Laura Lomas: ‘It’s a really exciting time to be a playwright’
Laura Lomas is one of five writers who have created Joanne, a show that explores the effects of increasing pressures on public services. The show, which has been influenced by women who have come into contact with the criminal justice system, has been created for Clean Break.
What is your relationship with Clean Break?
I’m the writer in residence for this year, so I started in January when I was awarded the Channel 4 playwriting award, which funds my attachment to the company. Originally when we started talking about doing Joanne, we wanted to do something on the cuts and the effects that was having on public services, such as the prison system. All of the characters come into contact with Joanne, so it is about what points of contact they have with her. We never meet Joanne; that invisibility felt like a strong statement for the piece to make.
Is it important for you to always respond to the world around you in your work?
All theatre, in one way or another, is always rooted in the world, whether that is something that is happening close to me or something that I feel like I’m responding to in a wider context. I hope that all my work is rooted in the world for sure, I think it is socio-political, I would say. That is a theme of my work and it always has been. That’s the reason that I write – I want to engage with the world and mean something.
Have you always loved theatre?
When I was 17, I did a work placement at the Royal Court. I didn’t know what the Royal Court was at that stage, I just sort of googled London theatres and got lucky, and that was my first encounter with new writing and contemporary theatre. I read hundreds of plays after that and became a bit obsessed, but it wasn’t until I did a masters in playwriting after university that I started taking it seriously. After my masters, I got an attachment with Paines Plough, and that was probably the biggest turning point in terms of cutting my teeth as a writer.
How have your experiences writing for other mediums differed from playwriting?
I wrote a short film and the process of writing that was similar to how I might approach a play, but the infrastructure of TV and film means there are a lot more people involved, and earlier on. I worked on Jack Thorne’s TV show Glue and that was a very different process. We spent three weeks in a room all storyboarding together, which I hadn’t done before. Even though you write your individual episode there is a constant dialogue, as you are always carrying on bits of other people’s episodes. It is so different to writing for theatre, but I really do love both of them equally.
What’s your view on the climate for new writing in the UK?
I think we have one of the healthiest communities of new writing in the world. It’s a really exciting time to be a playwright and I am inspired by my contemporaries and also previous generations. There’s a really healthy dialogue between different generations of playwrights, which I think is something writers really value.
Joanne runs at Soho Theatre, London, until October 31
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