Monday, 23 January 2012

Q and A with Agent 160 Writer Sam Burns

As Agent 160 Presents Agent 160 draws ever closer, we'll be posting interviews with some of our writers. First up - Sam Burns...

I'm Sam Burns and my piece Amnesty is appearing in Agent 160 Presents Agent 160.

What have you seen recently that's inspired you?

I’m rather rural at the moment, so I read more plays than I see, but I did catch a rather splendid am-dram production of Top Girls towards the end of last year. That’s a play that took me several attempts to read, ‘cause the overlapping dialogue gave me brain-freeze – works a lot better on the stage.

What is your play about?

It’s a monologue: it’s about a girl who’s planning to give up her knife in an amnesty.

Whose work inspires you?

My favourite playwright’s Arthur Miller, probably. Or some Restoration bod. But I’m currently reading my way through various names I’ve never had the chance to see: Jez Butterworth, Lucy Prebble, Mike Bartlett. It’s all very instructive. (I don’t mean to make them sound like theoretical physicists.) I find other media triggers my writing more than the stage though, oddly – a poetry reading by Paul Henry or Catherine Fisher always has me wishing I’d brought a pen and paper. (I don’t mean to make me sound like a plagiarist.)

What are you most looking forward to as part of the process?

It’s all so new to me (this’ll be my second production, after my piece in Sixty-Six Books) that I have really no idea! It’s all an adventure.

How have you found the writing process so far?

Been a while since I tackled a monologue and I did rather enjoy it. It started life as a duologue, which really didn’t work: there was a very clear protagonist and then a character who seemed to be hanging around awkwardly on the fringes, like me at a party. So I excised the second character and things fell together a little more. I hope.

What excites you about Agent 160?

It puts the writer at the forefront of the process, and I don’t think there’s anything very like it knocking about the place at the moment. And I’m excited about anything that endeavours to rectify that ghastly 17 per cent statistic (just 17 per cent of produced work in the UK is written by women).

What do you want an audience to take away having seen your play?

I’m very Barthesian about this – basically I think it’s entirely up to them. I hope I’m not didactic: about the last thing I’d want anyone to come away feeling is ‘Well, that’s taught me a lesson’.

What else are you currently working on?

I’m back to writing plays on spec at the moment - one never-ending redraft, a new full-length play and the odd short piece here and there. Also tentatively looking into finding a new job – preferably one that’ll leave me some time to write, and that doesn’t involve telephones.

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