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BLOG: When it’s not the playwright’s dad who’s the toolmaker, it’s the playwright himself.

By Brian Coyle

We’ve all heard Keir Starmer bang on about his dad being a toolmaker for months now, so much so that it’s become a joke. Of course, the point he’s trying to make is that he’s from an “ordinary” background even though he’s now a barrister, former Director of Public Prosecutions and probably PM (post 4 July).

Authenticity is important in politics – being close to the people. It’s important in theatre as well. But the problem is, the theatre world is rife with privilege and entitlement, as we all know.

So, what if the playwright himself is a toolmaker? Job sorted. You can’t have a bigger badge of honour. Except it’s not as straightforward as that. Life seldom is – as we playwrights know, it’s our bread and butter.

I left school at sixteen and did an apprenticeship in toolmaking. It’s what you did in the west of Scotland then if you were lucky. Both my brothers were engineers too. But that’s not my whole story, it’s just the start.

I was pretty hopeless as a toolmaker – I still am hopeless with my hands. So, after I qualified, I moved quite quickly into programming computer engineering machines and then to studying IT at university after I realised (quite by accident) that my apprenticeship college day-release qualification was good enough to qualify me.

I then worked in IT for many years before finally discovering what I was actually good at, which is writing drama (you’ll have to see my upcoming play THE BOX at the White Bear Theatre in London in July to see if that statement is accurate). And I’ve now been writing plays for the stage for 10 years and the occasional radio drama for BBC Radio 4.

So yes, I was a toolmaker. But I’m also university educated and worked in IT for many years and then finally… thank God, found my calling as a playwright in my 40s.

I guess the question is: is my story now possible in these times? Can a working-class person, from a working-class town who left school as soon as they could, have a chance of eventually earning their living in the Arts as a playwright? I’ve no idea, but my guess is it’s even harder these days.

Not that I earn a living as a playwright, but that’s another story for another day!

You can see the London premiere of my two-hander THE BOX this July (23 July to 3 Aug) at the White Bear Theatre in London. It stars the brilliant Off West End Award-nominated actors Martin Edwards and Sarah Lawrie. It’s directed by Jonathan Woolf.

Details and tickets here

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The Reviews Hub - London

The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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