Meet the Shortlist- babirye bukilwa
black bird By babirye bukilwa I’m fucking numb and feel … everything. Too much … I don’t want your love … Love has you waking…
By Sam Grabiner
“Ever since we got here I’ve been having the most extraordinary dreams.”
Neptune is a gigantic, cold and dark planet with supersonic winds and 14 moons. Its atmosphere is made up of a thick blue gas-like substance of which we know next to nothing. Ben, Molly, Harry and Sarah have been sent on a mission from Earth. They’ve been staring out into that blue fog for a while now, and they’re starting to forget why it is they came here in the first place.
Sam Grabiner is a writer from London. He was a resident playwright at Papatango Theatre Company in 2016 and has taken part in The Royal Court Young Writers’ Programme. Alongside his playwrighting, he co-runs the comedy company Pelican whose blend of sketch and clown has been produced at VAULT Festival and The Soho Theatre. He is in his final year of a playwrighting MFA at Columbia School of Arts in New York.
Sam has not had a professional production of a full length play- so is eligible for the Original New Voice Award as well as Judges Award as well as the Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting
What inspired you to write this play?
I had been thinking a lot about mass extinction and climate change and how strange it is to grow up in a world that you know is going to be radically transformed by the time you leave it.
What’s it like to lose the experience of seasons? To be cut off from the long line of people who’ve lived on a habitable earth before you?
At the same time, I was living away from home, far from friends and family and trying to make a new life in a new place.
A science fiction play set on another planet struck me as a helpful model to explore all these questions. How do we imagine life after we are gone? What will it be like to adapt to new climates? Once you’ve left home, is it ever possible to go back?
I suppose that’s the stew that Neptune came out of.
Can you tell us a bit about your journey as a playwright?
My Mum used to take me to Sooty the Pantomime every year and I remember very clearly getting to hold the wand prop at the interval and being very excited by that.
Since then I have made all sorts of theatre, but I’ve always wanted to make work that is collaborative and physical and intimate. Stuff that feels alive, that can only happen on that night, in front of that audience. I suppose one of the reasons I’ve always gravitated towards theatre is because of that liveness, people moving through space and time in front of your eyes.
And in that spirit, I hope this play is a provocation for a director: Here are some words! Go do what you want with them! That feels like a gesture unique to playwrighting.
How do you feel about being shortlisted?
What do you think about anonymity of the Bruntwood Prize?
It feels exciting to know that the play is speaking for itself.
In writing Neptune I was very interested in uncertainty. Making something that is abstract, in which the audience don’t quite know what’s going on but are compelled to keep watching. My favourite science fiction is the kind where you finish reading and you think, I have no idea what that was, but I think I liked it?
Knowing that the script is being read anonymously for the Prize, without context, that feels appropriate.