So the launch of 'The 50'at the Royal Court was very enjoyable, on the whole. And I was fairly clubbable! Managed to make good conversation with a few of the writers, notably Lizzie Nunnery (Liverpool Theatres), Francis Turnly (Lyric, Belfast), Tom Morton-Smith (Hampstead), Rachel Barnett (Chichester), James Graham (Finborough) and Declan Feenan (Tinderbox, Belfast). Inevitably, connections were made in a random fashion, all reminiscent of a freshers' week do, or the first day of term at Hogwarts. Things kicked off with Professor McGonagall, I mean Kate Rowland, creative director of new writing for various BBC departments, interviewing Hanif Kureishi on the quite gorgeous set of The Winterling, Jez Butterworth's play. HK gave illuminating and engaging if rather self-conscious answers to her questions about his career, his 'process', his inspirations, methods etc. Self-consciousness is unavoidable in these sorts of things, I suppose. I enjoyed listening to him, though I don't know his work terribly well. Two or three of the writers did though, and quizzed him about it with enthusiasm. After HK left, and a tea break, KR talked about one of the commissions that BBC Radio has ring-fenced for us, a slot on The Wire, the experimental strand that she herself commissions for Radio 4. 'One' being the operative word, and given that 49 of us won't be writing for it, a disproportionate amount of time was given over, it could be said, to KR's outlining just exactly what she's looking for. After that we all had our piccies taken on that set, and when that was done, we repaired to the Court's cafe-bar for the good bit - drinks and eats and chats. Alan Yentob gave a little speech, introed by the Court's associate director for the all the 50th anniversary projects, Emily McLaughlin. Tom Wilson, Southwark supremo and my pal, showed up, as did others from many of the nominating theatres, plus various of the mentors assigned to us (though not mine). Thus the evening got very convivial, there was a very supportive and fraternal atmosphere to the whole thing. Bumped into Peter Kavanagh (radio producer), and gave him my free ticket for The Winterling (I was cream crackered by that point).
In the morning, back to the Court for a workshop. I was quite apprehensive as I'd never knowingly attended a writing workshop in my puff, but it was led by Emily McLaughlin and Ola Animashawun with such practised and confident ease that I was able to relax into it and contribute here and there. The session was on the theme of anger. It was very interesting listening to Emily, and later Ian Rickson after he joined us, on the history of the Court and how it was marked, branded almost, by that Anger play, and the explosive reaction to it after it was first staged in 1956. IR talked about how the English Stage Company was founded to evangelise the continental modernists, Ionescu and Sartre and the like, and John Osborne's play put a bomb under all that, and the company's had an ambivalent relationship with the play ever since. I half-knew all that, but it was fascinating to hear it articulated by this Court generation. We've been invited, the fifty of us!, to submit five minute pieces on the anger theme, and some of them will get staged during the week's celebration of the Look Back phenomenon in May (though, pointedly, there's no actual revival of the play).
Then after that, lunch on the King's Road and back to the theatre to see a matinee of The Winterling - which I really liked.
Must just give you this extract B found in the Faber Book of Diaries.
With Val to see play Look Back In Anger by John Osborne, whom I once interviewed on television without being able to get anything out of him. Play quite execrable - woman ironing, man yelling and snivelling, highbrow smut, 'daring' remarks (reading from Sunday paper; Bishop of __ asks all to rally round and make hydrogen bomb). Endured play up to point where hero and heroine pretended to be squirrels. - Malcolm Muggeridge, 14th March 1957.