Chips Hardy: ‘A good play can point things out without having to wave a flag’
A decade after its premiere at Theatre503, the writer’s drama about soldiers injured in friendly fire, Blue on Blue, is being revived in London. He talks to David Hutchison about how to avoid writing an ‘issue-based’ play.
The play’s main character Moss lost his legs in an army accident – why did you decide to write about this?
The thing I wanted to explore was self-harm. To a degree, we all do it. When you’ve had enough of the world, because you can’t necessarily swipe at it or do anything to it, we make ourselves miserable or we make ourselves ill, or we act out, or we drink too much. All these things are kind of self-harming. And people who do that, and there’s so many of us, are not integrated as much as they could be into our understanding of society, in the same way that a lot of disabled people have suffered: they’ve been ignored. The play tries to integrate both circumstances.
Was there anything particular that you wanted to say?
It’s not an issue-based play about disabled soldiers. What happened was, I was trying to write about marginalised people, people who had been given the cruellest blows of fate. And Moss just wheeled himself in, because I could think of no stronger exemplar of someone who’s been on the wrong end of things, and nothing more unfortunate or unfair than a blue on blue accident.
Do you consciously try to avoid issue-based writing?
I’m happy if the writing presents and deals with issues. In some issue-based writing, the issue is more important than the human beings – and sometimes that leads to an inauthenticity. What I wanted to do was investigate people with real problems around which there are issues, rather than writing about the issues themselves. King Lear is about King Lear, it’s not about dysfunctional families, for example. I think issue plays are worthwhile and they do a great job. But if you look at Jean Genet’s The Maids…. great drama – I’m not saying this is great drama – but a good play can point things out without having to wave a flag about it.
Are you ever conscious of your connection to your son, Tom Hardy, when trying to stage work?
Interestingly, you don’t get trained up for your son to be a… you know. No. Tom is far too professional and organised and whatever, as I am. I would never trade on that, and neither would he. But what I have got is a very creative household. We’ve always been a very creative household, and that hasn’t changed, whatever happens to Tom. In terms of getting work on or through, it’s never been in any way involved, and I wouldn’t want it involved. You can’t walk into a room of people and say: “We’re going to do this because I’m a father”, could you?
CV: Chips Hardy
Training: Cambridge University, MA English literature, 1969-72
First professional role: About Face, ITV, writer (1989)
Agent: Sean Gascoine, United Agents
Blue on Blue runs at the Tristan Bates Theatre in London from April 19 to May 14