Andrew Sharpe

goodnight

Andrew is a playwright and currently his play ‘GoodNight Polly Jones’ is running at Theatre N16, a place which champions new writers. The play runs Feb 1st – Feb 11th. get down there, fun guaranteed! Book at theatren16.co.uk

So Andrew how did you first start writing?
Through music. I met my longstanding creative partner Amy Kakoura when she joined our band, Steamchicken, and we formed a writing partnership. We went on to co-write the musical ‘Songs from a Ledge’. I had been playing with a novel for a couple of years before that (still am) but found when working with Amy that I enjoyed writing for the stage. GPJ is my first solo work, Amy and I continue to work together and hope to bring ‘My Celebrity Friend’ to London later in the year.

What excites you about putting pen to paper?
That’s the last part of the process. An idea comes from somewhere and I play about with it for ages in my head, often whilst out walking and equally often (to my shame) when I should be paying attention to friends and family. It’s normally based on some wrongness, something in the world that’s out of order and needs to be looked at in a different way. Characters form, often drawn from real life, and start arguing about who should get the happy ending. I get a real buzz when I eventually figure out what the plot is and how that story needs to be told to make everything fit better in our world. There is also a great feeling of achievement writing ‘FIN’ at the end of a page.

You have your play Good Night Polly Jones showing for a 2 week run at N16 Theatre in London from1st Feb for 2 weeks, firstly well done, secondly how did you come to work with N16?
Thank you! I’m a real twitter tart and am constantly seeking out new contacts and opportunities, I’ll see anybody interesting for a coffee and a chat. Jamie agreed to meet with me just as he was setting up in Balham. We seemed to hit it off straight away, he’s passionate about what he does but very straightforward and easy to deal with. We’re both newish in the industry and are learning together.

What is Goodnight Polly about? When did you get the idea for this play?
It’s entirely fictional, but as with all of my work, draws on many characters and situations I saw working as a lawyer, the human interest stuff that’s often left out of the court papers and reports. The play is set around an incident of sexual assault in the workplace of the sort that frequently goes unreported and unprosecuted. It deals firstly with the immediate aftermath, and then we see Peter and Polly five years later as he struggles with remorse. I hope it adds positively to the dialogue around an important and ever topical subject.

You have quite a few other written pieces in development, how do you go about finding people to develop your work, can you give advice to new writers with work that are seeking collaboration?
Writers should write, read, watch plays and movies, write and then write more. Then share your writing by drafting reviews, letters to the local paper, going to writing circles, adult education courses and looking for other emerging professionals (actors, directors, theatre makers) at an appropriate level. Twitter is great for this. Your work is not likely to be polished enough to engage the literary department of a major theatre just yet, but there are dozens of scratch nights, new writing nights and workshops. Once you’ve got your first feedback be prepared to re-write everything you’ve ever written. I would highly recommend Sheer Drop and their scriptwriting service, excellent value. So & So Arts club is also worth seeking out. If working direct with a cast, get a director first and be prepared to buy the cakes.

What one piece of advice would you give to writers starting out?
Are you writing for yourself or for other people? Writing for yourself is fine. If you’re writing for other people that feeling of utter panic and crippling self-doubt when they start talking about your work is normal, don’t be put off. Listen to what they say, try not to let your tears blur your notes, go away and do it better.

What do you love about theatre?
I’m presently fascinated by the production and staging of other works, seeking to learn when conceptualising my own work. It has a unique power and grace, an ability to transform quite unlike other media. And proper endings.

Why do you think theatre is important? 
Change and healing flowing from a story. A community has physically come together to share that idea and all, cast and audience alike, need to be engaged and changed by the performance, becoming incrementally more thoughtful. We need to be rigorous with quality, vision and delivery to fulfil that contract.

Do you feel certain restrictions within the industry? What would you like to see more of?
Although there are perceived barriers to entry I’ve found it pretty open to determined new entrants. There is considerable use of networks and word of mouth, which can appear discriminatory. There are issues concerning the financial rewards at entry level, mainly because the public are unable and/or unwilling to afford to pay a commercial price for drama in small-venues, and too often that is reflected in the poor quality of the work (music suffers even more so from this ailment). Many creatives are forced to take a second job outside theatre and forgo a personal life. I think there’s a broad political consensus that average salaries need to rise, so that demand/spending in general and on the arts coincidentally can rise, and we need to match that with better quality and more developed works. I’d be interested in talking to/working with Actor Awareness about difficulties and barriers perceived by many social groups often defined as excluded, the role of secondary education and the lack of social mobility within society generally.

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