Josh King is a third year English and Creative Writing student at Royal Holloway. Many pieces of his work have been performed at new writing events on campus and this summer his play, A Writer’s Lot is being taken to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival by a new theatre group ‘intwothewings.’
How did you get into playwriting?
I had always wanted to write plays since I was about 16 in secondary school, but it had always been more of an idea for the future at that point, and an idea that could be ruined by actually doing it, so I didn’t even begin one until I had to for my first year Creative Writing course. And even though it went terribly, I discovered then how much I enjoyed playwriting. I think it always seemed a much more rewarding form of writing, you could physically see people enjoying it, as well as enjoying sitting alone writing it.
Describe your journey to get to where you are now in your career.
I wrote quite a few terrible, overly emotional short plays a few years ago when I was trying to find some sort of style and get a few things performed, and after a few short outings which embarrassed me and everyone else, I started to write differently. The experience worked in the sense that it taught me a bit more about what people want to see, and so I wrote a few things for Midnight At The Boilerhouse and some small theatrical nights here and there and then just kept on going, somehow getting shows at Windsor Firestation’s Play! Festival and Royal Holloway’s Unscene Festival, and, thankfully and amazingly, enough people then knew about what I did for me to be able to write something to take to the Edinburgh Fringe this year with the wonderful RoHo production company InTwoTheWings. I suppose we’re yet to see if people enjoy it, but I am incredibly excited about things to come.
Who are your biggest influences?
My biggest influence is definitely Tom Stoppard. I think he is a brilliant writer and has such a great talent of mixing comedy and drama within such complex, clever and meta-theatrical storylines. He has a great way of subverting audience expectations, which is something I obviously wish I could do as well as him. With all his film work too, it just seems like he can turn his hand to whatever genre or form he needs to, which is something I am wildly envious of. Other writers that I love are Martin McDonagh, because he just gives the audience so many pay-offs, that watching his work is so satisfying and rewarding. The same goes for Stephen Moffat, the current Doctor Who writer, who just knows what he is doing all the time and effortlessly writes such wonderfully controlled, yet complicated, storylines. I have to give a short nod to my old playwriting teacher Mike Punter too, who was just so enthusiastic about my, and others, playwriting work that he just made me see how much fun it could be.
Best advice you’ve been given about your work?
I think the best advice I’ve had is to just go ahead and do things. I guess it sounds quite simple and obvious, but there have been many times when I’ve almost pulled one of my plays because I’ve been too nervous or doubtful of it and luckily I’ve had people to force me through it and, even luckier, it has been a successful experience so far. So I think the best thing to do, whether you’re confident or not, and even if it doesn’t always go to plan, is just keep working and putting on as many things as you can until it does work out for you.
Advice you’d give to other aspiring writers/playwrights?
Take every opportunity that comes your way. I try to, because in this kind of industry even if you’re good then you’re not definitely going to get noticed, and even if it goes badly every so often, then you’re still young enough to keep trying out different styles, so you just have to keep plugging away until it works out.
Highlight of your career so far?
I would have to say either having my piece headline the Unscene Festival, which was pretty great because I’d been trying to build up my confidence for two years before actually submitting anything for it, or taking something to Windsor Firestation, because it was the first time I had had something shown outside of university, and though it was mainly students watching, it was nice having a fairly professional outfit give me the space to put on something I had written. Just having people enjoy what you do is always highlight.
What is your favourite play?
A Real Inspector Hound by Tom Stoppard. It has everything I like, murder, mystery, meta-theatre, upper middle class characters and a confusing ending. It’s the play that I have based all my writing on in some roundabout way, and it’s a brilliant example of the amount of different and interesting things you can do with theatrical writing.
Which three celebrities (dead or alive) would you invite to your dinner party and why?
Luckily we play this game all the time in our house, so I have a fully thought out list.
The first would have to be Tom Stoppard, because I may as well mention him one more time, and because hopefully he would keep a notebook of all his ideas in his coat pocket that I could steal after I had got him drunk enough to not notice.
The second would be Arthur Conan-Doyle, because I’m a massive fan of the Sherlock Holmes books and just don’t understand how one man can come up with so many ingenious stories. So, I’d invite him to find out just how he tricked us all into thinking one man came up with it all, I suppose.
My last guest would probably be Tom Waits, because I think he’d not only potentially be more fun at a party than the other two, but he’d also be able to play a bit of music for when we all hit that chilled point in the night. And he’s very cool.