Why did you choose 8th Wonder Creatives to represent you?
I want to work with an organisation which has equality of opportunity at its core and I want to tread a slightly different path in my career. I also am inspired continually by their energy and commitment.
What's your view on today's modern theatre and are there any particular playwrights that have caught your attention?
I think established mainstream theatre in this country has a long way to go in terms of reflecting our country. Our country doesn’t just stop at the M25. I don’t honestly think that audiences are diverse enough and that people view theatre as a necessary part of life or are taught that a theatre is a valuable community resource. I mean theatre is the one rare place now where we are turned away from our virtual lives and remember what it is to be human. I don’t care whether people agree with this, but I feel that established theatre is somewhat elitist and London-centric. No one would ever say this out loud though. I think if you asked a collective of minority and women theatre practitioners I think they would have very different views to what established theatres proclaim. Some changes are happening though. The Lyric Hammersmith, for example, is thinking about things deeply and that is encouraging.
In terms of playwrights, well there are many that inspire me. Janice Okoh (Three Birds) is great and I really liked Nick Gill’s recent play Sand. I mean there are so many. Philip Ridley, debbie tucker green, Anders Lustgarten and yes like everyone else, Caryl Churchill. She’s like an institution.
What plays are you working on at present?
A play called Fringes which is about a family and a newcomer. It’s kind of about the extinction of our species or of a tribe. It’s set now but it’s a story which is thousands of years old and could be told thousands of years in the future as well. I’m also trying to secure funding for a larger project about an untold war story.
If you were stranded on a desert island and could only take three books with you, which ones would you take and why?
The Dream of a Common Language by Adrienne Rich. It’s just amazing. She is just amazing and still lives through her work. A collection of Caryl Churchill plays, maybe her shorts as I’d imagine I’d fall asleep a lot in the heat. And maybe a blank book that I could fill the pages of.
What are you top three pieces of advice for up coming playwrights and writers?
1) Expect, embrace and learn from failure.
2) Do not drink to excess.
3) Once you have it, race with it. When you think it’s done, give it to someone else. It’s most probably not done, but just the beginning.
8th Wonder Creatives is delighted to be working with John Clarke and look forward to his contributions for the 8th Wonder Creative Exchange.
Barefoot, completed a run at the Hedben Bridge Arts Festival in August 2013 and John's latest play To The Dam will appear as part of the 24:7 Theatre Festival in July 2014. Read more in the News. Full details of John Clarke's work can be found in his profile.
What first inspired you to write?
It wasn’t so much ‘inspire’, it was more something I was allowed to do when lots of other things were not. I mean I really wanted to be a visual artist (secretly I still do) but I don’t have the patience or the talent. Maybe one day though when I’m old and have no teeth? But writing, yes, this was just something I could do, unnoticed and quiet and it doesn’t take up much space.
Why did you get involved in the 8th Wonder Creative Exchange and why do you think it's important to nurture new talent?
It’s vital to nurture new talent. I think it’s even more important at this time when there are more and more barriers for people wanting to create art, even wanting to think differently about the world we live in, the lives we lead. Getting involved in the Exchange means a continual flow of ideas, energies, experiences and knowledge and that is exciting.
You have written many plays over your ten years of writing, they all differ in their context and themes, how do you decide what you are going write about?
It’s a little different each time. Characters can come from the way someone moves or what someone might say outside my window. I love looking at nature too and I love the way people look at nature and react to it. These small tiny things then build up a picture until I have a fully fledged character in my head. Stories can start out coming from true life, unreported news on social media or from a history book or even a religious text. But I don’t just leave the story there. I’m not writing reportage. I always have to transport the story until it’s ready for the stage.
You are a graduate of the prestigious Royal Court's Young Writers’ Programme, for an upcoming playwright this is a pinnacle achievement, can you describe your experience of this?
It was an incredible privilege. It was magical. I learnt more about drama in the two programmes I did there than in my degree. I learnt a great deal about writing plays and it demystified some of the process for me. I met some great people. Simon Stephens was our tutor and he is really wonderfully generous, humble and vastly encouraging. It made me begin to realise the validity of writing plays and how I don’t need to excuse myself for doing so. It made me realise plays are important. The Royal Court just exudes energy and the new and even being in the building is exciting for me.
Which of your plays do you feel is represents your most personal work?
All of my work comes from myself, so all of it is personal in different ways. My first two plays are possibly the most personal in a conventional sense because I was starting out, writing what I knew, and they reflected my life back then quite closely.
John Clarke - Playwright
A Decade of Writing and the State of Today's Theatre
John Clarke has been writing plays for over a decade, and is a graduate of the prestigious Royal Court's Young Writer's Programme. He shares his views on today's theatre and insights on his new work.
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