Guide to Stage & Screen | Reviews
edited by Barry Turner
Macmillan 264 pages
‘Writing for stage and screen... is a hazardous business.’
'If you’re easily deterred, writing plays is probably not for you.'
'This book won’t teach you how to write plays – there are plenty of good books out there that can do this – but it will show you what to do with them next, and that’s important too.'
Writing for stage and screen (and here we’re talking about television more than about film, and definitely not about Hollywood) is, as James Roose-Evans observes, a hazardous business. Indeed, the way the opening article initially presents it, one might be better off learning to do something else altogether. If you’re easily deterred, writing plays is probably not for you. Unlike a novel, which ultimately requires nothing more than a reader in order to come alive, a play needs a cast, a director and a place to happen. Consequently, given the limited resources available, there’s a lot of competition to have one’s drama performed. And if there’s competition, it only makes the job all the harder.
However, James Roose-Evans’ thoughtful article offers as much encouragement as it does discouragement, and he has plenty of good ideas for making contact with the theatre and its denizens. Often, that personal contact is the key to getting the first foot on the ladder of seeing your work performed. Similarly, his interview with the playwright Harold Whitemore, creator of, among other things, The Gathering Storm and Best of Friends is fascinating for the revealing glimpses of a working playwright’s life.
Interviews with Mal Young and Kate Rowland offer hope as well, though perhaps in a more general ‘keep trying’ kind of way. Rowland is the BBC’s Creative Director for New Writing while Young is the BBC drama controller for series. Given the fact that even as I’m writing this, the BBC has restated its commitment to getting new drama onto tv and radio, I can’t help thinking they’re going to be working very hard in the next months. Reading these interviews may just provide a clue to what they’re looking for, while Bob Ritchie chronicles the ups and downs of being a failed playwright.
Once again, as with its sister volume on crime-writing, the meat of this book is in the huge listings section. It’s more general than its companion, but nonetheless has the vital addresses of theatre companies, tv production companies, agents and associations that any aspiring playwright needs. This book won’t teach you how to write plays – there are plenty of good books out there that can do this – but it will show you what to do with them next, and that’s important too.
|© Maureen Kincaid Speller a reviewer, writer, editor and former librarian, is our book reviewer and also works for WritersServices as a freelance editor. 2003||Reviewed by Maureen Kincaid Speller|