Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Where do stories come from? I suppose always as a response to something. EDDIE (my first) came out of my response to the death of my father, and also from a sense of outrage at Thatcherite policies which had been steadily brewing inside me since the (now long ago) 1980s. London at the time was a schizophrenic place to be - yuppies and dinkies and other City boys on the one hand and Socialist Workers and IRA on the other. I remember the IRA collecting subs from punters in Kilburn pubs - you could smoke in pubs those days. I also remember being evacuated from my school in Liverpool all throughout the previous decade - once in gym kit (aertex blouse and bluebottle knickers...). I used to go to the Tuesday evening soirees of my Belsize Park neighbour, Dr Helena Bakova, a Theosophist and painter who compared big and small states to tarantulas - I'm not sure why. Her son, Alex, had schizophrenia, and used to scare me on the stairs, although he was a pussy cat at heart, like many in similar states of mental distress. The Bakovs were refugees from Russia (Revolution - in the case of the mother) and Prague (Nazis - in the case of Alex) and had lived on a fixed rent since the 1940s. When the current landlord (a well- known labour MP and compatriot of Neil Kinnock) bought the house and moved into the basement with his American wife and children, he did up all the top flats, including mine, but left the Bakovs to stew. Which they did very nicely. When I left for Egypt, which was probably a mistake, Alex took care of my cat; and then I got a letter, much later, from his mother to say that Small-Cat missed me: 'she is silent and shy'.

EDITH (my second) came partly as a response to this experience, and also to my long-lost friend Roy Norman, a fellow Liverpool native (like me - although Roy was a true scouser), completely obsessed by The Beatles, John Lennon in particular. When we were all living at Cotleigh Road, West Hampsted, in the early 80s, Roy would spend his days on watch outside the bins at the Abbey Road Studios nearby. Sometimes he got loot - bills, bankstatements, other personal detritus, although he would never have dreamed of using it illegally. Data protection laws and identity theft were still things belonging to the future.

And PINCUSHION (out next year in BeWrite Books) is a response to the stupidity of wasted lives - aimless lives, celebrity flim-flam. The obsession with body image is another schizophrenic symptom of Western society. We have the pincushions on the one hand (the pierced and studded, the sado-masochist Torture Garden crowd, the posturers in rubber pants) and the fake boob and botox brigade on the other. It always amazed me how anyone could voluntarily go under the knife because their sense of self was pinned so closely to their outer shells. I was always terrified of the knife, but then I had to go under it for an operation to save me from the cancer that was eating up my right breast. Prosthetics then became a fact of life. But I should so hate it to show...

And there were more before that: CHATEAU KERNUZ, a response to my life in France before I lost all sense of innocence. And having that script funded by the European Script Fund was definitely too much too soon. I was paid 7000 ecus - a currency which didn't actually exist, although my bank manager was delighted to open a foreign account for me, and I used the money to travel to the Caribbean... LEGALLY BOUND came from my longstanding obsession with Regent's Park, still one of my favourite spaces in the world: an oasis in a chaotic city. The other playscripts were pretentious treatments of the stories in Metamorphoses, as though filching plots from Ovid might have give some serious weight to my work. They got me professional readings and studio productions, even a residency - but, as usual, there wasn't any money in it. But a lot of theatre writing is like that - what the favourite of my characters, Eddie Kronenberg, would call 'meretricious.'

That's quite enough for today. Chin chin, as Eddie would say...

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