Make Plays More Interesting With This One Simple Trick…

I’ve decided that at the start of every script I write, I’m going to insert the instruction below:

The names of characters and locations used in this play are reflective of nothing more than my own cultural experience. They should not be held as an integral or inviolable part of the work, and can be changed according to whatever context the play is being performed in, and whoever is performing it. All possessive pronouns can be adjusted accordingly. Please enjoy yourselves.

This is why:

  • I’m white, male, straight, middle-class, cis and able-bodied. However aware of this I am, it’s almost certainly going to reflect in my writing, in the way my characters interact with the world I create. This needs counteracting because it’s one of the more pernicious reasons why so much of the industry looks the same.
  • I don’t think the onus should always be on the writer to create meaning. It’s how we got to the current stage of over-reverence towards ‘the text as written’, aka the best-known way to be a boring dramatist. It reduces the ability of directors, producers, etc to look at the name ‘John’ and make assumptions
  • …because in my particular case, character names don’t really have any meaning. They’re placeholders, a way of distinguishing one emotionally-complex human from another. In real life, first names and surnames are essentially arbitrary, and throwing them around like every day is a new establishing scene sounds utterly bizarre. Give it a go, it’s easier to follow than you might think.
  • I don’t want anyone to pick up a play of mine and go ‘bloody hell, we can’t do this, it’s too [SEE MY DEMOGRAPHIC ABOVE]’. I can’t do anything about how I am. I was raised in Worcestershire by parents born in Kent and Berkshire. I couldn’t be more powerfully Middle-England if I was bitten by a radioactive conservatory. I don’t know why anyone else should feel self-conscious about what they are, and I don’t want them to feel like that. I want them to feel like the world will acknowledge them and make them feel part of it.
  • It’s theatre – it’s important to enjoy yourself.