An actor’s journey to writing, and independence- Longlisted playwright Adam Lawrence

Actor and Writer Adam Lawrence was Longlisted in 2019 for his play LET IT LIE. Below- he updates us on writing for yourself, prior to his reading at The Criterion Theatre, London on March 4th.

‘Let It Lie’ is set in the aftermath of the Birmingham Pub Bombings of 1974, one of the biggest unsolved mass murders on British soil, which also led to one of the biggest miscarriages of justice in British criminal history. The reading will take place at 1:30PM on 4th March 2020. Tickets are £8 and can be purchased here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/let-it-lie-a-staged-reading-tickets-91121995341

The cast features:

Owen Teale (Game of Thrones)
Tony Pitts (Peaky Blinders)
Tom Mothersdale (Richard III for Headlong)

 

Graduating from acting school at 21, signing with an agent and being selected to perform in the Spotlight Prize in London, where one graduate from every drama school performs in front of an industry audience, jetting out to LA for the premiere of my first role in a film, I was ready for the big time…. And then reality hit…

I have spent the past five or so years wondering why the rollercoaster had stalled. Wondering why I couldn’t get into a room. If only they could give me a chance, then they’d see! But I realise now it rarely works like that. It’s a business. And actors, we are pawns, generally speaking.

I know I can speak for a lot of my actor friends when I say that it is so easy to feel powerless in this industry. We are at the mercy of the key holders. We will pray and hope the phone rings for that audition. But it doesn’t have to be that way. And it took me 5 years sitting on the books of one of the most sought after agencies in the world for me to realise that I could do something about it. In no other self-employed trade would you wait for someone to get you work. But as actors, we feel like this is the way.

I am grateful for my working class roots, which have grounded me, kept my ego in check and taught me work harder. I am grateful for the hundreds of rejections over the years (if I had a penny for every time someone said “unfortunately”…) and I am grateful that I am nearly 30 and I am still figuring out how to be confident and learn how not to self-deprecate. All this time and experience of rejection has forced me to understand myself, it has forced me into a place of self-reliant creativity, fuelled by a drive to change the situation. It has led me to a path of writing.

The idea for ‘Let It Lie’, my debut play, came from a look at Birmingham’s history, my hometown. A place which is often judged or its people and their accent stigmatised by the industry. Apart from Steven Knight, the creator of Peaky Blinders, I can’t think of anyone who has broken through this stigmatism with anything other than comedy. (Brummies are often only depicted for comedic effect). I came across the story of the Birmingham Six – a group of innocent men who were wrongly convicted for the pub bombings of 1974 and spent 16 years in prison. A huge story that has never been told on stage. I became obsessed, researching the court documents, interviewing people who were involved or on the fringes, watching documentaries and hearing about the case on the news every so often (it is still open to this day). This was my story…

As soon as I began plotting my first draft, the itch to create was relieved. I no longer held on to the hope of getting the recall for that audition, if it came it came, if it didn’t, it didn’t. I no longer worried about what my successful actor friends were doing, because I was creating. That’s all I’ve ever wanted to do. That’s why we all do this, I reminded myself. It’s about the process.

There seem to be more and more actors delving into writing. Whether this is because they are fed up of the lack of opportunity due to industry trends or any number of reasons, it’s how it is. I think actors generally make good writers, because we study not what characters say, but what they think. This serves for writing compelling, multi-layered dialogue. I would encourage any actor who is feeling stuck to explore the idea of writing. You don’t need to be a writer. You are a writer if you write. Of course, I still doubt that very statement, which is why when I submitted ‘Let It Lie’ to the Bruntwood Prize I never expected to hear back. But when I found out I was longlisted I was filled with joy. I had a brief moment of confidence and self-belief, swiftly followed by the worry that I had been longlisted by accident. It must be a mistake. It must be…?

In being longlisted I was offered great, in depth feedback which I have implemented into future drafts of the play. There is an opportunity to meet the industry people who read and judge your work, should they wish to take it further. This is great considering it never even made the shortlist. I cannot explain how much of a difference it makes when you can attach the Bruntwood Prize to your project. I have had much more response from industry folk about the play, (not that my work is any better than anyone else’s; literary managers are swamped with scripts), but simply by mentioning it was longlisted for the Bruntwood Prize, it got noticed.

The feeling of realising your own creativity and seeing it into fruition is the best feeling in the world. And I wouldn’t change a single moment, good or bad, as it has all taken me here. I am 2 weeks away from a staged reading in the West End, starring some of my favourite actors who I am very privileged to be working alongside. There are some great producers and theatres confirmed for attendance.

Oh, and I haven’t forgotten about the acting… I am playing the lead role, of course.

The more I spend time in this “industry”, the more I realise what Derek Jacobi supposedly once said was right, “it’s not a career, it’s a series of jobs”. So if we can increase our chances of a job by creating the job itself – then what the hell are we all waiting for?

 

 

‘Let It Lie’ is set in the aftermath of the Birmingham Pub Bombings of 1974, one of the biggest unsolved mass murders on British soil, which also led to one of the biggest miscarriages of justice in British criminal history. The reading will take place at 1:30PM on 4th March 2020. Tickets are £8 and can be purchased here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/let-it-lie-a-staged-reading-tickets-91121995341

26 Feb 2020

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