Katherine Soper wrote her Bruntwood Prize winning play ‘Wish List’ as her dissertation play at Royal Central School of Speech and Drama.
We caught up with Katherine as ‘Wish List’ closed at the Royal Court bring to a close over a year of development from page to stage.
What impact has the Prize had on your daily life as a writer?
I’ve been able to scale back on my other work, and focus more on writing for the time being. I was also able to invest in a library membership so I’ve always got a place I can go to write now – which is great, because I find it difficult to work from home.
What has being winner of the Bruntwood Prize given you access to? Has it opened any surprising doors?
Probably the most surprising thing was getting to go to a playwriting conference in Ohio! Having the opportunity to learn from American writers, and from an unexpectedly different theatrical perspective, was brilliant. Beyond that, I’ve been able to get an agent, and to engage directly with theatres in a way I’d never have been able to before.
You immediately went into a process of mentoring with the Royal Exchange- how has this process impacted upon your writing and work processes?
The level of script advice offered by the Exchange has been such a great learning experience. I feel like I’ve now got a stronger sense of when to make cuts, of the questions that are useful to help interrogate early drafts, and of the way to structure individual scenes. I also think – hopefully – I’ll be less terrified about sharing my work with people in its earlier stages now!
Wish List is currently being staged at the Royal Court, directed by 2017 Jury member Matthew Xia. Has the process of seeing your writing realised changed the way you work?
It has – I think I started to recognise my ‘voice’ as a writer in a stronger way than I ever have before. I also have more of an instinct about which things I don’t have to prescribe as a writer, that I can leave to actors or the director. Before you work with actors properly, it can feel like you have to take everything on yourself! I think in the future, I’d want to get actors involved earlier in the process. It’s also made me realise how plays are never finished, even by the time you get them on their feet. After the first preview you have a completely new perspective, and you suddenly feel confident in making all these changes – which is terrifying but a massive adrenaline rush!
You have spoken about Wish List beginning from an interest in ideas about work. Is this something you’ll explore further?
I’m not sure – I’m answering vaguely because you never know what’s going to be taken forward by theatres and how it will change! But I feel that our service economy is underrepresented onstage, and there are dynamics within particular service jobs that I find fascinating. I also think the way we moralise work desperately needs to change, and that’s something I can see myself picking up again in my work.