere. Forget about it. Come back to it, think ‘ah, this is good’. Forget about it. Then build up a larger world that this character or whatever would fit into. Spend a lot of time sorting out the plot – but not too much or I’ll get bored – then set about writing it. Try to set a specific time aside each day, generally early afternoon, and follow my plan until I draw inexorably towards the close. There’ll generally be a point before then during which I’ll become disheartened with the whole thing, take a lonely walk up Jesmond Dene then get a ‘bright idea’ that sets me back on track. And finally, the rewriting. A terrible but crucial element far too boring to discuss here.

John: For plays, once I have the basic idea, I like to try and sketch out a structure. The aim is to give a story, consider characters and character development, identify where the problem will sit and how it is revealed and think about how that problem will be resolved. Once I have a structure I write to that structure to try and give a first draft. This never materialises in one go as I am often tempted into revision before I have even got a first draft down.

How did you choose the title of your play?

Lewis:The title came first. It was a nice peaceful image. I was originally going to write something set on Holy Island but then I thought the title may have Irish connotations, what with Giant’s Causeway in the North. And it also vaguely fits in with the underlying notion of ‘things are the way they are cause (that’s the) way they are’, which is the thought process of the two characters.

John: The play really about Dave’s love of class 37’s. Class 37 would have been a misleading title so I decided to name it after the more recognisable cuckoo in the nest, the Deltic.

TICKETS ARE AVALIABLE HERE: http://www.northernstage.co.uk/whats-on/Playing-up

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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?

(Laughs)

“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. “

 (Laughs)

“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…”