Andrew Maddock: An interview with the writer of The We PlaysCultureTheatre
The Upcoming talks to critically acclaimed playwright Andrew Maddock before his We Plays – a series of monologues, also featuring a stand-alone instalment of the Me Plays – appear at the Hope Theatre this September. If Maddock’s previous work, including the highly praised and Off-West End nominated IN/OUT (A Feeling) is anything to go by, his We Plays look to be an engaging theatrical treat. But more importantly they set out to ask questions and engage audiences: Maddock’s plays are not intended for disengaged theatregoers. As his eloquent and vivacious answers to our questions prove, the playwright is an exciting and imaginative tour de force.
If you had to name a playwright who inspired you the most who would it be?
Stefan Golaszewski, he’s more known for his TV stuff: Mum and Him and Her on BBC. However, his series of one-man shows (The Stefan Golaszewski Plays) had a real profound effect on me. I’d never seen a one-man show before and I’d certainly never seen something that I connected with on the level that I did. It was the catalyst for me to write The Me Plays in 2014, leading to The We Plays in 2016.
What was it like working with a different director for each of The We Plays? Do you feel it has helped make each of them unique?
The We Plays will be two very unique individual stories, one told by a woman and one by a man. The subject matter of each meant that it was important to me that these voices were guided by a director of their own sex. It will allow the actors to feel safe in the choices that they make in the room and have the conversations that need to be had.
Both plays will be unique in their delivery, lighting and sound, but as a whole, I feel The We Plays collectively, when you reach the end, will feel like a complete show. Both pieces have been written and placed next to each other for a reason, which I won’t give too much away on, but I’m so pleased with how Ashley Winter and Phil Croft are working to make this show happen.
How far are The We Plays autobiographical?
I put a little piece of myself and my life experience into my work. While I can’t confidently say that I’m not a red-haired Scottish woman trying desperately to find a job in the city of Glasgow in the month of November, I can confidently say that I, alongside thousands of people across the UK, have been affected by things like job cuts and subsequent redundancy, and that desperation that sets in when you realise that you need to get something to pay your bills at the end of the month. All those thoughts, feelings and frustrations were developed into Irn Pru, a play about someone overcoming adversity in an area of the UK that I feel is often overlooked. Told from the perspective of a much more interesting character than I.
Cyprus Sunsets is based on a very real struggle I think we’ve all faced at one time or another: the play is essentially about a person who just wants to find themself again, a person who literally just wants to escape to a sunny island and reminisce over their life. The crux of the play is the situations that prevent him from fulfilling his ultimate goal of witnessing one perfect Cyprus sunset, that thing that reminds him of a time when life was simpler.
Do you see yourself primarily as a performer or a writer?
Writer first, producer second, performer out of necessity. I’m very pleased with the actors you’ll see in The We Plays.
Was acting and writing always something you wanted to do?
It was burning in me for a long time, I just never had the confidence to follow through with any of it until my mid-20s.
What would you say has been your luckiest career break to this date?
I’m very lucky to be at the Hope Theatre again for what will be my third production following IN/OUT (A Feeling), which played there in January of this year, so be asked back again so soon is a great feeling. The Hope Theatre is a criminally overlooked venue. Their deal allows me to afford to pay people and continue to self produce my own work: I pay my actors and crew and I’m proud of that. It’s a shame that the people who review or feature theatre from some of the bigger outlets won’t feature it more, because surely the venues with the Equity Fringe Pay agreement should be getting priority, considering they are doing something to ensure equality and diversity in our industry?
Is working in theatre something you will always want to focus on or would you be interested in working in TV and film, or perhaps a completely different field entirely?
I go wherever my head takes me, I’ll have an idea and it’s whatever medium suits, I don’t want to set limits for myself.
What’s coming up next? Are you working on anything else right now?
This is taking up all of my time at the moment. I am slowly writing a new play but it’s about 30 pages at the moment so not even worth talking about. I’ve got a ton of 20-to-30-page unfinished pieces lingering in my Google drive, shouting at me to finish them.
What themes are covered in The We Plays?
Hope, Loss, Life and Viking helmets
What made you decide to write plays focusing on these subjects?
The reason why I decided to write The We Plays was off the back of the critical success for The Me Plays in 2014 and how people could identify with the character of Me in their own little way. I wanted to go further than that and write a play about we, the us. Without giving too much away, one play is about the loss of life and one is about the giving of it, it’s about our hopes and dreams for ourselves and the people around us. It’s about talking to someone when you feel down, about trying to make the best of a bad situation, it’s about maybe waking that person you saw asleep on the train so they don’t miss their stop. If I can make someone re-evaluate their approach to the way they interact with other people by the end, I’ll be happy.
Do your plays have an agenda, Irn Pru’s protagonist is desperately searching for a job, like so many young people at the moment, how far would you say current political times in the UK have influenced your plays?
I write from my perspective and the things I see: people doing everything they can to look for work is what I see. Low wages for that hard work is what I see. Being held back because you’re not from the right area is what I see. No real work being done to convince a “bloke” that it’s quite frankly ok to talk about their problems is what I see. All these things, I suppose, are influenced by the political climate, but honestly, where I’m from, it doesn’t matter whose in charge, these are the things that I see. I’m not writing for an agenda, I just want to tell stories about people I don’t see represented on stage. The Me from Wembley escaping on a cheap package holiday, or Pru, the woman from Drumchapel in Glasgow, trying to make her life better and pay her heating bill. My plays aren’t giving you the answers, but they will hopefully ask some questions.
Do you think the outcome of Brexit may alter your career path and your future material?
I couldn’t possibly predict and that’s what’s so scary about it. I’m sure it will, nothing’s inspired me to pick up the pen just yet.
And on that note all that can be done is to go and see The We Plays.
The We Plays is at the Hope Theatre from 27th September until 15th October 2016, for further information or to book visit here.