VINTAGE GEMS Hazel Walford Davies

NWR Issue 46

Theatre and the power of the imagination

Lucy Gough was born in London in 1958 and spent her early years in Beddgelert before the family settled in Bath where she attended a convent school. She left at fifteen without any qualifications and a year later returned to Wales, this time to Fishguard. She followed an Open University course in Drama and in 1982 moved to Aberystwyth, graduating in 1985 with a degree in Drama from the Department of Theatre, Film and Television of the University of Wales, Aberystwyth. She then gained an M.A. in Playwriting at Birmingham University.

She has written several stage plays including Joanna (1989), Catherine Wheel (1991), By a Thread (1992), As To Be Naked (1994), Stars (1995), Rushes (1995) and Wolfskin (1997). In 1994 Crossing the Bar was short-listed for both the BBC Writer of the Year Award and the John Whiting Award. She has been commissioned to write a number of radio plays including Our Lady of Shadows, BBC Radio 3 (1994), Head, BBC Radio 4 (1996), The Prophetess of Exeter, BBC World Service (1997) and The Red Room, BBC Radio 4 (1999). For the last three years she has been script-writing for Mersey T.V.'s Teen soap Hollyoaks. She lectures in Radio Drama at the Department of Theatre, Film and Television, University of Wales, Aberystwyth. A volume of three of her plays is being published by Seren Books this autumn.

Hazel Walford Davies: You spent your childhood in Beddgelert. Immediately folk myth and a particularly characterful Snowdonian landscape come to mind. But did those early years in Wales really have any influence on your writing?

Lucy Gough: Although it's not apparent specifically in my theatre writing, the ruggedness, the richness of the Beddgelert landscape and the romanticism of wild weather entered early into my imagination as did the sea and the coast near Cricieth, where my family lived for a while. But the thing I notice most in my work that I can attribute to my living in Wales, is the rhythm of my writing. When I was studying for an M.A. in Playwriting at Birmingham University I and my tutors noticed that my work was very different from that of the other students precisely because of where I was writing from. My work incorporates elements derived from the rugged landscape and contains a particular rhythm and a strong emotive force. But I'm very nervous about claiming that I'm Welsh because I don't want to appropriate anything without feeling that I have a right to it, although my father's family lived in Beddgelert all their lives. It's this hesitancy about a sense of belonging that accounts, I think, for the fact that I write out of a slight sense of dislocation. I have spent most of my life in Wales and I feel at home here but I cannot lay claim to the deep and secure rootedness of a dramatist like Sera Moore-Williams. Her writing is really concerned with where she comes from and with a clear understanding of place and tradition. My writing comes from a wanting, a need for rootedness. That is the sense in which the seeds of my future career were sown in Beddgelert.

H.W.D.: So a sense of place nurtured a sense of possible rootedness. But what about writing itself? How did that start?

L.G:. It started not with writing but with imagining. I made up stories and told them to my sisters every night, and I'm ashamed to say, it proved to be fairly profitable because, now and then, I used to charge my sisters a fee before I would consent to tell them the ending. I could never understand why it didn't occur to them to make up their own ending – or expect to pay. I told these stories to my own children when they were little and they now tell them to their step-brothers and sisters. So the stories have been efficiently handed down. It helped, of course, that my mother, Christine Harrison was interested in literature and in writing. Her creative talents began to flourish when we moved to Fishguard. She's a winner of the Cosmopolitan short story competition and she has published a novel, Airy Cages. Her writing is unusual and strong and some of her stories have appeared in a recent Honno Press volume, entitled Power. Some of my favourite ones are in there.

H.W.D.: 'Airy cages' – a phrase, of course, from a wonderful Hopkins poem of place – shows that your mother, too, has this sense of the language of place, a lyrical motivation. But what about the urge towards drama as such? Unlike some of the dramatists I've interviewed in this series, you seem to have known from an unusually early age that you wanted to write for the theatre.

L.G.: I left school at fifteen with no qualifications but with a passion for the theatre. My first son was born at Fishguard when I was eighteen and I imagined then that my life was going to turn exclusively around the home and children. But it wasn't long before I began to feel trapped. Since I'd always been fascinated with the theatre, I enrolled in an Open University drama course. It wasn't easy. My daughter was born a week after the final exam and I remember once frantically writing an essay which my small son, in play, proceeded to tear to shreds. That Open University course was my first introduction to real education. But I knew instinctively that I wanted to write and I knew that I needed to study further if I was to write well dramatically. And so I moved with the children to Aberystwyth where I graduated at the Department of Theatre, Film and Television.

H.W.D.: You referred earlier to the Birmingham University Playwriting M.A. course. I don't want necessarily to raise the old question as to whether creative writing can actually be taught, but it would be interesting to know what impact the course had on your own theatre writing.

L.G.: It was a turning point. The course was set up by David Edgar who has continued to be very kind and supportive over the years. I took that course in the late eighties, in the very first year it was set up. It was a special year. My tutors, Ann Devlin and Olwen Wymark, were both well-established writers and I was taught by John Arden, Alan Bennett, John McGrath, Howard Brenton and many other influential playwrights. They all said something different. I remember in particular Anthony Mingella commenting that whenever he's writing he creates for himself a series of obstacles that he has to surmount. During that year I felt that I'd been given enough guidance to be able to write and – just as important – I'd learnt to believe in myself.

I was also given the confidence to convince people that I could write plays. Getting a novel published is hard enough, but with a play you've got to convince funding bodies, companies, directors and actors that your play is good enough to be performed! As a playwright, you have to be, not only pro-active, but pro-active through so many stages.

H.W.D.: When did you have your first break-through after graduating from Birmingham?

L.G.: Almost immediately. Joanna, the play I'd written as part of my course had gone down well when it was performed at the Allardyce Nicol Studios in Birmingham. Soon afterwards it was short-listed for an RSC New Writing festival. It ultimately wasn't done because I'd made the classic mistake of having too many characters in it. You soon learn not to do that. But the fact that it was short-listed gave me confidence and in Joanna Southcott, an eighteenth-century prophetess and my grandfather's great aunt, I'd found a congenial subject. She came from a totally uneducated background but since she had prophesied the Napoleonic War she had an enormous influence. She preached for twenty years, holding people in the palm of her hand. Even Blake wrote a poem to her. At the age of sixty-four she announced that she was pregnant with the New Messiah and the 'pregnancy' lasted eighteen months. She eventually died of dropsy, but before her death crowds gathered in the streets to await the birth of the New Messiah. All things in the play are relevant now at the turn of the Millennium. At the end of the eighteenth-century people were panicking and craving for some sort of spiritual feeling. Although Joanna wasn't produced by the RSC it was broadcast as The Prophetess of Exeter by the BBC World Service under the direction of the excellent producer Gordon House.

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H.W.D.: Your mention of Blake's epigram, ‘On the virginity of the Virgin and Joanna Southcott reminds us of course of the young Dylan Thomas's poem on Southcott where he asks 'May a humble village labour,/ And a continent deny?' I'm interested that you emphasise that Joanna Southcott was totally uneducated. Most of your plays show a concern for the deprived and uneducated. Could you comment on that?

L.G.: A great deal of my writing is about lack of education. I want to write for people who haven't got the confidence that education brings with it and about people who are trapped socially because of their lack of education. I enjoy plays that struggle with intellectual issues but I'm more interested in writing plays for a whole generation of lost young men and women who have been grossly neglected by society. They live in an imprisoned world and I feel driven to write for them. I've recently completed a play called Wolfskin. It's about a young man who wants to pack with the other boys and become a wolf. Unfortunately, his girlfriend has put his wolf-skin in the washing machine and shrunk it. Without his wolfskin he's trapped indoors in an imprisoned world.

H.W.D.: Do you think these 'lost young men and women' would actually have the opportunity to go to see a performance of Wolfskin or of Crossing the Bar, another play that deals with an imprisoned boy? If not, what is the audience the plays are addressing or getting through to?

L.G.: I wrote Crossing the Bar to be performed in prisons and I'm hoping that that will happen one day. I wrote it because no-one was addressing the problem of the number of young men who commit suicide in prison. Stick a young, uneducated man in a tiny cell and he has no hope whatsoever. Suicide seems to be the obvious way out. The play was written to draw attention to this problem. Crossing the Bar is about a young boy who hangs himself in a prison cell. In that split second in the noose, he meets a medieval nun who starved herself to death to see God. The cell turns into a sailing ship and the boy discovers the power of the imagination and opts for life, not death. I hope to re-write it for radio, because through that medium, it's more likely to reach prisoners. It's a very physical play, so at the moment it won't work for radio, but the subject matter is translatable.

When I began my Playwriting course at Birmingham, Ann Devlin told me that all writers had their own territory. As a writer you don't choose your territory but you discover it, on the road as it were. The landscape changes sometimes, but the territory remains constant. My territory is that of marginalised and dispossessed young people and the way to expose them to plays is to stop performing them in theatre buildings. Performances should be taken to the places they frequent. And plays should be written in a language to which the dispossessed can relate. They can't be expected to grapple with words and constructions with which they are unfamiliar. If you yourself have been deprived of education, people with education can be very frightening. When I was fifteen I imagined that University was somewhere you went to if you were extraordinarily special. If I, someone who was brought up in an artistic family, thought that, what hope is there for the unprivileged? None whatsoever. It's this concern that made working with Young People's Theatre in Wales so important to me.

H.W.D.: Which companies have you worked for, and what kind of plays did you write for them?

[L.G.]: I wrote Catherine Wheel for Scallywag Theatre Company, Machynlleth, and two plays for Theatr lolo, a company based in Cardiff. By a Thread was a love story set on a mountain where the young characters saw the rest of the world disintegrating below them. The play was about guilt, the search for identity, war, and the need to face up to responsibilities. Before I started writing, I toured the schools and deliberately incorporated some of the things the kids had said so that the material would come back forcefully at them. I also wrote Stars for Theatr lolo. The brief, namely ‘The Cosmos', was frightening since I have very little scientific knowledge. But what I quickly worked out was that nobody knows anything for certain because it all changes so rapidly anyway. I would read one authority only to find out in the next that the first theory was outdated. So I decided to write a play about an old woman, knitting a pair of socks, who is driven around the universe by a man who has a little machine to trace radio waves. Some of the schools were unhappy because the play had God in it and God was a manic depressive, because the 'Big Bang' theory had stolen his thunder, as it were. The play contained all the information about the Big Bang, but since there was so much shifting sands in the Cosmos theories I felt I couldn't give the children any absolutes. The play I did for Arad Goch, Aberystwyth, originated from an idea I had when my children brought home material from a school history project on the Holocaust. I was taken aback by the material they were given. It all seemed to be a series of harrowing and unpleasant photographs. No guidance was given as to how to digest it all. I felt it needed a context. It would have been very easy to write a play that contained a series of upsetting images that would make an immediate impact. I didn't want to do that. I decided to allow the children to use their own imagination. That's less dangerous because their imagination can take them only so far. I’d also heard Stephen Spielberg on the radio discussing his decision to base Schindler's List on the original death camps. I was interested in this interweaving of reality and fiction and so I located my play on a film set, where a film was being made on the Holocaust. The characters were a young boy from Wales, a young Jewish girl and the ghost of a German SS soldier. All three were trapped in a truck. I explored several things but I also analysed how it was that we could record such events as the Holocaust, asking whether we could or should make Art out of such events. In fact, I challenged myself as a writer about whether I should be writing their play at all. I used my problem as a writer in order to initiate discussion after the performance. In a review, it was described as interesting but too complicated. But I wanted it to be complicated because there are no easy answers to all the issues raised. In Rushes I used contemporary language and images from the films Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs as a way into the play. That made the children lock into the action immediately.

H.W.D.: You mentioned that you were thinking of adapting the stage play Crossing the Bar for radio. Are you equally at home in both mediums?

L.G.: Very much so. I like radio as a medium because it forces the imagination and it's very much about the writer's relationship with the listener. You can't afford to forget the listeners for a minute, because, if you do, they switch off. What I try to do is release their own imagination and take them to places they wouldn't be impelled to go to otherwise. I'm also, of course, saying something. I like certain things on television but, as a medium, it doesn't fire the imagination as often as radio does. The sad thing about plays on radio is that they don't get reviewed well or often enough; the medium is treated as a poor relation. This is a pity, since most good playwrights started by writing for radio-Pinter and Beckett for example. I've been lucky with my radio plays because I've worked with some interesting directors who have been in radio for a long time. For example my play Our Lady of Shadows, broadcast by BBC Radio 3, was done by Richard Wortley who does Howard Barker's work.

H.W.D.: With Our Lady of Shadows you take as your starting point Tennyson's 'The Lady of Shalott', and for the Radio 4 play/ Head you took Keats's 'Isabella: or the Pot of Basil'. What was the attraction of taking a famous poem as your base?

L.G.: I wrote Our Lady of Shadows because, although like many teenage girls I had enjoyed 'The Lady of Shalott', I was very annoyed that she had died, that she had given in as it were. I felt that she had to escape, to survive, as the girl does in my play. It made sense to use sections of the poem as part of the beat, the rhythm of the play. Having done that, and enjoyed it, I tried the formula again with Head. One of the images I use a great deal in my work is the image of the head. I'm fascinated with heads! I have a skull in my study. My husband's aunt drew my attention to Keats's 'Isabella' and said, 'I think you'll like this poem. It's got a head in it.' And so I rang the BBC and told them that I'd like to write a play about a head in a pot. It must have sounded different because I was commissioned to write Head which was broadcast in 1996 by BBC Radio 4. It was a real challenge to me as a writer because I had to give an early nineteenth-century Romantic poem a modern relevance and interpretation. The play has an urban landscape, high-rise flats and a smelly lift. This urban landscape is there also in Wolfskin. The landscape is a metaphor for the territory which deprived young people inhabit. It's bleak, lifeless and hopeless. Often this is the landscape I go in for my writing.

H.W.D.: And yet, in The Red Room, the play you've written for BBC Radio 4, you've gone for a totally different landscape. How did you come to choose a land of ice and snow?

L.G.: When I was invited to do The Red Room by the BBC, I was given some information contained in a biography of Charlotte Bronte by Glyn Hughes. He notes that during the mid-August when she was writing Jane Eyre, Charlotte was living in a stiflingly hot room in Manchester. Her father was undergoing a cataract operation and she herself had excruciating toothache. That's all I was given. I didn't want to write a drama documentary and so I read Jane Eyre again and tried to imagine what Charlotte as a woman would be feeling during that hot August. She'd just had one of her novels rejected, and as a writer I know what those rejections mean. I imagined her disappointment, the heat, the intensity of the room. The claustrophobia of it all would lead her to look in her imagination for an escape. This is what writers do. The escape for her, since it was so hot, would be the world of the clean, cold ice of the Antarctic. This world of ice runs through Jane Eyre anyway, so I felt that this was a fair assessment of where Charlotte would have escaped to. I saw her tramping the frozen wastes and discovering under the ice the image of her dead sister. It was a metaphor, too, for the frozen state of her mind following the death of her sister and her father's operation. I saw her also shattering the ice and recovering her sister's body. Once she had broken the ice she was free to create. And we know that she completed Jane Eyre in six weeks of intense creativity. What I was saying was that Charlotte as a writer had used her imagination to escape the confines and pressures of her day-to-day existence and on succeeding to escape somewhere else she found the means to create Jane Eyre.

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H.W.D.: Many of your plays are set in small, confined spaces suggesting imprisonment and enclosure. Why is this?

L.G.: The practical reason is that I like the challenge of being confined and then breaking out. I enjoy taking the audience to a small, bare set and allowing them, through the images, to build a landscape that opens out the claustrophobic. I don't wish to get too personal here, but I myself for a long time felt trapped, and understood how the imagination could release me from that entrapment. When I was at school my reports invariably stated 'Has a vivid imagination', as if that were a disease! I really thought there was something wrong with me, and that I had to find a cure for this illness. But I discovered that the imagination can change your life, if used positively. Not so long ago I also discovered that I was dyslexic. I've always had problems with writing – which is why, I think, I am a writer. When I was at school I was trapped by the fact that the dyslexia meant that there was a gap between what my mind thought and what appeared in my school written work. I therefore understand the frustration of entrapment. That's why I think my work has enclosed spaces and that's why, too, they show how the power of the imagination can open up those spaces. It's also why, now and then, I invent a particular kind of language, as I do with the 'medieval' language of the nun in Crossing the Bar. I like language that is sparse and powerful. I hear the rhythm before I hear the words. My dialogue isn't right until the words work in harmony with the rhythm.

H.W.D.: The playwright Michael Povey, as one of the judges in the BBC Wales "Writer of the Year' award in 1994, praised your 'innovative use of language' in Crossing the Bar. What exactly is the nature of that 'innovation'?

L.G.: I think he also said that the language embraced the sacred and the profane. In that play I mix the rich spiritual material with the earthy stuff. The medieval language of the nun contrasts with the gritty language of the boy. The young man's swearing in Crossing the Bar had nothing to do with trying to shock people. He uses the swearing in a way that suggests his impotence. It's not aggressive. It's the juxtaposition of the spare language of the boy and the visual language of the nun and the way they slowly begin to work together that interests me.

H. W. D.: I remember that as part of your degree course at Aberystwyth you wrote a play about a naughty nun, and nuns have consistently featured in several plays. Why?

L.G.: Nuns made quite an impact on my life. When we lived at Bath I attended a convent school but I wasn't a well-behaved convent girl. I was terrified that if I behaved in an exemplary fashion I too would become a nun. So I did my best to prove that I wouldn't qualify. And for somebody with a vivid imagination, a convent school which had images of the Virgin Mary staring at you all day was an awesome place. Some of the nuns, however, were intriguing; but on the whole the school was positively Dickensian. It was like Frost in May. The nun who tried to teach me History at the Bath convent school is responsible for the difficulties I have with writing a linear narrative. This very angry and very old nun didn't think in linear time so I had no sense of the development of historical events.

H.W.D.: I would imagine, though, that being freed from the tyranny of a merely linear narrative would be an advantage with your actual plays. But I suppose your difficulty with the linear could be problematic when fashioning an ongoing narrative such as the one you have to write for the highly popular Channel 4 Teen soap Hollyoaks, which was nominated for a 1999 BAFTA award.

L.G.: I enjoy the work I do for Hollyoaks, and writing for a soap of that quality requires a great deal of time, skill and commitment. And television does recognise the enormous amount of work a writer has to do, and the expertise involved. You couldn't feed a goldfish on what you earn from theatre and radio. When I read an article about Phil Redmond's Hollyoaks I knew immediately I wanted to write for it. I've always admired his work: Grange Hill and Brookside, for example. The fact that Hollyoaks was about young people was also perfect for me. I sent in some scripts, had an interview with Phil Redmond and was then asked to do half a transcript. Within a few days I was offered the job. I was fortunate because when I arrived, Hollyoaks was fresh and new, and it has continued to be an exciting venture. We're quite a small group of writers and it's very much team work. We're all involved in the story-line and in the entire process. It's not as if the writer was given a plot synopsis or a pre-packaged story-line. I wouldn't want to tackle a soap where a synopsis was sent through the post. With Hollyoaks, writers, producers and script-editors work together for two days each month. The company is writer-led and we all have an investment in the programme and care about it. It's pretty full time and means that I probably do less than I would do otherwise for radio and theatre. But I find it works very well to be writing for different media. Theatre and radio keep my Hollyoaks scripts fresh, and it also works the other way.

H.W.D.: This two-way current is interesting. Several critics in reviewing your theatre plays have high-lighted the visual nature of your work. Is that aspect due to the influence of television, or (paradoxically) radio – where things happen, not before your eyes, but, in Shakespeare's and now everybody's phrase, 'in the mind's eye'?

L.G.: It comes partly from the fact that I've had to think visually for my radio plays. For radio, too, you have to think visually. And when it came to writing for the stage in Crossing the Bar one of the challenges I gave myself was to make the action, which takes place in a prison cell, visually exciting. The stage itself is bare and plain but the audience is asked to imagine the bed becoming a sailing-ship. It doesn't happen before their eyes. It presents the audience with a challenge and their visual imagination is exercised. What fascinated me in the theatre I saw as a child was the magic, the transformation, the idea of the casting of spells, and of changing forms. I also liked its boldness and its flamboyant courage. I think theatre is at its best when it is bold.

H.W.D.: 'Bold' is certainly a word that could be applied to your stage play As To Be Naked, based on the life of the Ladies of Llangollen.

L.G.: Most people enjoyed the play but, yes, there were a few letters from the 'shocked' of this place and the 'shocked' of the other. Nobody in the play stripped, but there was a phallus in it, worn by the actor who pretended to be the Duke of Wellington. I didn't choose the subject. I was offered it by the curator of Llangollen museum. When I first looked at the material I wondered what on earth I was going to do with the two ladies. They didn't achieve anything that could be called extraordinary. They were in love with each other and were perfectly happy. Their elopement was dramatic but I felt that people could more easily read a book to know about that. Why write a play about it? I felt it needed a modern, contemporary angle. What was interesting, of course, was that nobody knew for certain whether or not they were indeed lovers. That uncertainty was far more interesting than if they had declared that they were, had 'come out'.

What I did was to write an eighteenth-century Sheridan-style play and I placed that once again in a contemporary setting, where a director, doing a play on the Ladies of Llangollen wants to set up a sex scene to spice things up. My play asked questions about the rightness of that. The two actresses in the film were entirely opposed to the scene. I was in a way playing with the audience. There are in the play arguments about cross-dressing, about love, friendship and male and female roles. The very last scene is concerned with the presentation of the sex scene which is scuppered when the two actresses draw the curtains around this eighteenth-century bed. So the director and the audience have no means of knowing whether the ladies 'do it or don't do it'. Theatre allows you that kind of ambiguity and it makes the audience work hard within a performance. Television doesn't often allow for that. It's more naturalistic.

H.W.D.: Your theatre work is more experimental?

L.G.: Well it's certainly not naturalistic. When I write for the theatre I just don't think naturalistically, and, yes, I see myself on the experimental fringe of theatre. When I'm writing a stage play I feel as if I'm hacking away at a piece of stone. I don't think of it as writing words on a page. It's a very physical activity.

H.W.D.: 'Shocked' or 'Disgusted' of Tunbridge Wells or wherever is an occupational hazard for am/one publishing anything at all. There will always be somebody wanting to change something. Directors and actors for example – do they meddle with your scripts?

L.G.: They're not allowed to. There must be respect for the writer. If, when I'm in rehearsal I see something that doesn't work then I'll go along with a change. But there was one director I worked with who thought that the script was something he could shift around, willy-nilly. I was close to murder then. Most of the time I've enjoyed working with directors, such as Ashley Wallington, for example. I did Crossing the Bar with him. With my radio plays there is total trust. Richard Wortley of Radio 3 once asked me to delete a swear word from Our Lady of Shadows. But that was only because there was a limit to the number of swear words you can use on radio. And since his next production was a Howard Baker play it was essential that he reserved his quota of swear words for that one.

H.W.D.: You attended an Arts Council of Wales meeting recently, on New Writing. What do you think is the best way forward, of nurturing new writers and new writing?

L.G.: I hope that new writing will be nurtured in other places besides Theatr Clwyd and the Sherman. There isn't a great deal of experimental work being done at the moment in the main theatres. There should be room within a theatre budget to allow for the more challenging, and maybe scary, stuff. That's where the future lies. I think for example that Di Edwards's work should be produced at Theatr Clwyd and The Sherman. So should mine, for that matter, but I'm far more cross about the absence of Di's work from these stages. And we've had far too many adaptations in our theatres. The audience know in advance exactly what they're going to get, because to a large extent, the dramatist has to stick to the text of the original. In Wales a new and challenging play is not allowed a long enough run. A play's reputation takes time to build up. In Wales, a play has one run and that's it. It's encouraging that Seren and Parthian are now publishing plays, because it gives the work an extended life. Perhaps, too, The Writers' Company should be revived because it's important for a dramatist to share experiences with writers in the same field. And it's of crucial importance that young, inexperienced writers have contact with professional dramatists. I myself came back from the Birmingham University course with a bag of tricks. There, too, I learnt that as a writer you have to make a great deal of noise. It's like being a warrior, daubing on the war paint and going out there to shout. When I'm fighting for work I can get quite fierce. I always worry that it comes over as arrogance, but it's not meant to be that. It's commitment to the work. And of course it's much harder for a woman. There are very few women playwrights, and when I started working there was a tendency to offer women workshops instead of commissions.

On the positive side, I'm very glad that I grew up with the Welsh theatre tradition because there's an element to it that is very physical and very energetic. When I go to theatre conferences in England I realise that they are addressing different problems from the ones we have in Wales. We have a better grasp of the physical nature of theatre as exemplified by the work of Volcano and the early work of Brith Gof. There's a lot of courage in Wales and I wish the funding was there to encourage young people to write for the theatre.

H.W.D.: 'Bold', 'physical', 'going out there to shout': these are wonderful clarion calls for the world of theatre. Given your own commitment, what can you tell us of your writing in the immediate future?

L.G.: At the moment I'm working with documentary material by Marina Warner on a radio play about mermaids and with material by Germaine Greer on a play about a painting in the Uffizi, Florence, entitled 'Judith and Holophernes' by the sixteenth-century artist Artemisia Gentileschi. I'd also like to write for the hour-long radio slot on Friday nights. (The only one-hour radio play I've had is for The Prophetess of Exeter in the 'Play of the Week' World Service slot.) I've started writing a play seeded by Made in Wales called Sheol which I've workshopped with Red Shift in London. Sheol, too, draws for its texture on the landscape and influences that have been opened to me by living in Wales. It's about Lady Macbeth after death, carrying Macbeth's head around in a suitcase. That's yet another head!


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