I managed to interview the talented Jane Upton for an interview…;Here it is…;
Date & place of birth?
How did you get into writing?
I’ve always loved it. I used to write poems when I was little and short stories. When we went on holiday I always took a pad and pen on the beach. I love acting and singing but writing is a bit of a dream that has always been there. I did English A level, then a degree in English and creative writing, a masters in newspaper journalism and I now work as a copywriter in marketing so writing has always featured in my life.
What inspires you?
People. I make stories up about people all the time (in my head I mean. I am not a pathological liar or anything). I see people on the street and I think ‘I wonder what their life is like. I wonder if they go to bed feeling sick about the next day or whether they love life. I wonder if they are afraid of dying. I wonder if they have weird things in their cupboards. I wonder who loves them’ that sort of thing. Sometimes I get completely overwhelmed thinking about people and their lives and I want to cry or hug someone on the street!! Don’t ask.
What made you want to become a playwright?
I love theatre. I love the whole experience. I have always acted (except weirdly when I was at university when I didn’t do any acting for five years) and I have always loved plays and scripts. I have just always wanted to write but it takes a lot of committment and time and I just haven’t given that to writing up to now.
Career highlights to date?
Exposure is a massive highlight as it is my first outing as a writer, which feels so special. As an actor I would say my highlight was playing Ellen Terry the great Victorian actress at her former home in Kent. I did that with 1623 – a fantastic Derby-based theatre company that specialises in Shakespeare’s work. We had some celebs in the audience and lots of people that loved Ellen and it was a great event. We went back and did it the next year and it was just as magical. I helped to develop the whole project and did research for the writer so I felt really connected to the whole thing.
Samantha Morton is so natural and understated and brilliant. Ben Whishaw who played John Keats in Bright Star is amazing. He is going to be massive.
In the theatre, I love Emma Rice – Artistic Director of Kneehigh. I think her work is amazing – so original. In film, I love Tarrantino – which is a bit obvious but Pulp Fiction will always be one of my favourites. I love the witty banter and the excruciating violence.
What other playwrights do you admire?
Mark Ravenhill had a massive impact on me when I was doing A levels. Our teacher introduced his work to us and I was gobsmacked. It was the perfect way to get 17-year-olds interested in theatre. I love Shakespeare of course – particularly the tragedies. Many of his characters feel so modern, even today.
What’s the last thing you saw on stage that had a big impact on you? And the first?
The last thing was probably Kneehigh’s Cymbeline by William Shakespeare. It was in a ruined castle in Cornwall on a summer’s eve and every element of it was perfect. A string of fairy lights led you from the drinks tent to the castle where the atmosphere was set as soon as you walked through the walls. Old matresses and living areas were set up around the walls like little settlings for homeless people. The set was incredible with a backdrop of the ruins. The live music was distorted jazz and so evocative. The performers were incredible and really physical. The way the story was told was totally original and had so much clarity. When it ended I burst into tears for about half an hour and had to go and find the director to tell her how amazing it was. This was about four years ago but it still gives me tingles to think about it.
The first thing was probably Dracula in the grounds of Newstead Abbey. It was a promenade performance, horribly spooky and it opened my eyes to the way a location can be used as part of a production. Mum and I didn’t dare walk back to the car at the end.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Just write – for as long as you want – don’t censor yourself or edit it – just write – and see what you get.
If you could swap places with one person (living or dead) for a day, who would it be?
My Grandma because she is in constant pain but hardly moans and I would like to understand what it feels like for her and how hard it is.
I love a writer called Ann Marie Macdonald. I read two of her books in my early 20s and always remember them as two of the best books I have ever read – Fall on Your Knees and The Way the Crow Flies. They are haunting. I also loved Brett Easton Ellis’ American Psycho, Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold (the book – NOT the film!) and I love John Irving too.
Favourite holiday destinations?
Anywhere. I love England. The Isle of Wight is my spiritual home. But I love the beach anywhere really. I also love cities. I went to Krakow last year and loved all the hidden nooks and crannies and the cultural underworld that they seem to have going on.
How would you describe the experience of working with Joe Doherty and Esther Richardson?
I’ve loved working with both of them. Esther is very laid back but really motivational. She has empowered me to believe in my writing and to make choices about it and she is very encouraging. From the moment she took an interest in Bones I could see that she really got what I was trying to say. All the ideas she has had for the play are absolutely perfect for it and when she thought of casting Joe she got it so right. So I have loved working with her and I hope to work with her again. Joe is wicked. He’s funny and laid back but he works really, really hard. He had done lots of work on the script before rehearsals even started and I knew that he would give it 100 per cent so it was easy to trust him with the part.
How did BONES come about?
I signed up for a two-day writing course run by Esther and playwright Amanda Whittington. The course was brilliant and at the end we were all given 30 mins to go away, write something or work on something we already had, and then five minutes to feed it back to the group. I suddenly came up with the character of Mark – totally out of the blue – and I started to write a monologue for him. It was pretty controversial so when it came to feeding it back I was worried about the reaction. I needn’t have worried. The other members of the group loved it and urged me to continue writing it and later on, Esther contacted me and said she would be interested in helping me develop the piece. Then the Fifth Word project came along and as the play was selected for that, I had a deadline to work to, which is all important for me!
Had you written with a particular actor in mind when you wrote BONES?
No, not at all but I could picture the character. The most important thing I think is the voice. He had to have an understated, natural Nottingham accent. Bring on Joe Doherty!!
What’s the story about in a nutshell?
It’s about a boy who is trying to find his way in the world. He has had a horrible life really and he is at this crucial crossroads where he needs to make a drastic decision to change things for him and his mum. Bones is about whether he makes that decision, what drives him and where he ends up as a result.
This is your first monologue. Do you find it easier or harder writing for a single actor?
This is my first play full stop so I am not sure if it is easier or harder. A monologue just really seemed to suit this story as Mark is such an insular character. I did enjoy writing a monologue because I could concentrate on one character’s voice and the rhythm of his speech. I am looking forward to tackling some dialogue though.
What are your future plans?
I’d like to write more. Hopefully develop Bones into a full length piece. More acting, more singing, more copywriting (to help me pay the bills). And a bit more time to relax, get some fresh air, take some exercise (desperately need some!) and watch trash TV.
Your biggest dream is?
To get to a point where I don’t worry about things. When I can be confident in myself, in my abilities, and to not worry too much what anyone thinks. I’d value that much more than professional success – although the two probably can’t be mutually exclusive. I’d love to make a living as a writer.
Your favourite lyric?
Holy cow I love your eyes
What time of the day do you prefer to write? and where do you write?
I always end up writing until the early hours of the morning because I start too late. I am powered by deadlines. I write in a spare bedroom that is basically a dumping ground with a desk in it. If I want to do this more, I need to look at both of these things!