Staged in a bathroom, Jack Thorne’s recent Soho Theatre hit Mydidae is an intimate exploration of a young couple’s relationship on the anniversary of a shared personal tragedy. Commissioned by DryWrite as its first full-length play, it was produced at Soho in 2012 and now transfers to the Trafalgar Studios for a West End run. A week before the new run begins, Jack Thorne told Eleanor Turney more about the production and his experience of writing.
Tell me a bit about your background – how did you get into theatre?
Well, it’s not a particularly wonderful story! Boringly, I wanted to be a politician, then I wanted to be an actor. Then I went to uni and discovered that I didn’t like politicians and I didn’t have it in me to me an actor, so I decided I wanted to be a director. I couldn’t afford the rights to put on someone else’s play so I decided to write one, and then I discovered that I really liked the writing and not so much the directing bit at the end. I wrote a lot of plays and sent them off to a lot of people; eventually the Bush put one on and it’s gone from there.
How did you start writing professionally?
After that first play, I kept directing and quite enjoyed it, but I wasn’t especially good at it. I loved writing more than anything else and slowly that become what I did. I write for telly and film as well because I like working with other people. I really like collaborating and I like the whole process of putting on a show. I like making stuff with other people. Although I am quite shy and prefer my own company, really, I like what other people do when we collaborate and I think I’d miss that if I was just writing on my own.
Can you describe your writing and re-writing process? Do you like to be in the rehearsal room?
A script always changes in rehearsals, and when you’re working on a telly or film script, the amount of drafts you go through is extensive! You’ll always be changing things. But I’m not that keen on being in the rehearsal room – it’s a bit overwhelming. I love other people doing their thing but I don’t think I’m helpful in the rehearsal room. I’m there at the beginning, but I’m not really a rehearsal room writer. I’m picky about the directors I work with and they’re brilliant – much better than I would be! I’m always there if they want me, I just think that when I’d finished Mydidae, I knew who the characetrs were in my head; I knew them back to front and I don’t think that’s a helpful thing to take into a rehearsal room. The rehearsal room is about actors discovering who those characters are and the director helping them to do that. Having someone there who thinks that they know all the answers isn’t helpful! Having the writer there to ask “what did you mean by this bit?” isn’t that helpful, they need to work that out for themselves.
What advice would you give to young playwrights?
Keep trying, don’t give up. They might be lucky and be a Polly Stenham or an Anya Reiss, or it might take a bit longer. I wasn’t an overnight success, and I’m not sure that I’m truly successful yet myself. Keep plugging away. Also, find a person you trust who’ll read your stuff. It doesn’t have to be a theatre professional, it could just be a friend who gets what you want to do. You need someone on your side but who is interested in making you better, someone to force you to think about your work. But you also need someone to be there when you get rejected and to support you when everyone else is telling you that you’re rubbish. I still get far more rejections than acceptances. You have to be resilient, and having an ally is invaluable.
And what can audiences expect from Mydidae?
It’s changed a bit – not for the new venue, although that will shape matters in terms of direction – just in terms of things that weren’t quite right in the script that I can now fix! Theatre is a living breathing thing and it can change – that’s a brilliant thing. Having the opportunity to take a step back has been brilliant. Audiences can expect a couple of phenomenal performances – that might sound like someone flogging his stuff but I feel incredibly lucky with the performers we have in this show. I really think that young actors should come and see it, because these actors are just that good. What these two create on stage makes me very proud to be a part of it. It’s an intimate, natural play about the things that lure us into the dark. It’s a play about little things, but there’s a lot of little things, it’s pretty dark but also, I hope, hopeful.
Mydidae plays at Trafalgar Studios from 5 to 30 March. For tickets and more information, visit www.atgtickets.com/trafalgarstudios.
Image: Jack Thorne