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Nick Stafford Interview

Posted on 16 January 2006. © Copyright 2004-2024 WriteWords
A longer version of this interview is available to WriteWords Full and Community Members.
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WriteWords talks to dramatist Nick Stafford about how see the wood for the trees, artistic relationships and those dreaded barren times

Tell us something about your background.

Iíve been writing plays professionally since 1987. The first was for the Half Moon Young Peopleís Theatre. Iíd written a one-man show when I was at drama school that I developed into a play that they read, then they commissioned me, then I became writer-in-residence, and got other commissions, mostly from small-scale touring companies like Avon Touring and New Perspectives; also Birmingham Rep, with whom I still have a fertile relationship. An Artistic Director saw a play of mine there and asked me to go to The Young Vic as writer-in-residence. I adapted The Snow Queen which ran for two years there and has been done in other places. The National Theatre Studio took me up, as they have so many, which has led to all sorts of projects there and in the National Theatre, including a play in the Lyttleton. The RSC have also staged a play of mine, in The Pit. Iím currently adapting a book for the National, for the Olivier, and a new play is opening at Birmingham Rep in May 06. Another medium Iíve worked in is Radio Drama. I had several plays on R4 for a while, but this opportunity seems to have dried up for now. Over the years Iíve also been commissioned to write movies and television drama, but nothingís been filmed, apart from a short the BBC made.

When Iíve been writer-in-residence Iíve run workshops. Iíve been an Royal Literary Fund Fellow for three years, at Roehampton. Iíve also helped other writers with scripts, informally.

How did you start writing?

When I was very young I thought that Iíd ďbeĒ a writer. There werenít any where I grew up, and none in my family, so I donít know where this came from. Novels were my first love, and Iíve recently been writing one. I knew that if I didnít at least try to write a novel Iíd bitterly regret it on my deathbed. I never meant to be a playwright. I was studying English with Drama as my minor option years ago: English so I could read all the time and Drama so I didnít have to work. The drama tutor cast me as the lead in a play then suggested that I went to drama school. At drama school I wrote the one-man show that became the playÖ

Who are your favourite writers and why?

I tend to like pieces of work rather than a writerís body of work. The last piece I read that really was completely absorbing was HOW I LIVE NOW by Meg Rossoff. I like Jean Rhys, a lot, and H.G.Wells. I remember Pinter being ďout of fashionĒ for a while. I canít think why. I tuned into the World service one night and caught a production of The Dumb Waiter Ė I think Colin Blakely was in it Ė and it was riveting. Another seminal experience occurred was when I was about thirteen. I lived in a little village. The nearest cinema was seven miles away. I caught the bus and took myself off to see Nick Roegís DONíT LOOK NOW. Iíve no idea why I did this. I remember feeling quite different after Iíd seen it. And it was a secret. I didnít know anyone to whom I could talk about it.

How did you get your first agent/ commission/publication?

Somehow, I was writing a screenplay for the BBC, with a script editor, Hilary Salmon, whoís now one of the heads of drama, before I had an agent, because I remember asking Hilary who a good agent for me would be? She mentioned Julia Kreitman, who was at Curtis Brown at the time.. The screenplay didnít get made, but I still have a creative relationship with Hilary, and Juliaís still my agent.

What's the worst thing about writing?

The fallow times when you feel youíve no imagination left and the barren times when nobody wants you.

And the best?

The visceral feeling that youíre on to something. Spending time with imaginary friends. Applause. Silence. I went to Paris this Xmas and my plays were stocked in Shakespeare and Co. My partner took a photo of me pointing to them. I told her about the myth(?) that writers move their books so that theyíre displayed more prominently. Mine were at knee height, spine-on, so she pulled them out and placed them front-on, eye level.

A longer version of this interview is available to WriteWords Full and Community Members.
Click here to learn more about becoming a member.

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