INTERVIEW: Bangor graduate’s play produced by London theatre

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Jamie King is the author of the short play “The Resignation Speech” – part of a new season of audio dramas produced by The Questors Theatre in Ealing, London. A Bangor graduate, King studied Creative and Professional Writing at Bangor University from September 2016 to June 2019. They have published poetry, short fiction and non-fiction, and have written and performed for film and theatre groups in Bangor and across the UK.

You can listen to “The Resignation Speech” now by clicking these links to it on youtube or soundcloud. Seren talked to King to hear about their experiences creating it.

What is your piece about, and what inspired you to write it?

I thought it would be really fun to write a play about a politician sitting down to compose their resignation speech. It’s a set-up that’s ripe for comedy, and there’s quite a bittersweet sadness in it as well. So that really appealed to me, and out of that came the character of Orla, who’s the Leader of the Opposition. She’s an energetic and charismatic leader, and quite blunt about things, but she’s facing a really difficult day here. And I wanted her to have this assistant, who’s a bit cheeky, and very loyal, and has always had a bit of a crush on her. That’s the character of Josh.

So the set-up is this vast political drama, as a major politician is about to resign. But on a human level, it’s the last day at work for two colleagues who’ve always fancied each other a bit and never said it. It’s a story that I loved writing.

Why did you choose to make it an audio drama, as opposed to visual?

One word: Coronavirus! I’m sure you can imagine how keeping all the actors two metres apart makes it harder to do drama on the stage. So this audio play was recorded by people in different locations, and then it’s in the listener’s imagination that characters can come together in the same room. I was actually surprised by how few tweaks the script needed from the original stage version.

But you know, as unpaid non-professionals, we do this stuff for fun, on next-to-no money, anyway. Whereas for many professional theatres right now, it’s not that simple. Having the audience members two metres apart means you can’t sell enough tickets to pay for the budget of a production. So that’s not just a big part of the entertainment industry getting switched off, it means the staff can’t get paid their usual wages. I don’t know how they’re supposed to manage.

But if the Government can step up to fully protect these workers and businesses, then we can be sure all those venues will still be around in the years ahead. I’m very aware that not everyone can simply switch to doing audio plays, and I’ve been fortunate to have this chance.

How did you get involved with The Questors Theatre?

Since I was a teenager, I’ve been using a BBC website called BBC Writersroom, and different script-writing opportunities are advertised on there. I heard about the Questors Theatre because they were advertising on this site, asking for submissions. Anyone who loves writing scripts should check out BBC Writersroom; they even upload the actual scripts from various BBC shows that you can read, which if you’re a sad nerd like me is the coolest thing ever – and has taught me a lot about scriptwriting.

Is this your first official piece of published drama?

I’ve had a few small bits and pieces of my writing published – including when I used to write for this very newspaper! The first script I had produced was with Bangor University’s Film Society. I got to write a short film and then make it with FilmSoc, where I was so lucky to be in a crew with the loveliest, friendliest people, and they all taught me really valuable stuff about film-making.

When that short film was shown on the cinema screen in Pontio, I actually cried. I think that’s because, even as a little kid, I was acting out TV shows and films with my toys, which then flowed into creative writing. So seeing your own characters and story up there on the big screen, it was overwhelming for that little kid who’s still a part of me. Also, I was fully trashed on tequila sunrise, which may have contributed.

Now, over a month after the premiere, how do you feel? What sort of response have you had?

Well, I’m now writing a script for the second season of audio dramas, so I feel… um, busy? And all the responses so far have just been really positive. But of course, the inner critic in my head dutifully reminds me that out of the hundreds of people who’ve heard it, there must be someone who thought it was naff!

If you could, would you go back and change anything in this piece? Why? Why not?

There’s one specific thing I wish I could change. Because the play is set in Westminster, they wanted to give it a very British atmosphere, so in the end credits they used an instrumental orchestral version of ‘Land of Hope and Glory’. Since then, the Black Lives Matter movement has educated us on why anthems of the British empire should not be celebrated and used casually. So I wish ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ wasn’t in there.

Other than that, I just worried about how much swearing I’d written in the script, because the actor playing Orla was very classy and dignified, and I felt wrong giving her loads of filthy swearing to deliver! But I think she actually massively enjoyed it, so the lesson of this experience is – extreme profanity is always the answer.

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