16 October 1977 |
Bedford, Bedfordshire, England
I think the interesting thing about the word 'posh' is that it is so relative; it's quite a provocative title because people have strong feelings about that word.
A fascinating breed, Old Etonians. Impeccable in their social skills and very portable – you can put them anywhere, and they are absolutely charming.
Writing a tribe is fun. They have their own language, their own slang; they repeat it, and it becomes part of the texture of the play. For a writer, that's thrilling. That's when my pen flies.
In my final year at Bristol University, I wrote a play called 'White Feathers.' It was produced in the studio theatre at the students' union in early 1999, when I was 21. It's 100 pages long: a very traditional play, with an interval, about deserters in the First World War.
Quite often, little germs of ideas have come from something that I've observed or someone's told me. The process of it becoming fiction is expanding and extending it: stretching the rubber band of reality.
'Posh' is not really political. I didn't want to aim a brickbat at the system. Or to bash Old Etonians. It was always the class and privilege aspect of that world that I was most drawn to. There is something endlessly fascinating about imagining something you could never be involved in.
I'm not very good at sticking at things if I can't be successful at them. I gave up on sport a long time ago.
Your plays are always personal. You can't help seeing yourself in the serial killer you've just written. But they get less specifically personal.
I was the family alien. Both my parents are quite creative, but I was… appalling… always putting on little shows. I was rather a shy child, not a natural performer, but there was a performative edge to everything I did.
Old Etonians are the most charming people in the world. It's not just the analytic ability and the great education; there is a really easy confidence to them that draws people to them and makes their passage though the world a little easier.
Maybe if I'd had more direct contact with death, I wouldn't find it so fascinating and I wouldn't write about it so much.
I think a lot of playwrights have a script in their bottom drawer that hopefully no one will ever see about a bunch of young people sharing a flat and getting up to crazy stuff.
I'm not posh at all. I grew up in Sheffield but never managed to pick up the accent – which was careless because there'd be some cache now in being a northern playwright, but I missed out on that one.
It's very lucky to be able to do a job where I get to sit about writing plays all day and going to the theatre. The downside, I suppose, is that you put it out there, and people are invited to like it or loathe it.
I think it's disingenuous to believe that being born into a privileged world means you feel like you are having an easy time.
It's not a meritocracy until everyone starts with the same opportunities, is it?
I am interested in the way advances in medicine and palliative care mean more people now have the opportunity to plan their own deaths, and also plan for those who are left behind. What does that do to the grieving process?
If you want, you can have a coffin made out of cardboard or wicker or papier mache. There's one like a seed pod, or you could buy one that doubles as both a bookcase and a coffin. During your life, you stand it in your living room, and then after you die, the books are taken out and your body put in their place and the whole thing buried.
And I admit it: there's a rather dirty thrill when 700 people laugh at a joke you've written.
We're not going to create a more equal society by not prodding at it, are we?
I think theatre at its best looks into the dark corners; clearly, my dark corners are full of doom.
I really don't know where my interest in death comes from. Maybe I've just got a twisted imagination. The truth is, I haven't had a hugely eventful life – maybe I'm compensating in my creative life. Or maybe I'm just a bit sick.
I think we love watching rich people behave badly. It has a sort of grisly fascination for us.
Whether you like the look or not, that tailcoat is a tough shell, a suit of armour. The posh boy is a hardy species.