Fri 3 August 2012

Phil Porter is an award-winning playwright, whose new play Blink, a co-production between Soho Theatre and nabokov, is currently showing at the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh.

Phil won the Bruntwood Playwriting Prize for Cracks in my Skin and the Arts Council’s Children Award for Smashed Eggs (Pentabus Theatre, Sulis Theatre & Theatre Royal, Northampton). His other recent plays include Alice in Wonderland (Royal & Derngate); The Tempest (adaptation co-written with Peter Glanville for the RSC) and Beauty & the Beast (Unicorn Theatre).

He talks to Soho Theatre ahead of Blink coming to Soho in September.

How did you get into playwriting?

I wrote mty first play when I was six. It was about some sausages trying to escape from a freezer. Then a few years later, when I took a year out before university, I got a job writing and directing documentary plays for a theatre company in my home town. This was great fun and I learned a lot. I wrote a few plays while studying drama at university, and by the time I graduated I was pretty sure that this was what I wanted to do.

How did your work get noticed? What have been the big moments of your career?

In the summer after university I wrote a play that went on at the Hen And Chickens Theatre in Islington. This led to a residency at the National Theatre Studio and while there I persuaded as many people as possible to meet me and read my work. Since then I’ve had some great experiences and the odd lean patch too. I loved seeing my work produced in New York. And working with great companies like the RSC and The Royal Opera House, and the talented people those companies attract, has been amazing.

Can you tell us a bit more about Blink and your journey from the initial idea to the stage?

I started work on Blink when I was part of the Soho Six, a group of commissioned writers that meet up at the Soho every couple of weeks. I wanted to write an intimate, peculiar play, and I wanted to experiment with addressing the audience directly. I wrote quite a speedy skeletal first draft and the Soho presented a rehearsed reading (a scary but very helpful experience). Encouraged by a positive audience response, I then started work on a much more detailed second draft, fleshing out the story and adding new layers of strangeness. Another reading followed, this time in Newcastle, and some fine-tuning. Then finally, in rehearsal, I’ve been making little tweaks and snips, doing everything I can to help the actors and make the thing flow.

Is there a piece of playwriting advice you couldn’t live without?

Write every play like it’s the last thing you’ll ever write. It’s better to have a play that’s too full of ideas, themes, images, story and heart than a play with not enough.

What’s inspiring you creatively at the moment? Are you enjoying the Olympics?

Having work produced, working with new people, these things I find hugely inspiring. And yes, I’m loving the Olympics. I’m a big fan of athletics, especially Mo Farah. I’d love to write a play about sport one day.

Learn how to shape and subvert audience expectations, spring dramatic surprises and keep your audience on the edge of their seats in Phil Porter’s workshop, Playing with the Audience. For further information and to buy tickets, CLICK HERE.

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