The writer of ABBA-based hit musical Mamma Mia! on how her trip to Butlins sowed the seeds for a gallus show.
CATHERINE JOHNSON grew up in Wickwar, near Wotton-underEdge in Gloucestershire, where she was expelled from school aged 16.
She married aged 18, but was divorced by the time she was 24. Unemployed and living in Bristol with her first child, Johnson entered a playwriting competition run by Bristol Old Vic and ITV station HTV West under the pseudonym Maxwell Smart; Rag Doll won the competition, and was produced in 1988.
Boys Mean Business was produced by The Bush in 1989, and Dead Sheep by the same theatre in 1991, winning the Thames TV Best Play Award. For Bristol Old Vic, Johnson wrote Too Much Too Young (1992), Where’s Willy? (1994) and Renegades (1995).
Shang-a-Lang was first produced by The Bush in 1998, with Mamma Mia! opening in the West End the next year. Since then the latter has been seen in more than 40 countries and was nominated for Olivier and Tony awards.
Beyond Mamma Mia!, Johnson wrote Little Baby Nothing (2003) for The Bush, Through The Wire (2005) for the Royal National Theatre Shell Connections, and Suspension (2009) for Bristol Old Vic.
She has written extensively for television, and is working on a major new project, as well as a novel and a new piece for the RNT Shell Connections initiative.