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Interview: Greg Homann Joins HOW NOW BROWN COW's Promising Playwrighting Initiative

THE WRITERS' COLLECTIVE aims to bring together talented South African playwrights to inspire new stage plays

Interview: Greg Homann Joins HOW NOW BROWN COW's Promising Playwrighting Initiative

Founded at the end of last year, local production company HOW NOW BROWN COW has launched a new and exciting writing programme. As one of the participants of its first instalment - director, playwright and academic Greg Homann chats to BroadwayWorld about his writing and his involvement with THE WRITERS' COLLECTIVE.

BWW: For some background, tell us a bit about your process as a playwright. Where do you draw inspiration from?

Greg: I'm a planner. So my process is to spend a lot of time researching and organising my thoughts around an idea. I like to have a clear sense of - what I call - "the ingredients" of the play before actually starting to write. I'm inspired by encounters I see in real life that I find curious but that I don't feel I have a complete grasp of. Exploring this curiosity through a play challenges me to understand that encounter, and hopefully allows an audience to do the same.

BWW: Being a native South African based in the UK, how does that affect your approach to writing? In your recent piece IN OUR SKIN you combined experiences from both continents - is this something you are passionate about doing with your work?

Greg: South Africa is always with me. The countries fraught history and resilient spirit is, I think, at the centre of all my work as a writer, director, and academic. For this reason I'm attracted to subject matter that thematically deals with identity politics and prejudice. I want to deal with these hefty topics in an accessible way, which is why I try my best to find at least a vein of comedy in everything I do. When I came to the UK two years ago, I did so with the intention of growing my reach as a South African theatre-maker. So yes, I'm determined to forge a creative bridge between South Africa and the UK, and to find thematic connections across the hemisphere.

BWW: Have you found your process as a playwright has changed over the past year with theatres being shut down?

Greg: After winning the Standard Bank Young Artist Award in 2014 and making OEDIPUS @ KOÖ-NÚ!, and then co-writing A VOICE I CANNOT SILENCE a year later, I made a conscious decision to spend more time on playwriting. Up until then I had worked predominantly as a director, and the global pandemic has meant that all my directing work and most of my lecturing/academic work is on hold so I've had this bittersweet opportunity to spend almost a year writing plays. This time has helped me refine my process as a playwright. Despite how difficult last year was, the global shut down has given me space to complete drafts of two new plays that are ready toInterview: Greg Homann Joins HOW NOW BROWN COW's Promising Playwrighting Initiative go into production when possible. IN OUR SKIN has also been developed further thanks to the support of the Midlands Arts Centre (MAC) in Birmingham and is now lined up for a production in the UK in 2022.

BWW: How do you see - or hope to see - theatre changing after this unprecedented time?

Greg: The pandemic has exposed the many downfalls of an industry that is reliant on freelancers who, quite simply, have been abandoned through these difficult times. In short, I'd hope to see a bold commitment from state-funded subsidised theatres to employing freelancers in more prolonged and sustained ways, which would be to the benefit of audiences and the theatre-making community. It means these theatres designing schemes and programs - like THE WRITERS' COLLECTIVE has - to engage skills with an eye on delivering exciting and brave new work. An investment in skills at every level of experience is the only way that theatre will bounce back stronger from this unprecedented time.

BWW: Let's now focus on THE WRITERS' COLLECTIVE. How did you get involved?

Greg: At the end of 2019, Julie-Anne and I met in London. This was before she had formed HOW NOW BROWN COW with Daniel Galloway. We chatted about a bunch of ideas that I had been mulling over. After that conversation, she commissioned me to write a play, which is one of the two works that I finished a draft of during last year's first lockdown. We've continued to talk about writing, theatre in South Africa and the UK, and our shared passion for new work. This has led to HOW NOW BROWN COW inviting me to join THE WRITERS' COLLECTIVE.

BWW: In this first installment you are under the mentorship of William Nicholson. Do you have a favorite work of his, or what stands out to you about him as a writer?

Greg: NELL with Jodie Foster and SHADOWLANDS (the film based on his play) both hold a big place in my recollection of cinema in the 90s. It's clear that he has a passion for complex human relationships, often positioned against epic historical settings. GLADIATOR, ELIZABETH: THE GOLDEN AGE, the film adaptation of Mbongeni Ngema's SARAFINA!, the film adaptation of LES MISÉRABLES, MANDELA: LONG WALK TO FREEDOM... I mean what an amazing and impressive collection of work! I'm simply thrilled to have this opportunity to get input and feedback on my writing from William Nicholson.

BWW: And lastly, what are most looking forward to in being involved with THE WRITERS' COLLECTIVE?

Greg: Writing is lonely. So being part of a stellar collective alongside Amy Jephta, Koleka Putuma and Karen Jeynes for four months means there's a group to share and challenge ideas. All this while being guided by a two-time Oscar nominated writer!

Photo credit: Supplied

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