Since turning playwright about eight years ago, I’ve experienced some special moments with my work.
There was the excruciating beauty of seeing a script I wrote on stage with an audience for the first time. There was the first time my work was broadcast on national television and I watched my script for a show I’d grown up with, Emmerdale, with my family. Just recently there was a sell out run of my new play The Chef Show, a show that encouraged communities to talk to each other and by which measure it was a huge success.
Recently, however, has come something that went straight to the top of the heart-warming moments in my career as a playwright. Last year the editor of BBC Radio Leeds asked me to write a play for the radio station. It’s the first time since Alan Ayckbourn was doing his thing in the mid-60s that the Leeds radio station has commissioned original drama on this scale. I was a little overawed but hugely privileged to have been asked.
The play I wrote, Coming
Home Together, was aimed at 9 and 10 year olds and was a timetravel adventure that taught the audience about the fact that several million soldiers from the Indian subcontinent fought in the First and Second World Wars. It was performed at Bradford Playhouse in November last year as part of the commemoration of the Battle of the Somme, and recorded as a radio play broadcast over Christmas on BBC Radio Leeds.
I was thrilled when the editor at the station told me that the play had been such a hit that the BBC had decided to fund a schools tour this Spring – another first for BBC Radio Leeds. Which is how I found myself at a couple of schools this past fortnight, watching my play with an audience of children. Seeing the play with 100 kids laughing at the story and seeming to learn something from the script I had written was utterly joyous.
This morning I’ll be at Parkinson Lane School in Halifax with the four actors for the final performance of a two-week schools tour. They have been on the road with the play, and I have been dropping in and out as my diary allows. Seeing young people responding to your script is a wonderful thing and a reminder that drama has the power to really affect young people in particular. For them theatre isn’t something that’s ‘good for you’ – they see it is nothing more complicated or more simple than imagination, joy and play on the stage.
Turns out the adage is true, if you’re feeling like the world is slowly turning to some very dark places, time spent with kids is never wasted.
Seeing young people responding to your script is a wonderful thing.