Michael Cox speaks with the playwright of Plume about the play and the creative process.
Michael Cox: Did you study theatre at university or have any past theatre experience?
JC Marshall: I don’t come from a theatre or English literature background. I was working as a classroom assistant in an inner city primary school when The West Yorkshire Playhouse put my first play on. I’ve been learning on the job since then.
MC: This play was part of the Open.Stage competition. Did you write the play for the competition, or did you already have the play written, or in mind, prior?
JC: No I wrote the piece for the competition, quite last minute. Entries were anonymous, which I liked.
MC: Tell us a bit about the mentoring process you went through for Open.Stage.
JC: I met Zinnie Harris about 3 or 4 times to talk about the play as it was being written. That’s a luxury: usually you just spend months alone in your room and then you emerge bleary and dazed and hand it over. Zinnie encouraged me to be as ambitious as I wanted in the play. That may sound faintly ridiculous but the temptation in the current climate of recession and lack of funding is to do everything on a shoestring: small cast, minimal props and sets etc. Although I haven’t completely embraced that idea I’m glad that someone is saying stuff like that.
MC: Now, let's talk a bit about Plume. How would you describe the play?
JC: The play is fantastical and surreal and funny, but its subject matter is weighty. The opening line of the play introduces the main theme: ‘acts of the imagination.’ It is spoken by the imaginary friend of a boy killed in a terrorist attack.
When the Lockerbie bomber was released, people started debating what mercy was. Mercy seems like an act of the imagination too: you have to imagine some good will come from it but it’s a leap of faith. These seemed like important things to write about, whichever side you come down on in the Lockerbie case.
MC: Has the play changed in any way?
JC: Alby is the imaginary friend of William, dreamed up when he was just a little boy. In the first draft they were played by two actors but it makes sense philosophically if they are actually just played by one, since Alby is just an extension of William. I suppose our imaginary friends are just projections of what we want to be or wish we were capable of. William invents a creature that turns about to be immensely powerful.
Plume plays at the Tron until March 17.