James Fritz: ‘I feel lucky that I’m able to write full-time at the moment’
Fresh from Edinburgh Festival Fringe success with Ross and Rachel, James Fritz had Four Minutes Twelve Seonds staged at Hampstead Downstairs. He talks to David Hutchison following its transfer to Trafalgar Studios 2
Has the play changed at all amid the transfer?
It was a process of looking at the draft we had at the Hampstead and working out tiny changes that could make it a bit better, little cuts here and there, things like that. So it feels a little tighter, a little slicker. It’s nice, with something like this, to make it feel new again when you bring it into a room. It is the same production, obviously, but it’s also a completely new production. And so it’s nice to have that familiarity while having one or two little changes to keep it fresh and alive.
Ross and Rachel was one of the critical darlings of this year’s fringe. What was it like to receive that level of critical acclaim?
It was one of the loveliest parts of my career so far. It was a really funny little project that I’d been stewing up with two friends of mine – a producer and a director – for ages. Right up until the first preview we had no idea that anyone would clue into it, or think it was any good, because we liked it, but it’s also a weird little play. So to have audiences come in and get it was a really rewarding experience.
It riffs on sitcom characters very much embedded in the public consciousness – did that help or hinder the play’s development?
I think a bit of both. The reason I settled on them was that I wanted to write something that put modern romantic myths under the microscope. I tried for ages to create a fairytale couple, but I was spending so much time trying to build them into somebody we cared about that the play itself couldn’t take flight. When we hit on the idea to make it about a pre-existing fictional couple, Ross and Rachel were the obvious choice. It’s incredibly helpful in loads of ways, because you’ve got a head start – people know the backstory. More importantly, they have the idea of what that couple represents. On the other hand it’s quite difficult to – and hopefully we managed it – get away from the idea of being ‘the Friends play’. I think a lot of people came in expecting one thing and were given another, which I think can be a really great thing. But there are certain pre-conceptions when you have a title like that.
Is playwriting a full-time job for you right now?
It varies. At the moment, I’m lucky in that I’m able to do it full-time, but I’m not sure how long that will last, just because of the amount of time it takes to write a play, and the amount of money I need to live. But at the moment it’s my full-time job and I hope it will be for the foreseeable future.
Four Minutes Twelve Seconds runs at Trafalgar Studios 2, London, until December 5
CV: James Fritz
Training: Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, MA writing for stage, 2010-11
First professional role: Monologue writer for a Camden walking history tour (2009)
Agent: Emily Wraith, Berlin Associates