“The hardest part about it was the research”. A day before Christmas Eve I had the opportunity of catching up with Phil Davies, writer of Firebird, a play that explores child sex rings. He explained to me exactly what it was like to write such a play.
Centred on a teenager named Tia, the play explores the tragic cases of paedophile networks, and offers an insight into how the stories, which exploded throughout our national media not too long ago, can come about.
“Reading pages and pages of utter horror and knowing that it was real and knowing that it was still happening, it put me in quite a dark place actually.” Davies explained how the concept and theme were incredibly difficult to write about, however he continued, “it also spurred me on”.
For Davies the difficulty wasn’t only to show the horror of the events, but also the way society had dealt with it: “To write something that would give a voice to the girls that were treated like shit not just by the perpetrators, but also by the police and the social services, it spurred me on.”
With a heavy heart Davies talked about this issue, of course never intending the piece to be a factual re-telling of the cases that he researched. “I never set out to tell a factual story, this was never intended to be an account of the actual cases that happened in Rochdale, the story and characters in Firebird are fictional.”
Although Davies did admit however, “It is fictional but obviously it is inspired by real cases”. He went on to say “The people and the things that happen are inspired by my research on the cases in Rochdale, Rotherham, Oxford, Bradford, Telford, you know, depressingly the list goes on and on.” Being based on such a big issue, especially in a debut full length play, Davies work is paramount in making audiences think, and leaving them with a strong message to think over.
Having already been performed at Hampstead Theatre Downstairs, and on its way over to Trafalgar Studious for a run in February, Davies wanted the audience to come away really thinking about the message.
“I wanted to create a piece of work that explored why girls behaved that way in the first place and then what it is that could save them.
“There seemed to be, and still is, a collective apathy towards a kind of young girl whose confrontational, caustic and challenging to deal with, they get written off by social services and the police, and by a lot of society in general.
“They get written off as making life style choices, rather than them getting caught up in this stuff.”
When I asked if there was anything he would like to changed, Davies modestly replied “I’m pretty bad anyway for watching my stuff and noticing things I want to change, every time I watch it I think of something.
“I think a lot of writers probably feel the same as me, that a play never really feels finished.”
Image by Robert Day.
Firebird plays at Trafalgar Studios from Feb 17 – March 19.