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David Holman Interview

Playwright David Holman went to film school originally, before writing for Coventryís Belgrade Theatre, where the acting company at that time starred Sue Johnstone, Clive Russell and Maggie Steed. His work was originally for schools but began to be produced in US, Latin America, Australia and Europe. He was commissioned by the RSC, Bolton Octagon and Theatre Centre, and worked in Japan, US and Canada as a visiting dramatist. His successful series of plays in Australia included No Worries- later a feature film which won Golden Bear at Berlin Film Festival- and Small Poppies, directed by Oscar winning actor Geoffrey Rush. He adapted Gogolís ĎDiary of a Madmaní also for Rush and Belvoir Street Theatre, Sydney, which won a number of awards for writing and acting. He has written 70 plays, operas and films, including Whale, a play for Richard Eyre at the National Theatre.

By accident I came across a Theatre in Education company in Coventry who needed some scripting work done for an educational programme, about a century of secondary schooling in Coventry. An unlikely topic. As I was available and didnít cost them anything I got the job- which I thoroughly enjoyed, mainly because it involved me in a lot of historical research which I found I really liked. The result was a job offer- £6 a week, writer and researcher for a very talented and radical theatre company.

Luckily my early work was done out of the spotlight and whatever mistakes I made (and there were many) didnít get the kind of attention that would make one want to give up. I didnít have a review for eight years- all the work was done in schools and therefore a review not warranted- wonderful. So I was able to learn on the job and none of my mistakes were fatal. I worked 60 hours a week, 7 days a week, but I wouldnít have changed it for anything. The company was turning out new material very rapidly.

My favourite writers. Shakespeare above all. Dickens a close second. Dostoevsky, Brecht, Chaucer. Modern playwright; Howard Barker, David Mamet, Pinter, Caryl Churchill.

I didnít have- nor needed- an agent for the first ten years. My stuff has always generated work by word of mouth. I was never out of work for a day in thirty years. Now Iíve got agents in Australia, Canada, USA, Japan but I donít think theyíve ever got me a job.

Iíve never really had a breakthrough. I found after a while that my work was being done abroad and then had offers to write in those countries- thatís a sort of breakthrough I suppose. First play at the National or RSC? Maybe. Not that I didnít enjoy that but I donít know, maybe Iím still waiting.

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