Cambridge Writers: Week 3
Tanne Spielman talks to Kat Griffiths, playwright and novelist
by Tanne Spielman
Thursday 3rd February 2011, 21:32 GMT
What makes theatre different as a writer as opposed to poetry or prose?
I’m more self-indulgent with the latter two, which can be nice. With theatre I feel a much greater sense of responsibility to my audience, or at least I gained one whilst watching my first play and now I’m aware of it while writing. It’s easy to close a book, but most people feel trapped in bad or even offensive productions, forced to sit there until they saunter out exclaiming “Well I’ll never get that hour of my life back!” I like to give people their attention’s worth – nobody sauntered or stormed out of The Cure, but I really enjoyed watching jaws drop and people blushing in the front row.
What is it like writing a novel at Cambridge?
Really great – nice and safe, if also frustrating. Writing a novel and choosing not to be otherwise engaged will require much more bravery and/or stupidity. Luckily I have plenty of both.
What writing project have you most enjoyed taking part in?
I had a whale of a night writing for the 24-hour plays. I got deliriously happy. I was at the height of insomnia at the time, and I’d been miserable, so I very much enjoyed impressing the cast and crew by looking “so together”. The next morning when I had had my usual amount of zero hours sleep, I had spent the night writing comedy about the clinically insane, which was alarmingly easy and natural.
Do you have any advice for budding new writers?
As a budding new writer myself, I’d say... "Just stop now. Leave. I’ll take it all from here." Actually some genuinely good advice I was given ages ago is to never stop writing. A woman on my work experience stood next the office water-cooler and dispensed that advice as though eliciting a promise from me. She was very serious. Never stop writing.
How has studying English influenced your writing?
I’ve read a lot of magnificently inspiring literature I would otherwise not have. I’ve read various strains of published drivel that I know I can do better than, and as a result of my degree choice I’m fantastically unemployable – no distractions.
Which writer most inspires you?
This is going to sound grotesquely corny, but it’s definitely my friends. When we see each other doing stuff it gets the juices flowing, makes us itchy and sort of healthily jealous, you might even say inspired. We’re taking it in turns to put out (creatively).
How do you see the literary scene in Cambridge as a means to get your work showcased?
It is nice, isn’t it? I see new writing and I go “I want that. Now.” I never intended to be a playwright before I came here, then I saw Struts and Frets at the ADC and had to write a play. This summer at the Fringe was incredibly rewarding for my writing, and, dare I say, my career. I took The Cure up with Simon Haines, the writer of Struts and Frets, and now one of my closest friends. So I suppose the real means and ends involved are people – audience, critics, co-workers, friends – people are the best thing to be gained from this university and its various scenes.
Hands tied down, poetry, theatre or prose and why?
It’s not that I don’t ever like to have my hands tied, but I’m just not like that about art. The ideas happen first, and sometimes I know exactly what I’m getting myself into, but usually it all moves back and forth until it finds its supreme form.
Would you ever consider going into journalism?
I just have. Well, ‘journalism’ might be a strong word for it – I’m writing a sex blog for Varsity. It’s called The Swearbox, and it’s primarily aimed at straight men, but all peoples appeared to enjoy the first hit. I wouldn’t want it as a profession though.
What are your aspirations for writing in the future?
Write or die. Do it uncompromisingly just as long as I’m getting and giving kicks.
Any upcoming projects?
I’ve written my second play, and I’m currently scouting directors to put it on at the beginning of next term. It’s called The Juveniles, and I don’t generally like ascribing genres to my work, but I’d say it’s a farcical gut-wrencher with a happy ending. Apply within.