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Behind the Scenes of 'N1' - How the idea came about

Friday, 15 March 2019

We spoke to writer and director Isaac (Sixth Form) about the thought process behind 'N1'.

"When I first had the idea for this project last year, I was unsure of what it was that I actually wanted to achieve. I wanted to write a play about homelessness in London, but it wasn’t until later that I decided on verbatim in terms of content. The idea to write a play on the topic of homelessness came from two standout things in my life. Firstly, Centrepoint was my School’s charity of 2017-18, a terrific organisation that deals specifically with young people out on the streets of London. The second significant influence was a young homeless man named John, who sat outside my local branch of Tesco’s, and I talked to over the course of a year until he was finally housed again. It was from these experiences that I decided I wanted to focus solely on young men who were on the streets, instead of trying to explore all age groups and genders of people affected by homelessness.

Through the construction of the play, I have achieved one of my most important goals of giving these young homeless men a voice that they might not have had otherwise, and also sharing their stories of both how they ended up on the streets and what their lives have been like since. I chose to use verbatim, in order to help me achieve this goal of telling their stories in a way that was as true and unedited as possible. Hearing their stories opened my eyes to the reality of homelessness in a way that I would like to share with audiences.

On a different note, something else I feel I wanted to achieve was to learn the process of writing and constructing a play. I can confidently say I learnt a lot about how to write a play from scratch, and how difficult it can be at times. I definitely would not have been able to do it without the helpful advice from various playwrights that I was lucky enough to talk to during the process. I also feel as if I achieved my goal of learning more about the methods of verbatim theatre and all the work that goes into interviewing, transcribing and editing the material very closely.

At times I found the writing quite challenging, as I discovered being creative was difficult when writing using verbatim as a primary source. I could only say what had been said by the people I interviewed and so had to find other ways of getting the characters to offer varying opinions and not have the play just be a long series of monologues. To solve this, I went online to find news reports and interviews that were conducted by others that I could include to freshen it up and include contrasting views and opinions. Before I started the project I also imagined that each person’s story would be very different. As it turns out, most homeless people have very similar stories to tell- broken or abusive relationships, deaths in the family, lost jobs and eviction. As a result, I had to try to make a virtue of the similarity of the stories and find common themes around which to structure the action.

Throughout this experience, I learnt far more than I ever expected to. Initially, I thought it would be quite a straightforward thing to simply write a verbatim play but as soon I started, I knew that was not going to be the case. I quickly learnt that even spending a considerable amount of time on a section of the play, the next day I would wake up, change my mind and completely rewrite the whole section all over again until I was happy with it. I learnt with the advice of playwrights and scriptwriters, how to be patient and make drafts and refine and edit constantly throughout the process. All of this is particularly useful to me as someone who wants to go explore the theatre and film business as something to do in later life. But by far the most useful thing I learnt about producing a script is understanding the level of research that is required. As much time as I spent writing the play, I also spent researching it, so it could be as authentic as possible. For this play, the research it required me to do was eye-opening and really changed my attitudes towards certain things such as the government or hostels for the homeless. I can certainly say that after writing this play, I have a significantly different outlook on London's streets.

 

I have achieved one of my most important goals of giving these young homeless men a voice.
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