Monday, March 01, 2010

The new wave of political playwrights

In The Observer, David Edgar profiles some of the new wave of political playwrights, including Guild member Jack Thorne.
Does he worry that his generation is less politically engaged? "Well. I'm really interested in what 'political' is," he says. "I think there's something generational in the type of political playwright we have. My mum and dad went on marches, my mum went to jail for the CND, they were very active political people. But the boundaries of what political is have changed a lot: you can now be political as a consumer, for example – changing what you eat. Younger playwrights tend to pose questions more. I want to write stuff – and I haven't yet – that says, 'This is the problem, I don't necessarily know the answer.'"
(Original link only had part of the article - now updated)


  1. Anonymous8:21 pm

    I wrote a 39 hour series called SAM which was essentially political. Critics tended to admire ther characters but ignore the politics.
    Same for other series of mine, i.e. A FAMILY AT WAR, SPOILS OF WAR. Not sure why this was so. Interested in any opinions from those who have actually seen the series.

  2. Anonymous12:58 pm

    I know your work and I know the series you mention. In part, you were my inspiration, but the principle impression made on me was how compulsive they were--especially in Family at War. People adjusted their lives in order to watch. That was down to the characters you created over an un- unprecedented period of broadcast time. Never before had the relatively new at that time TV audience--the masses-had an opportunity to grow with the characters in such a manner. Any political 'message'was secondary to that.

    Sadly, I don't think there's a chance in hell now of any producer or TV exec giving a single writer the freedom you had. As for politics, the modern producer, in my opinion, is now totally divorced form the politics of the street, which are now right-leaning rather than left. Even the most compelling characters now would be subject to the self-censorship of political correctness if they were contained in a piece of work which truly reflected modern 'working class' political views.

    To me your work represented the golden age of TV drama in Britain. No matter what up and coming producers may believe, it will never be as good in the future. And because of the nature of TV viewing, which is constantly fighting against X-Box and non-scripted 'bread and circuses' television like X Factor, nobody will ever broadcast any drama which explores truthfully contemporary politics.

  3. I want to join in applauding SAM, FAMILY AT WAR and all the other great series that you, Anon 1, wrote which were so powerful I remember them today. And how can you ever be anonymous!

    I also agree with Anon 2. What's often missing today is the writer's strong voice, whatever the politics. I'd love to see them all. You don't get that in series where a writer is allowed to write one episode per series.

  4. Anonymous9:45 am

    I agree with all of the above but for me what was so wonderful about SAM was that it was the first drama I watched as a youngster that had people speaking with a regional accent. It made me realise that families like mine could actually have a voice through that box in the corner.

    It's tough and we're handcuffed but there is's a market for good drama out there. Family at War, Spoils of War, Sam, were character driven and there's nothing wrong in that, the politics shone through for those who choose not to ignore it.

    Getting your own series is difficult, stick a political tag on it makes it impossible but aren't we cleverer than that. As writers don't we keep pushing the boundaries, fighting in our scripts to get our voice through no matter what the show.


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