Young men's plays


I think twice before going to see a play by a man in his twenties. They can be spiky and aggressive which is grand, and stuffed with some urgent lyricism, but the endings get predictable. Ritual castration's always on the cards (I remember Philip Ridley plying that game at Hampstead some years ago), and if not that then some other form of self-loathing of a sexual kind is often in evidence, and violent death rears its head at the end.I saw Martin McDonagh's THE BEAUTY QUEEN OF LENANE in New York, a fine evening till it had its wee burst of foul violence at the end. It's like acne, this dramatic thrusting toward death, not the best part of youth but a phase you accept for the energy that comes with it.

I saw the last night of Grae Cleugh's F***ING GAMES at the Royal Court at the weekend. It was my first visit to that theatre since its refurbishment, and how magnificent it is now. What a treat to have such a place dedicated to new writing. I took my doubts into the theatre with me, for Grae Cleugh seems perilously young. Sure it was all there, the presence of death, the act of violence, the sexual self-loathing, but it was excellent. Good to have so upfront a gay drama, stark though it was, with great acting.

I've just finished a new draft of what's now BEACH BOY BLUES. It's been going so long through so many drafts I hadn't seen that it was also a young man's play. I'd written that young sexual loathing out in other pieces but death was still there as this wonderful climax, death as rare and blissful and exultant as in Ibsen! The play's a comedy, albeit a black one. I'd ignored the basic law that comedy has a happy ending. The play was stuck on that youthful perspective in which death is a grand way out.

Now my characters bypass death. It's following Evelyn Waugh's advice to writers I suppose, "Never kill off your characters. You only get one set!" I'm happy they're still with us ... and hope that enough of that raw energy of my youth survives in the play!