“Where do you get your ideas from?” Genesis of a play.

I don’t tend to write or talk much about the actual writing process, mainly because I’m so still new I don’t feel I can necessarily offer much. But I’ve recently been working on a play that had what for me was an unusual conception, and I thought it might be helpful to detail it. One of the questions people constantly ask about writing is “where do your ideas come from?”and it’s a weirdly difficult question to answer. My first play Tortoise burst into life e so fully and immediately, I didn’t need to think about what or how to write. It’s easy to fall into the myth of inspiration striking out of the blue, and sometimes that does happen, but more often it’s just plain hard work and trying different pieces together till something fits. Some plays are lightning bolts. Some plays are jigsaw puzzles, except you have to carve all the pieces yourself, out of tissue paper, live snakes, and cheese.


Last week I was in the Birmingham Rep’s rehearsal rooms with Graeae, working on my new play ‘War Pig.’ And this is how War Pig came about:

1. It started from the title. “War Pig” became a Graeae running joke (don’t ask, but also do google it*) and I immediately fixed upon the idea of calling a play War Pig. I threw around a few ideas, but nothing stuck.

2. I’ve been doing regular ‘stuff’ with the Bush Theatre for about 18 months (got my feet under the table doing Neighbourhood Project and due to them being the nicest people ever just sort of stuck around*). In one workshop we were given a writing exercise: to create a character based on a button and a list of questions. I chose a military uniform button and created an elderly Jewish woman who was a military widow. I had my character, but nowhere to put her.

3. Then the women’s marches happened. I didn’t go, and bitterly regretted it. I felt moved to write something about the women’s march, as if it would make up for not being there. Could my elderly Jewish lady go on a woman’s march? Bit flat.

4. Late at night, wapped from travel, reality show-passing-as-documentary on. Elderly celebrities explore approaches to ageing in other cultures. Which somehow translates to Miriam Margolyes in a Florida retirement community. The nicest people in the world, with guns and Trump posters. Well, of course Donald Trump is the War Pig! Warped utopia is one of my favourite genres (settings?) anyway; it’s just so rich. What if my elderly Jewish lady was living in a Trump-loving idyll?

So there you have it. Two elderly Jewish ladies (I decided she needed a friend) living in a Florida retirement community in the heart of Trump country decide to organise a two-person woman’s march. Sounds like a play.

Other inspirations for War Pig: my mother; my grandparents; the X Files episode ‘Arcadia’; the one time I took an all-inclusive beach resort vacation and it was really fucking creepy.

*Someone else can take ‘War Elephant.’


Featured image by Dick Culbert from Gibsons, B.C., Canada (Sus Barbatus, the Bornean Bearded Pig) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons.


1 Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s