INSIGHTS: Kate Tempest on WASTED
Our new blog series aimed at demystifying the creative process continues this week in an access-all-areas interview with performance poet, rapper and now playwright Kate Tempest. Below are excepts from an interview with Kate conducted in 2012, prior to the first national tour of her début play, WASTED, which is back on the road this spring.
What was it that interested you in writing a play? Can you tell us a little about how it came about?
James Grieve from Paines Plough knew my work as a poet, and commissioned me to write a new play. I’ve always been interested in theatre, and have read the plays of some of my favourite writers, but it always felt like a form that was beyond me. I had been quite intimidated by it, and in fact, still am, even now Wasted is finished and about to go on tour, but when the opportunity came up I was dead excited by the idea of it.
How did your background as a performance poet and rapper help you to write the play? And how did you find hearing your words spoken by actors and not you?
It’s been an amazing experience working with the actors. At first it was strange hearing my words spoken by others, but as we’ve moved through the rehearsal process I’ve been blown away by the nuances they find in the writing that I didn’t even know was there. Like – they really question their lines, and try and understand how one thought leads to another and why something is being said – and then James is constantly pushing that even further and it’s been like nothing else I’ve ever been involved in really, watching these characters coming to life. My background as a poet and a rapper has helped with the rhymed bits of the text, it’s been fun helping the actors find their flow when it comes to delivering those bits especially.
WASTED tells the story of three friends in their mid-twenties making life-changing decisions about their future, what was it that drew you to this point in their lives?
Well, mainly because it’s where I’m at now, and where my pals are at. And also because it seems to me that a lot of people who I care about and who are around me are stuck in the same moment as they have been for ages. A moment of decision making that never seems to lead to a decision being made. I believe that everybody has the potential to live the life they want to. Its just a question of being honest about what that life might be, and then having the guts to go after it. I was drawn to this stage in people’s lives because I think it’s an interesting time and because I don’t think people at this stage of their lives are often told that they deserve to be happy and that it’s not too late to make changes.
Did you have a particular audience in mind when you wrote it?
No I didn’t have an audience in mind. I feel if you write for an audience rather than for the piece itself you’ll never get started. I hope it can be enjoyed by everyone.
How did you find the experience of working with director James Grieve?
At the risk of coming over all theatrical and gushy– James has been incredible. His belief in my work is just mental. He questions and challenges me all the time, he knows what he thinks I can do, so if a piece of text isn’t quite singing in the way he thinks it could, he’ll sit me down and we’ll talk it through and then I’ll go back to it and make it better. The way he works with the actors is amazing too. I cant begin to describe how interesting it is for me watching them all working, Writing a play is very different to writing poetry, writing plays, for me, seems to be about discipline and building and constantly crafting, whereas poetry and song writing is instinctive for me and although it is definitely also about crafting, it seems to come much more naturally – I couldn’t have written a play at all without having James’s excitement for the project pushing me through the moments when I thought – what the fuck am I doing and why are these people letting me do it…?!
Has the script gone through many changes since it premièred at Latitude Festival in summer 2011?
Yep. It’s gone through about ten redrafts. The introduction and then deletion of a new character. It’s gone through 3 different endings and many new scenes. We’ve had to adapt the staging for smaller stages, and create a touring soundtrack – as Kwake who scored the play – cant be at all the shows to play the score live.