Actress-turn-playwright Hayley Squires is one of the featured writers at this year’s Royal Court Young Writers Festival, with her debut play Vera Vera Vera, which deals with the fallout of a British soldier’s death. She chats to IdeasTap member Chelsey Burdon about her playwriting heroes and shares advice for writers…
How did Vera Vera Vera come about?
It came to me [when I was] talking to my nan about why anyone would go and serve in Afghanistan or Iraq. In the second world war it was for what people would say was a reason, or they didn't have a choice. I was trying to work out why anyone would do it, if it makes those people heroes and what kind of lives they come from.
I sent it to the Court for feedback, to see if it would go anywhere and I'd forgotten that I'd sent it in, then they called me and told me that they were taking it on. It was fantastic.
It shows the point of view of a group of people that isn't always explored, particularly truthfully. It’s a look at these young people, their lives and their views on what they should and shouldn't be doing; not just a case of whether they've got choices – but have they the energy or the will to make those choices?
How do you think being an actor benefits playwriting?
It comes from the musicality of the script and dialogue and how I hear it: when an actor should break, when a pause should happen and when the dialogue should be driven through. I think that comes from having done so much work on plays like Pinter’s where, as an actor, you have to serve the text before you serve anything else.
Which playwrights or dramatists have most inspired you?
The main one would be Simon Stephens; his dialogue was something that just astounded me. Again that idea of what I'm interested in as a writer; music within text –the use of beats and pauses and how he uses that.
Dennis Kelly as well – he takes something which could be kitchen sink drama and takes it into this really extensive place; allows it to be more poetical and pack a bigger punch, I think.
And Harold Pinter as well – just for all the obvious reasons really.
What advice would you give for young aspiring playwrights?
Write down every idea you have straight away and give it to people in your environment that you trust. I don't think it’s necessarily a good idea to sit down and say; “Right now I'm going to write a play”, but I think if you have a certain idea that you can't get out of your head or something you want to explore; you should just write it down. Even if you don't do anything or show anyone or it comes to nothing just write it down and see.
Look at stuff like IdeasTap and the different theatres to see what opportunities they do for workshops and competitions. Do your research and find out where you can get feedback. There are so many out there that you can grab hold of – you've just got to find out where they are.
The Royal Court Young Writers Festival is on until 14 April. Read Chelsey Burdon's review and book tickets.
Are you a writer? Apply for our HighTide briefs to improve your play or submit your play to the festival.
Image by Johan Persson.
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