Notes in conversation with a group of writers and the Royal Court (RC) literary manager, Chris Campbell.
Artistic Directors don’t like being told what to do and are grappling with this shifting mosaic that is programming. Part of the reluctance in committing to a play, or type of play, is that it will necessarily rule out many others.
What do we look for in plays? In many ways, we look for, what you look for - a good play! It’s fairly true to say Royal Court plays are concerned about “how we live now”.
Another aspect of plays, the RC is interested in are plays that question ideas of form and “what is a play” - (Me: Historically this is a question the RC has often raised, and continues to raise under today’s artistic management. I have heard it from more than one RC literary manager over my sporadic writing life).
What is policy? Policy is what you programme… one school of thought suggests all that matters is what you put on. But, perhaps, one might risk the word “urgency” when associated with plays RC is looking at - or, in other words, why put this play on now?
(While I hear this fear raised from some writers) Do not fear your work will be read only by a young graduate of a passing 2:1 degree from a respectable university. A panel of professionals will read your work, and we/RC are incredibly excited to try and find brilliant new writing.
RC commissions writers not ideas.
The wrong question is how many out of the 3000 odd submissions a year, do you commission? (answer we only put on 15 or so shows a year…) but out of the unsolicited submissions, how often is a relationship built with a writer? A relationship with a writer is very often built from an unsolicited submission to the RC, even if that particular submission proves not to be an RC play.
Trends discussed. Many writers concerned about the “near future” including social and environmental concern. Some debate at to MeToo stories.
Ideas discussed. Is writing plays a career? Is someone like Caryl Churchill, somewhat of an anomaly and perhaps the typical playwright (even of great plays) may only have a handful (or one or two) plays in them? Me: there are parallels here with poetry. Poets almost always have other careers. Some of our greatest poets have their lifetimes work measured in only a few collections (I’m reading Wisława Szymborska who has perhaps no more than 300 poems over her life time, yet is a Nobel Prize winner)
This gives me comfort as I’ve had not a huge amount of work produced and at one stage, I thought I might not write another play again (now I think I have two sets of plays I think I can write, although whether more than that, I’m unsure).
Perhaps, for some, after 3 plays you run out of life….
My advice, if you’ve written a play and you think it’s good, definitely send it to the Royal Court, with a good short cover letter.
Listening to legendary theatre agent, Mel Kenyon.
The current Arts blog, cross-over, the current Investing blog. Cross fertilise, some thoughts on autism. Discover what the last arts/business mingle was all about (sign up for invites to the next event in the list below).
My Op-Ed in the Financial Times (My Financial Times opinion article) about asking long-term questions surrounding sustainability and ESG.
A long read on Will Hutton looking at Brexit causes and solutions.
How to live a life, well lived. Thoughts from a dying man. On play and playing games.
A provoking read on how to raise a feminist child.
Some popular posts: the commencement address; by NassimTaleb (Black Swan author, risk management philosopher), Neil Gaiman on making wonderful, fabulous, brilliant mistakes; JK Rowling on the benefits of failure. Charlie Munger on always inverting; Sheryl Sandberg on grief, resilience and gratitude.
Buy my play, Yellow Gentlemen, (amazon link) - all profits to charity