Interview with Original Theatre Co, April 2018
OT: The Original Theatre company have commissioned this piece. Where do you start with a new, commissioned play?
TB: Back in 2015 I was watching a play at Live Theatre in Newcastle with Ron Hutchinson, the esteemed dramatist, because we were both under commission to write new plays there. We went to the pub afterwards and discussed new writing and its tendency to rely on short TV-like scenes. We then sort of challenged each other to write a full-length play which would be one continuous scene. Which isn’t especially easy, as I later found out. Then I started looking around for theme, setting and characters.
OT: With Monogamy it has gone through a journey with public readings in December 2016 to final script in April 2018. How long has the entire process taken and when do you know, as a writer, when the final script is the final script and it’s finished?
TB: This has taken longer than usual which is often a good thing. I wrote a play some years ago called Muswell Hill, showed the first draft to Sam Walters, then running the Orange Tree in Richmond, and he was so keen on it he wanted to produce it within a month. The play was successful there but I always felt I may have locked it down too early. This play has been slated for production for three years so I’ve no excuses. Theoretically playwrights could “improve” their plays indefinitely but there comes a time when you have to let your baby go, pass it on to others and hope for the best.
OT: Where did you draw inspiration from for Monogamy, the characters and story? Do you base your characters on real people you have met?
TB: I quite like messing about with what some might call old-fashioned ways of doing plays. Gathering people together in one place and making it hard for them to leave and then turning up the heat. Which is an apt cooking metaphor for this play. I’m always trying to take the pulse of the nation by means of getting under the skins of various people. And the characters in this play are all damaged by their pasts (as we all are to varying degrees) and are carrying their heavy histories around with them. I think I base my characters half on observation and half on self-analysis. These TV chefs, and there are millions of them nowadays, do tend to portray some kind of ideal lifestyle to their audience: perfect family, perfect friends, perfect house and I wanted to take a scalpel to all this First World perfection. For example I learned that Nigella Lawson’s “friends” on her TV show were all actors and, as we saw in the press, her life wasn’t exactly as perfect as her programme was suggesting. Though Caroline is not at all based on her and I have nothing against her personally of course!
OT: Do you write with a specific audience in mind? Perhaps those who may see themselves in your characters and situations?
TB: No. I think if you’re a writer and you worry too much about what your audience might or might not like then you’re lost. You write for your own entertainment, then hope you can find a theatre who believes enough in the play to take a punt on it.
OT: You’ve worked with the Original Theatre Company before with the national and international tour of Invincible, do you enjoy watching your work be performed in different areas of the country and world? How do you feel this impacts the work?
TB: I always enjoy watching my work done wherever because when you’re a playwright with no plays on anywhere in the world you feel a bit useless. That play was very much about the North/South divide and was kind of a Brexit vs Remainer play written well before the referendum was even on the horizon. So the reactions in different parts of the country were interesting. It’s really nice to tour plays as people often tend to forget that there’s way more to this country than London. There’s still a thriving theatre scene beyond the M25!
OT: How are your cooking skills? Do you have a signature dish?
TB: Like Leo in my play I’m now one of those annoying, self-righteous vegan types and I’m an enthusiastic chef. I’d love to promote the idea that you can be extremely creative in the kitchen without having to kill, or be cruel to, animals. My signature dish would be an extremely hot (vegetable) curry. Accompanied by an unhealthy amount of ice-cold Cobra.