TIM FIRTH – A LIFE IN WRITING
songs. Then just before going away to Cambridge to read English, he enrolled on an Arvon course at Lumb Bank near Hebden Bridge. The tutor was Willy Russell and it changed his life – he decided to become a writer. “I think sometimes you have to be shocked into making decisions,” he says. “If I had thought about being a playwright I would never have done it.”
He is happy that the collaboration with Sheffield has allowed him to combine his two great passions. “What’s been great is that the piece completely dictated its own terms,” he says. “Because it was all written as a comedy, whenever I strayed into it becoming a more conventional musical I stopped because it was not right for the story – it felt arch and wrong.”
Firth says that his approach to writing has always been to follow his instinct and to avoid planning or strategising. “The less you give yourself time to think and the more you write from the heart, the better,” he says. “I have never had a mission. When I work the mission emerges out of the comedy.”
It certainly paid dividends with Calendar Girls when he was brought in to save a film script that wasn’t working. “I wrote with great freedom; I just thought ‘I will base it on my mum and her friends’,” he says. “The area I was most interested in was the group comedy. When I developed it for the stage, that was the most rewarding – it was much easier to achieve that on stage than on film. There is something very special about comedy in the theatre – when it’s good and people are laughing, it’s the best it can be.”
This is My Family, Sheffield Studio, June 19-July 20. 0114 249 6000. www. sheffieldtheatres.co.uk TIM Firth was born in 1964 and has lived all his life in the North West of England.
He studied English at Cambridge where he met aspiring young director Sam Mendes who directed all Firth’s plays at Cambridge. Firth also wrote for the Footlights revue team.
After graduating, he was invited to meet Alan Ayckbourn in Scarborough. Ayckbourn commissioned a one-act play for the studio at the Stephen Joseph Theatre. Firth’s first full-length play Neville’s Island was also staged in Scarborough. His new musical This is My Family has been described by Daniel Evans as “a refreshingly honest and funny portrayal of modern family life”.