When I think of the process of writing my New Views play, Is there Wi-Fi in Heaven?, the first thing that springs to mind is the memory of nearly missing the deadline to send it to my teacher… so in that sense, I’m pretty fortunate to be here! As I primarily write books as the outlet of any creativity I have, writing a play presented a unique challenge. I now had to think about writing something to fit specific requirements, such as time, as well as something that the National Theatre could realistically stage. My first draft was just an outline of plot, but I liked the title and I took the question it posed and added two fictional friends to see where they could take it. That was the skeleton and, with a rough idea of where it was going to end up, I just wrote it. I hope that by simply writing it in one burst it produced an organic quality in the dialogue – emphasis on the word “hope”!
As part of the competition, my playwriting group at Royal Grammar School Guildford attended a workshop with professional playwright Deborah Bruce, who also gave us feedback on our first drafts. Like a drama lesson, we did some writing exercises and improvised interactions with one another, and in the end we all pooled together to come up with a cohesive concept for a mock play. The idea revolved around a murder on a cruise. Any intentionally ridiculous character suggestions soon backfired when we each had to write a quick monologue for one of our creations which we then performed as if we were being interrogated about the murder. The workshop was a great way of getting us into the playwright’s mindset without infringing on any of our own methods of creativity, and it was this lack of hand-holding and condescension that made it so effective.
We also attended some performances as part of the programme. These included the totally hypnotic nut in the Temporary Theatre and an NT Live! screening of the Donmar Warehouse’s Coriolanus. Viscerally thrilling, it was great to see the onscreen brothers of Thor and Sherlock Holmes share the stage, along with a sworn brother of the Night’s Watch!
Winning the competition… putting it into words almost desensitises it, because I’m sure everyone can imagine what it means. No one needs to read me go on about how amazing it is, especially when there were so many talented young playwrights who deserved to have their scripts performed. There were over 400 entries! It’s still rather surreal, and I honestly did not expect to find myself in this position. I’ll just say that I’m incredibly grateful to the National Theatre to have this opportunity to see something I’ve written come to life on the stage. In terms of the future, I don’t really know what else I’d do other than write or embarrass myself on the stage! I expect I’ll continue to predominantly write books. However, having experienced New Views I shall certainly be trying my hand at another play at some point. The competition has definitely given me the confidence and curiosity to explore other avenues of creativity.
To other young writers out there, there isn’t really much to say other than keep writing. I don’t know if I’m even in a position to give advice, seeing as how I wouldn’t be here if my teacher hadn’t decided to enter our school in the competition (thanks for doing that by the way!). There’s nothing new that I can say that you wouldn’t have heard before. For example, once this is all over I’ll still have to push my work for attention in the same way as anybody else. I suppose the main thing is just to keep at. If we’re relentless enough, and actually come up with something rather good, then there’s no reason why we can’t see it through to the stage, or the screen, or the page, or whatever it is we’re aspiring to. After all, for someone to like something we’ve written, we sort of have to write it first… so that’s probably a good place to start.
Will Pinhey is this year’s New Views winner. His play, Is there Wi-Fi in Heaven? will be performed on 10 and 11 July at 6pm. For more information please visit the National Theatre’s website.
Will is 17 and goes to the Royal Grammar School in Guildford. He likes to act and write books.
New Views is a competition for young playwrights. Each year hundreds of students from the UK and abroad learn about playwriting through workshops and via the online course. Participants write a 30-minute play exploring challenging issues in contemporary society, receive feedback from professional writers, and submit them into a competition for the opportunity to see their play staged with a professional cast. To sign up to next year’s programme please visit the New Views website.