Hey Lewis Wood, great to meet you! Tell us a bit about yourself …
Hey! I’m a third year drama student and Butler Hall chair. Writing is pretty much my main interest these days and I’m constantly noting things down – at this point in time I have 32 notebooks! I do a lot of performance poetry as well, I’m one of the co-ordinators for Speech Bubble this year, but most of all I have a real passion for playwriting. Last year I put on my first play, Adam, and since then it’s taken over most of what I do.
What did you learn from the playwriting experience first time round?
The main thing was finding out how to write effective dialogue. One of the things you get when writing for the first time is that once you try to perform something you’ve written it doesn’t sound authentic or realistic. I learnt how to develop characters that appear to be more three dimensional, and therefore more relatable, but scripts are always changing and actors do incorporate ideas in that I’ve never thought about, so it’s an on-going learning process really.
We hear you have a new play on soon, Sonder, what can everyone expect from it?
More than anything else, Sonder, is about people. It started as a comedy and kind of got lost along the way, so there are some dark moments in there too. Whereas my last play, Adam, was based on my own past experiences and channelling those into a piece of writing, Sonder is more about those human experiences of that should be relatable to all.
What sparked the idea?
Well, it all started on a train. Me and a friend were playing a game where you have to look at someone and tell each other who you think they are, why they’re on the train, where they’re going etc. and you realise that every single person has a story just like you do. To me it was an interesting concept that I wanted to explore further and it just kind of turned into Sonder.
Sonder is a pretty curious name…how did you come up with it?
Initially I had no idea what to call it, but one day I found a word online somewhere and the moment I saw it I was like ‘yeah that fits this completely’. For those who don’t know, Sonder means ‘the realisation that each random passer-by is living a life as vivid and complex as your own.’ Fantastic isn’t it?
What’s writing and directing been like for you?
Well the first thing I know is that I absolutely couldn’t do it all alone. I’m directing with Saskia Ingham-Jerrey and a lot of help from Rahul Mathasing, but as much as I couldn’t do this on my own, I also couldn’t not direct my own work at this stage – I want a certain degree of ownership over my projects. In terms of directing, I’ve found that a lot of it is just letting actors use a script as a guide, not seeing it as something set in stone. Sometimes the best parts of shows come from actors finding something that works better than what I’ve originally written and I’m all for that. As far as I’m concerned, my job is just to guide them in the right direction and I’m so lucky in having such ridiculously talented people involved with it. Scriptwriting is a constantly changing process, I added in a completely new monologue three days ago, so I try to be as flexible as possible with my approach.
Tell us a bit about the characters and actors involved in the show…
The character that ties the three parts of the play together is the eccentric homeless narrator, played by Rahul Mathasing, and he’s quirky in all the ways you would expect a homeless narrator to be. Rahul does an absolutely fantastic job with the role as he interacts with the audience during the show often through rhyme… mainly because I like rhyming.
The first play in the line up – At First Sight – stars two main characters who, as I hate character names, are anonymously named Man and Woman. Man is played by James Bentley, Woman is played by Abi Piper and their on-set chemistry is ridiculous seeing as they’ve only known each others for a few weeks. They are without a doubt perfect for the roles!
The second instalment surrounds the monologue of a cleaner, comically named A Sweeping Statement. The general premise of the play is to shed light onto people you see on the street everyday but never take notice of and why you should notice them. The character of the cleaner is performed by Meg Jordan, who has an insane ability to hold her own on stage. She absolutely nails the character, being both charming and cocky, and will definitely keep audiences entertained throughout.
The final play, Delayed Reactions, I think is the most naturalistic and human out of the three. It involves 3 people – named 1, 2 and 3 – on a train platform who, after their train is delay
ed, start sharing things about their lives and giving away more than you would anticipate. After all, everyone has secrets. 1,
played by Mickael Hinman, is an everyday, ‘proper’ businessman, 2, played by Lucy Hiden, acts more as the caring mother of the group but she is on edge for reasons I’ll wait for you to find out about! 3, however, is my favourite character of the entire production, he’s the driving force of the play and potentially the best character I’ve ever written. 3 is played by Kieran Slade who is completely next level with his acting, he adds in gestures and ways of phrasing things that I hadn’t even thought about and makes the show an amazing watch. The chemistry and dynamics between the three of them is absolutely unreal.
What/Who were your inspirations for the show?
Personally, I don’t like to take direct inspiration from a particular person. I mean, as a complete novice I don’t want to limit myself to writing like one particular person or a specific style. I think for me it’s all about taking everything I’ve learnt and using that to create a story. Of course, I do go and see plays, for example recently I saw Sam Holcroft’s Rules For Living and conveniently ran into her and had a chat about playwriting and directing and things. That was helpful.
What message do you want people to take from the play?
Near the end, the narrator gives a speech about the random nature of human interaction. The key to Sonder is that every single person has a story and its real message, I suppose, is don’t base your reactions to people on preconceived ideas.
Have you got anything else in the works that we should be excited about?
I’m completely dedicated to Sonder at the moment, but to be honest I have had a few thoughts about what may be next. I’ve told myself I can’t pursue anything else until Sonder is complete, my brain would explode if there’s anything else going on up there. However, I’m so invested in this play that I’d like to take it to other places after its run in Loughborough. I think I’ll enter it into theatre competitions and the Fringe is certainly on the cards! I know that this is what I want to do with the rest of my life, so there will definitely be more to come.
Thanks a lot Lewis, we’ll be sure to check it out!
Sonder will be on in the Leonard Dixon Studio of Martin Hall, Loughborough University on the 5th and 6th of November, starting at 7.30pm. Tickets are £5 (NUS) and £8 otherwise. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve tickets and keep up to date with the event through its Facebook group.