The Shadow of a Boy is the latest play in the Loft at the National Theatre. Theatrenow went to the South Bank to meet young playwright Gary Owen, whose second stage play this is.
What's the theme of the play?: "I wanted to write a play where there were no villains as such, a fairly gentle play. This is about an 11-year-old boy who lives with his grandmother and who happens to have a friend from outer space. Both the boy and the grandmother live in different worlds, in the sense of belonging to different generations and mindsets, but I wanted to show that they were both right, as it were, so there was no obvious side for an audience to take."
To what degree were you involved in casting the play?: "Completely! The director, Erica Whyman, and I were in complete agreement about the casting, fortunately."
Are you the sort of author who likes to sit in on rehearsals as much as possible, or do you prefer to leave the cast to get on with it?: "This partly depends on your relationship with the director, but in general I think it's important to be available for any changes needed as the production develops. I was around a lot for the first three weeks of rehearsals, then had the last week off. I enjoy watching rehearsals, and am loath to miss them. I love the process of putting a play on, bringing a script to life." There's a scene at the beginning of the play where the actor playing Luke is onstage for about ten minutes while eerie music is playing. Did you put that in the script or was it something the director came up with?: "The latter. I'd never be cruel enough to have an actor onstage with nothing to do for ten minutes!"
What do you make of the difference between writing for regional theatre and for the London stage?: "I actually think it's easier to write for London rather than, say, Wales, which is where I come from. There's a much greater burden of expectation in Wales, where the theatre community is smaller and more concentrated, and there's more hanging on every new play than there is in London, where there are far more of them."
You're writing a new play in Welsh for the Welsh College of Music and Drama?: "Yes — and as Welsh is my second language, I originally thought that I'd write a play with a minimum of words, just repeating a number of phrases, or sentences, in different configurations. But I overheard two girls chatting, and that triggered something, so I ended up writing a play about two girls on a bench, smoking, and now the play's entirely dialogue driven!"
Are you are full-time playwright or do you have the proverbial day job?: "Luckily I can write full-time, though that's largely because I still live in Cardiff — that's what makes it possible. If I were in London, I'd probably have to take another job as well."
Shadow of a Boy is, like everything else in The Loft, having a short run. Have you any hopes for a further life for it?: "Having it on at the National is great in itself, but it would nice to have a producer take it up and give it a further life . . . "
Potential producers (and audiences) will be able to see The Shadow of a Boy at the Loft beginning June 17.
—By Paul Webb Theatrenow