My story is a strange one. Well, that’s what I assume it to be. I began to think about writing after I’d somehow scaled the heady heights of the acting profession – playing Broadway aged fourteen. Me, the son of a plasterer from a long line of plasterers from Tottenham, and a mother, one of thirteen kids, whose parents ran a junk shop in Islington – acting?
This incredible experience became a catalyst, a huge inspiration that gave me encouragement and the confidence to believe that if I put my mind to something anything was attainable.
So, to cut my very long story short, I became a relatively successful actor by sixteen. By twenty-one I decided to ditch ‘the acting’ and moved to music, writing lyrics for contemporary songs and performing them in a rock band (something I’ve continued to do). Fast forward to my late thirties, fate [in the shape of a car accident] forced a renaissance.
In my family ‘University’ was never mentioned – no one had ever gone to such a place. And after leaving school without qualifications, this was never going to be an option. However, after spending time working as an actor in residence at a school and subsequently resitting some exams – as a mature student – I embarked upon a three-year drama degree.
I eventually passed with a distinction and during this outrageous experience I discovered much more than I had assumed I would: about writing, about literature, about the arts, about drama, about plays and playwriting, about acting, about people, about representation, about life, and most importantly, about myself.
We were encouraged, in some modules, to write, and gradually I opted for modules of this kind. I was enthusiastic about them all and this was mainly because the lecturers matched my own passion. Playwright Rebecca Pritchard was one such force, who was to become a huge inspiration, as a person and as a writer. Before long I’d written a few short plays – one, that I’d co-written, an outrageously dark comedy looking at international terrorism, became the first to be performed, and to many plaudits. I was off and running.
By taking the degree I rediscovered myself and gradually became more and more passionate about writing.
Writing things that would have a huge impact on others. However, as I was to discover, the theatre world is rife with snobbery and red tape and brick walls and ageists and lots of things I knew were there but didn’t quite know until I ventured in. Therefore, with so many obstacles to circumnavigate I knew I had a difficult task ahead, but I was convinced that none of this was going to deter the ‘son of a plaster’ – in a mad way it sort of made me more determined to get my hiking boots on.
You know the arts industry is about confidence – it’s a mind-set – of any performance-based art form – confidence breed’s creativity breed’s confidence – it’s cyclical.
With self-confidence brimming I then returned to pursue an MA Playwriting degree. It was only really during this process did I actually think that I might be good enough to pursue a career as a writer. This had as much to do with my mentor Paul Sirett as it was my own ability – it became a brilliant collaboration – he was a fantastic mentor who gave me the best advice I’d ever received –
to always write freely – do not give yourself boundaries
[especially at this stage of my career] – it was an epiphany moment – and it was his belief in me that gave me the confidence I needed to believe in myself. I began to write very creatively – with no walls and no parameters – I was able to write with complete freedom.
I now have many life experiences – many outstanding and unforgettable experiences as a performer – many inspirational academic experiences – and all of this, quite naturally, I bring into my written work.
Since graduating I have written two short plays – 1 full-length play – two feature film outlines [mentored by screenwriter Ronnie Thompson] – two short screenplays and now a full-length screenplay. I’ve self-produced a short play and the most recent full-length play. I cast myself in both [I mean why wouldn’t I – when you produce your own work it takes the agent out of the equation] and I also cast several young and very talented actors I’d worked with as a practitioner at a school in Essex – all of us from working class backgrounds.
I don’t believe I’ve broken into the industry yet, because as a writer from my background and of a certain age the industry becomes a hard nut to crack. So, I have to be more resilient, as it will take more time, I have to be more dedicated and write more, work harder and be more driven, because that is what it is going to take to fulfil my ambition. Equally, I will have to network more – networking the product is a key factor. Remember most of us know about the ‘show’ and a lot less about the ‘business’. So I aim to work on the ‘business’ to get where I need to be.
Consequently, I will continue to create work that I’m passionate about and inevitably I will have to self-produce for my work to see the light of day – but that’s how it goes – sometimes you have to do it all yourself to get anywhere, especially in this industry. But I’m determined as hell to make a mark, and will be dragging a group of brilliant young actors along with me.
I now aim to form a creative company that will provide a platform for the working classes that will produce innovative and exhilarating work.
Looking back, which is not something I often do, I know I’ve always been a storyteller and writer in the making – it has just taken a great deal of grit and determination to get to this point…and I’m still not quite there yet.
My play ‘Face Down in a Land of Freedom’ is due to play to London audiences and tour in 2018.
The Play: Twitter/facedowntheplay