REVIEW: Being A Playwright, Nick Hern Books ✭✭✭✭

Paul T Davies reviews Being A Playwright – A Career Guide for Writers by Chris Foxon and George Turvey published by Nick Hern Books.

Being A Playwright Nick Hern Books

Being A Playwright. A Career Guide for Writers.
Chris Foxon and George Turvey.
Publisher – Nick Hern Books.
4 Stars
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From the team behind the multi award winning new writing company Papatango comes this excellent guide to beginning, developing and sustaining a career as a playwright. The book is divided into three acts, and the playwright can access each stage most appropriate to their stage of development. Act One is Starting Out, Act Two: Making the Show and the third act is Taking the Next Step. As a playwright myself, I have already gleaned valuable information to take me forward with my writing!

The reason why the book works so well, and reads so well, is because Foxon and Turvey are in the thick of new writing, they are reading, producing, encouraging and doing it! This means that the books is steeped in common sense, things that we know to be true but often overlook because we  take them for granted. In Act One, it was reassuring to read that things I have taught to students, and advice that I try to give myself, ring true and are shared within the profession. There is encouraging support regarding confidence, (or lack of it), dealing with isolation, reasons to write and the danger of pressure to conform- throughout they encourage you to write the play YOU need to write. I was so glad that they emphasise the importance of reading and seeing other plays, that is the best way to begin to place you as a writer. The reader/writer is taken through each stage of development, with invaluable advice from other playwrights; I loved Dominic Mitchell’s ‘spew draft’, the one that gets everything out of your system!

There are metaphors that really ring true, for example, writing is like scaling a mountain, but you find your own path to the top, and throughout there are honest and encouraging Insider’s Views from playwrights and producers. Every writer will realise that they are not alone during the process, and that other writers feel and do the same as you- ticking off the “Do” list was very satisfying! The authors, and contributors, are also realistic about submissions, about how competitive it is, and how working class writers can struggle to be heard because they don’t have funds and contacts easily available. The book does look outside the capital, and gives clear signposts to regional theatres that support new writing.

What marks this book out from other writing guides is that it is derived from LIVED experience, and is very much a book that reflects play writing and theatre as it is NOW. Act Three covers superbly the process of collaboration and, very importantly, reflection on your work, and how to move forward from the last production. The appendices are encouraging, with training opportunities, play writing competitions and potential funders among other useful lists for the writer to explore. Accessible and informative, within a short time this book already feels like an essential tool kit to support the playwright at many stages of writing- highly recommended!

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