A Conversation with Playwright: Nick Payne
NP: Again, I mostly left Mike and Beowulf to get on with it. Of course, Mike is very open and collaborative and would show me the design at various points. But really what excites me is when a director (and indeed a designer) is able to think as boldly and as creatively as they can. Mike is very good at making sure that the designs for his shows have a metaphorical element. Now this might sound a bit grand or a bit over-the-top, but I think really all it means is that Mike is always keen for a design – a set – to evolve somehow throughout the course of an evening. As the play evolves, as the story evolves, as the characters evolve, so too should the set. I think what Mike and Beowulf have come up with is looking great.
TS: Has the script changed since the premiere at The Bush Theatre in 2009? What was the catalyst for those changes?
NP: Yes, the script has changed. I've never had a play of mine staged for a second time, so I felt this was a great opportunity to try and improve upon and repair some of the elements that perhaps didn't quite work first time around. Also, Mike and Jake (and indeed one or two others) had some great thoughts, so I've tried to incorporate those into the script. As I mentioned previously, this was one of the first plays I ever wrote and, having had a break of nearly three years from the play, it was great to revisit it and look at it a little more objectively – it was a little like looking at old school photographs and cringing at how my hair used to look! I hope I've taken the opportunity to make sure that every scene is as dramatic as it can be. Also, I was keen to modernize some of George's views on his work and the environment. When I wrote the first draft of this play (I think it was sometime around 2006-7?), I was fairly optimistic about how we might go about tackling the problems our planet (and indeed its population) were facing. But honestly now I'm sorry to say I feel rather downbeat – both personally and politically. I'm not sure what is being done? So I suppose in some ways, my current pessimism makes what George is trying to do all the more urgent – and I hope I've addressed this.