Despite having won a host of awards over the past few years (including a nomination in the 2010 Olivier Awards for Outstanding Achievement in an Affilate Theatre), DC Moore still entertains the possibility of ending his days at Homebase’s customer care desk. We can only hope he doesn’t hang up his pen (or laptop) just yet, and continues his run of perceptive, thought-provoking plays such as Alaska and The Empire. His latest work is an adaptation of Lynn Shelton’s film Humpday, and sharp comedy Straight promises to live up to expectations with its exploration of friendship, love, sex and the consequences of too much alcohol.
What has your experience working with the Bush and Sheffield theatres been like?
It would be funny if I said terrible, drawn-out and disastrous. Well, fairly funny. But, sadly, the experience has been great and very rewarding. I’ve been supported throughout the year by Daniel Evans (the Artistic Director of Sheffield Theatres) and Richard Wilson (director of Straight and Associate Director at Sheffield), who arranged a number of readings of the play [Straight] for me to hear it, to give me concrete deadlines and to work out where I was going with it. We then split rehearsals between the Bush and Sheffield and both theatres were very welcoming and made sure we felt like a part of the fabric of everything that they were doing. I’ve got a bit of a soft spot for both theatres, so I’m very happy Straight has found a home at both venues.
The spaces are quite different – does this affect how the play is performed?
The set will be the same [at the Bush] as in Sheffield and most of the sightlines will be very similar, so I think the main difference will be the audience and how they respond to it. London crowds are always a bit different to elsewhere, due to an odd combination of class, geography and the amount of theatre they see.
What was your route into the theatre industry?
I acted a lot at school and university because boys don’t really like doing it (at least they didn’t at my school or uni), so you get to have all the best parts despite having no real talent or aptitude for it. I murdered a lot of great parts (Ricky Roma in Glengarry Glen Ross, Max in Bent) and gradually realised that I couldn’t really act. I had an epiphany watching Tom Hollander on stage and just thought: “There is no way I could do that.” I then tried directing, including taking a show to the National Student Drama Festival and later, after uni, I did a bit of assistant directing at the Royal & Derngate in Northampton. However, as with acting, I realised it wasn’t for me. I just don’t have the director’s brain or drive and it was a very sensible decision to drop it. I then started writing. First I did a few scratch, one-off plays with Nabokov Theatre Company at the Old Red Lion (another great venue) and then I started the Young Writer’s Programme (YWP) at the Royal Court where Simon Stephens, the then tutor, took me under his wing. From there, I had a reading at the YWP Festival, which later transformed into a production of my first play, Alaska, mainly because of the support of Dominic Cooke, Sacha Wares and Emily McLaughlin (and numerous others). After that, I kept working with the Court and it went from there, really, and I started building relationships with other buildings, like the Royal & Derngate, where Laurie Sansom gave me my first non-Court commission.
Have you found it difficult (particularly earlier on in your writing career) to find venues that are open to new work?
There’s a definite shift. Before I had a play on, I couldn’t get arrested. I entered Alaska into lots of competitions and sent it to lots of people but they all – correctly, mind, it was in quite a rough old shape – didn’t think it was quite good enough. The Court then helped me re-write it to the point that it was in the right shape to go on and have a production. Once that happened, it got easier to meet people and you’re generally more likely to have commissions come your way. It then got easier still after The Empire (which was produced by the Court and Theatre Royal, Plymouth) and Honest (Royal & Derngate) and you sort of prove it wasn’t a fluke. Although, to be fair, it probably was all a fluke.
I should also say that, even in the five-and-a-bit years since Alaska opened, the landscape has changed drastically. There are a lot of new venues and a lot of people looking for new work. I can’t imagine there have been as many opportunities (ever?) to get new work on as there is now.
Could you explain a little bit about the play?
It’s an adaptation of Humpday, an American indie film. It has a pretty simple conceit, though I’d rather people come and find out themselves what that is. It’s a play about friendship, love and sex.
What set you off thinking/writing about the theme of the play?
With this play, I was lucky in that I was caught off-guard by watching Humpday (which I was watching just for fun) and immediately responded to the male friendship/relationship at the heart of the film. I’m 32 and friendships with male mates at my age are quite delicate and a very important part of my life. As such, I then had an emotional hook to the subject matter and knew that the film could work on stage, as its structure (if adapted right) lends itself to a stage play. You then try and make it as truthful as possible, which is where you succeed or fail, really.
Your subject matter has been varied in your plays, even taking inspiration from [the English poet] John Clare. Is writing a play about finding a subject that means something to you?
For me, it’s about finding a moment of truth, something that you can go back to when you’re struggling with the architecture and graft of writing a play. The best advice I can give to others is: write about what keeps you awake at night. With John Clare, the idea of walking 60 miles over three days from an asylum in Epping Forest to his home in the Midlands really appealed to me, and also, more importantly, haunted me a bit. So I used that walk as the basis for a contemporary play, asking the question: why would someone do that walk now?
Who has been your biggest theatrical influence?
Jesus Christ. Because at the age of around eight or nine I found out that he (and Boris Becker) wasn’t English and my Sunday School stopped making sense and hymns in Proper School stopped making sense and I realised that everything is a big fat lie, which is an important ideological stepping stone to wanting to work in theatre (where the lies are just as big, both on and off stage). So thank you Jesus!
Is there anyone/thing you have drawn on particularly in writing Straight?
Getting to 30 and then going past it, you see a lot of friends go through very difficult times. It’s like there’s an umbilical cord that school and family provide (and university, if you go) but as you get older that cord snaps in places – sometimes completely – and you feel more and more alone in the universe, which means you have to try and compensate with a new family of your own or the right job. Or Twitter. Watching people come to the realisation that they’re fundamentally alone (or conversely, not realising that) is therefore probably a big part of why and how I wrote this play.
What is your writing process like – are you a computer or a quill pen kind of person?
Computer. I read books and walk (or run, when I can be bothered) in the day and write by night. My writing brain doesn’t really switch on till about 11. 11pm-3am is the golden period. I can and do write before (and after) but that’s when the magic happens. Like on Cribs. But with words. And fingers.
What’s next for you?
Hopefully a lottery win and a bit of writing on the side. If not, just writing.
Do you think about the future – where you might be in five or ten years’ time?
The dream is a London townhouse with a garden in zone 1-3. I’ve made a solid amount of money and written one contemporary classic of a play. I’ll work out a lot, casually date bookish drifter floozies and be writing a terrible novel, because I can afford to take the time off from theatre to do that.
The reality will probably be still renting in zones 4-6, making just about enough money to get by and writing plays that sometimes work and sometimes don’t. I’ll be writing a terrible novel in my spare time and it’ll be affecting my ability to reach deadlines, but I can just about afford to do that as I’m not really dating anyone, so it’s fine.
Worst case scenario I’m back at Homebase in a provincial town. On the customer care desk. Alone. Crying. And writing a novel. But probably a quite good one.
Straight plays at the Bush Theatre until 22 December. For tickets and more information, visit www.bushtheatre.co.uk.
Image credit: Robert Day