Graeae recently announced our bold new writing initiative Write to Play . To introduce the writers we asked them what book, record and play they would take to a desert island. Here’s what they had to say…
asking me to select just one record to take to a desert island constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. music drives me. it fuels me. it helps overcome or still the voices in my head (i have the radio on right now) and it also fuels my writing. i write with music in my head, music on the page, that’s how i create speech, by imagining their music, or rather their musics (plural). mahler’s second symphony is the piece i turn to more than any others for solace.
if i had to take just one book it would be poetry and the book that i have recently turned to more than others is by yannis ritsos, a greek poet who lived through the various fascisms greece suffered and which he opposed. it is called monochords and consists of 336 one line poems written towards the end of his long life. it’s like staring at horizons. his is also a beautiful publication – thick creamy paper and well stitched so it should last a while on my desert island.
as for plays, again there are so many. the playwrights that really currently connect with me include sarah kane, caryl churchill, ionesco and buchner. if i was to pick just one play it would have to be buchner’s woyzeck. it’s surprisingly modern and has had a huge impact on me. my 2006 play, taking the blood of butterflies, which received a peggy ramsay foundation grant (my first of two) and had a run at ovalhouse, was based on woyzeck.
Amy Bethan Evans (@princesspiece)
This is one of the most difficult things I have ever been asked, namely because my dyspraxic brain tends to take things quite literally.
After contextualising my hypothetical desert island, All I Really Want by Alanis Morrissette would be my record of choice. I found it incredibly life-affirming when I was seventeen and I still find it to be quite true in most contexts.
At the risk of dodging the question, my book of choice would be a blank notebook that I could write in, as nothing can keep one sane like one’s own thoughts.
As for a play, I would probably take Theatre Workshop’s Oh, What a Lovely War as everything about it (from its content to its construction) inspired me to see theatre as I do today, and I think with it on hand I could probably start my own island-based community theatre group.
Rosaleen McDonagh (@paveebeoir)
The book that I would take to a desert island is Beauty is a Verb: The New Poetry Of Disability edited by Jennifer Bartlett, Sheila Black and Michael Northen. Prose and poetry in one – the best form of food.
There are lots of different kinds of music on my ipod. Everything on there has purpose and meaning. But if we’re talking about pure indulgence – it would have to be The Beast in Me, a song from Nick Lowe’s 1994 album The Impossible Bird.
Feeling like a traitor, I don’t have any loyalty to the big Irish cannon of plays. Tom Murphy’s work is close to my heart, because it talks about immigration. Tennessee Williams is my old, reliable, when I want to create female characters. Silent by Fishamble and Pat Kinevane I love. And Blasted by Sarah Kane. I would love to see a Traveller version of Othello. But if I could only pick one theatrical experience to take with me to my desert island, it would be The Trailer of Bridget Dinnigan, adapted by Catherine Joyce and Dylan Tighe. Being in the auditorium that night, watching my cousins and other Travellers perform, using our language, having an audience that was largely Travellers being exposed to theatre… that was something special.
Tom Wentworth (@tomthetwit)
Oh this is SO hard, how can you do this to me?! I always love the last book I read and am a big reader of contemporary fiction. I’ve thought really long and hard about this and I reckon that I’d have to take Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter – it made me laugh, cry and it’s full of such a range of styles of writing from a film script to a pitch that it would remind me on my desert island that there are other styles of writing out there. Plus, it’s packed with brilliant characters so it would remind me that there are other people out there too!
Just one? One track? You mean an album surely? Yeah, I know you do! So can I have Paloma Faith’s Fall To Grace album – it’s got such an eclectic style about it. What’s that? I have to choose just one track? OK, OK erm… Thirty Minute Love Affair – it would cheer me up on the island and it has a great narrative!
Oh this is just so difficult … Fifty Words by Michael Weller would be the play. I saw it at the Ustinov Studio in Bath this year as part of the American Season and was just blown away by Weller’s writing and the production. It’s such a simple set-up and yet seemed to encapsulate every human emotion in a taut, angry two-hander which just ricocheted and left the entire audience breathless after just 90 minutes. I came out completely in awe and wishing I’d written that. The reaction of the audience will stay with me for a long time. Having this play for company on my island would mean I could really study the nitty-gritty of what makes it tick.
Nicola Werenowska (@NickyWerenowska)
The book I would choose is When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit by Judith Kerr. This is a children’s story which I read when I was eight and has stayed with me all this time. It’s about the innocence of childhood, the destructiveness of the adult world, and reminds me that you can find happiness in dark places. It’s also very well written, structured and paced and the child narrator is both a very ordinary little girl with whom the reader can easily identify and someone who shows courage in extraordinary circumstances.
Change by Tracey Chapman would be my record. I like this song because it’s about how to live your life in the present moment both in the knowledge of the finality of death and the possibility of a life lived without fear. It’s about moving out of the paralysis of the mind to be true to yourself and to follow your destiny.
I saw Ryan Craig’s version of Our Class by Tadeusz Slobodzianek at the National in 2009 and was blown away by the energy of the piece, its epic scale, and the way it treated a sensitive and controversial subject, a wartime Jewish massacre in Eastern Poland, while highlighting all the complexities of the victim/perpetrator dynamic and asking us on what grounds do we judge others? I loved the treatment of time in the play, how it spanned five decades, and was both in the moment and retrospective, as well as the physicality of the piece which was very simply staged. Despite its dark subject matter, the play was full of light moments, of irony, of warmth and compassion. For me, it both reinforced the flawed nature of the human condition and the possibility for change in all of us.
Look out for links to the Write to Play blog where the writers will be blogging fortnightly throughout the year.