Whether you are a writer or an actor or a stage manager, you are trying to express the complications of life through a shared enterprise. That's what theatre was, always. And live performance shares that with an audience in a specific compact: the play is unfinished unless it has an audience, and they are as important as everyone else.
I come from a tradition where the writer writes a play for the actors, rather than for himself, and the dialogue is made to work onstage, so it needs actors to help shape it. So you never get a play right straightaway.
The point of theatre is transformation: to make an extraordinary event out of ordinary material right in front of an audience's eyes. Where the germ of the idea came from is pretty much irrelevant. What matters to every theatre maker I know is speaking clearly to the audience 'right now.'
I always call 'Billy Elliot' a fantasy autobiography because I never wanted to be a dancer, but I got a lot of stick from the other kids about wanting to be a writer and being interested in drama.
In many ways, theatre is more rewarding for a writer. I used to think it was like painting a wall – that when the play is finished, it's done – but now I realise it's more like gardening; you plant the thing, then you have to constantly tend it. You're part of a thing that's living.
My generation of playwrights have grown up writing for studio theatres, and so the task of writing for more than ten or so actors is a huge challenge. Logistically, it's like doing an enormous Sudoku. Making sure everyone is in the right place at the right time in the right order instantly sends me into a cold sweat.
From kings to groundlings, Shakespeare made his work profound for everybody. That is how it should be. There is no hierarchy in theatre. It makes everyone part of a collective.
I only tend to think of the week ahead, to keep my eye on the ball and question whether a full stop is in the right place. It's easy to get distracted by the wrong things. If you start thinking of grand gestures, it's going to be a lot of hot air. You have to be logical. The theatre is a very logical place.
I don't really find things funny unless they're deeply tragic at the same time. I think if you're funny just for the sake of being funny, it's just frivolous nonsense. To me, all the best comic plays have been written about really serious and rather bleak things.
In a way, 'Billy Elliot' was autobiographical. I can't dance, but I think his dancing was me discovering about writing and literature.
The theatre has always been voraciously omnivorous. Dramatists have always raided every medium to find grist to their mill: myths, folk tales, newspapers, novels, films, works of art of all kinds.
There is absolutely no point in not being a populist. What I feel emboldened to do is to take something which is a minority interest and make it accessible without dumbing it down. I'm such an enthusiast for peculiar things, things that are perhaps a bit avant-garde, and try and involve everyone.
Culture is something that we all share, and we are all the poorer for anyone excluded from it.