Author Interview: Tony Benge

Tony Benge has been writing plays on and off for twenty years. He has had plays commissioned by the Library Theatre Manchester, Contact Youth Theatre, Salford Metropolitan Borough, Radio 4 Drama, Oldham Coliseum, and Lifeline Manchester, plus four short audio plays for Manchester Open Learning. He is also a trained Drama therapist. And he was kind enough to answer some questions about writing for Storyslingers.

Hi, Tony. Thank you for talking to us. First, please tell us about what you write, and what you’re working on at the moment.

I write plays for performance. I’ve just complete a first draft of THE COLOUR OF GRIEF a play about combat veterans in an art therapy session in which the Combat Veterans Theatre in London have expressed an interest.

Do you plot your stories, or are you more of a seat-of-the-pants writer? Can you tell us about the process of beginning a story?

Ideas come mostly from what I know, feel and see. For the COLOUR OF GRIEF I used my training as a drama therapist and much earlier as a painter.  I was also inspired by seeing the Lee Hall play THE PITMAN PAINTERS.

Is there anything you particularly find challenging when working on a new piece?

Trying to make sense during that early oceanic state when loads of images, hunches, possible characters, scene fragments, snatches of dialogue/monologue often bizarre which plague me while I’m trying to sleep.

How do you manage your creative time alongside your work/daily life?

Writing is predominantly my daily life.

Criticism is virtually impossible to avoid when you’re putting things out for public consumption. What are some of the toughest criticisms you’ve dealt with, and how have they helped (or hindered) you in the long-run?

Many years ago having just had my first play professionally performed in Manchester and receiving an enthusiastic response, I sent an extended version of it to the Royal Court in London. Their verdict: It will take you a long time to write a proper drama. Yes of course it hurt but I still wrote what I thought were plays and they still got professionally performed. But I also now know exactly what the Court meant and I’m still trying to write a really proper drama.

A lot of new authors go into writing and publishing wearing rose-tinted glasses, but the industry is rarely as smooth sailing as it seems from the outside. What are some of your biggest disillusionments with writing and/or publishing?

The certain knowledge that there are so many far more intelligent, skilled, talented AND MUCH YOUNGER writers than me out there … damn it!

Tell us about some of your biggest influences? Which writers have inspired you throughout your career, and what lessons have you taken from their work?

Changes all the time depending on what I’m reading. Currently it’s PIAF by Pam Gems which I’ve only just started as research preparation for a play I’m planning.

And finally, what’s on the creative horizon for you? Are there any projects you’re working on right now that you’d like to talk about?

Currently very enthusiastic about a Wiltshire artist whose short but exotic life might just make a play. But it’s very early days and may come to absolutely nothing.

Thank you so much for your time!

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