In the run up to ANOTHER DAY, we’ve been introducing the playwrights involved, and we are thrilled to welcome John Hamilton May back to the team.
John, we first met last year at Tiny Dog’s new writing festival, and it was a rather odd introduction as we recall…
I had written a monologue to be performed at Theatre Breaks (alongside fellow Another Day playwright Lucy Beacon’s fantastic piece, Rostov) and met Sooz and Patrick backstage. They approached me and asked if they could speak to the writer of my piece, as a last minute illness meant I had to perform the monologue myself. I told them it was me, and well – we’ve been talking ever since! They’re such a supportive and nurturing team, who care a lot about the work they produce. You could sense that from first meeting them.
You’re making us blush! The moment that you owned up to be the playwright as well as the star, we knew straight away that we wanted to work with you. So what have you been up to since then?
Since… well, it’s all been a bit mental since. I’ve been signed, been commissioned by BBC Radio 3, and had work performed at the Roundhouse, Ovalhouse and any other shaped house you like, Contact Manchester, West Yorkshire Playhouse and the Tron Theatre. I’ve also had my play Love in the Past Participle translated into Spanish, and hope to visit for the premiere (and a significant amount of churros) in March 2015.
And those who attended THE INSTALLATION, in November 2013 will have seen the play that you wrote for our site specific production at Hide Gallery; Seventeen Thousand, Five Hundred and Then Some. Now you’re back and writing another commissioned play for ANOTHER DAY!
I have something to admit though – I’m not a Southwark resident. I’ve never worked there or have family there. I’m not even going to pretend my bus goes through there because in fact I am an infiltrator. I live in the North, however, have made numerous rekkies to the area in an attempt to get a feel for its personality. I was immediately drawn to Chirst Church. Half a garage, half a house of God. I knew straight away that’s what I had to write a play about.
We’ve read your drafts, and it’s clear that you’ve taken the time to get to know the concerns of people in the area.
Whilst my knowledge of Blackfriars at the moment is limited to the great recommendations of others (e.g. the bars under the floral canopy of Isabella Street, or the Thai food stall outside The Windmill pub on The Cut), I’m looking forward to spending more time there during the run and speaking to residents and audience members.
So tell us a bit more about you as a playwright.
I’ve been writing, on and off, for seven years now. I haven’t always wanted to be a writer, and honestly, sometimes I question whether I want to be one now. Wouldn’t life be so much easier as an accountant? Or an estate agent perhaps? Something that didn’t include gutting out your soul onto a Macbook (because we’re too pretentious to use pen and paper) and bare it before critics. And by critics I mean my mother. Who “quite liked it just wishes you wouldn’t swear so much”.
Ha! Families are always the worst critics! But assuming that you don’t take up accountancy in the near future…?
I mainly write plays, but have a penchant for mogologues and poetic writing. I like to look at small, tiny heartbreaking situations and characters. The normal life. That’s what’s most interesting to me. I’m doing some work for the radio at the moment and also edging into spoken word too. The BBC commission, The Jumble Male, is my next big project, and is a ‘multidisciplinary piece’ that aims to ‘explore the current crisis in masculinity’. In reality, it’s me talking about being a 23-year old boy. Not a man, a boy.
And what is it that inspires you to open your Macbook and start typing?
I’m a magpie when it comes to writing. I pick bits up everywhere – from people on the street, the newspapers, accidentally from other writers sometimes… and keep them all on sticky notes on the computer. It takes a lot to get me to actually start writing (as Patrick and Sooz know now!) as my ‘proper job’ is pretty hectic too. Stuff normally comes out how I want it, just in need of some cinching and polishing, and this is where having Patrick as dramaturg has been particularly useful. I don’t have any writing rituals, although I can’t deal with mess when I’m working, and it helps to have a cup of tea to hand.
Any other tips?
I’ve trained both as part of my degree and on various playwriting groups (at the Soho most recently) and to be honest, the most prevelant piece of advice is JUST WRITE. Do not worry about quality or quantity or anything it all. “Don’t get it right, get it written” – James Thurber.