Guest Speaker - Roy Williams visits 'Days of Significance' rehearsal

We welcomed leading British playwright, Roy Williams, to The Monkey House on Friday 4 March, where he met the graduating students working on our upcoming production of Days of Significance, and shared an insight into his work as a writer and creative.

 

 

One of Britain’s most prominent dramatists, Roy Williams has been writing plays since 1990 and has received a number of awards for his work, including being the inaugural winner of the Alfred Fagon Award for Best New Play of the Year for Starstruck in 1997, the Evening Standard Award for Most Promising Playwright in 2001 and the OBE for Services to Drama in 2008.

His 2006 play, Days of Significance, was commissioned by the Royal Shakespeare Company as part of its Complete Works Festival and is a loose modern adaption of Much Ado About Nothing, exploring the impact of the Iraq War on the young men who fought in it as well as on those who were left behind at home. A play that delves into how war affect “ordinary” people, Roy’s work on Days of Significance was inspired by wanting to share the perspective of the powerless rather than the powerful, something he felt was missing from cultural discussions and portrayals of the Iraq War at the time:

 

“I was sick and tired of always hearing the same narrative”

Roy Williams on writing from the perspective of “ordinary” men and women.

 

One of four productions featured in Fourth Monkey’s 2022 Contemporary Season, Roy dropped into a Days of Significance rehearsal with the cast and director, Jane Jeffery, where he spent time discussing what inspired his writing when the work was originally commissioned by the RSC, as well as sharing his advice for our graduating actors when tackling some of the play’s central themes. 

 

I think having this insight into his [Roy’s] writing gives every character’s view and comments importance… Everyone has something to say and are important to the world. I think that was important to hear”

Holly Baynes (playing Trish), BA (Hons) Acting student.

 

Our students had an opportunity to ask questions and explore Roy’s work, including exploring the use of language within the play and the responsibility that art has to challenge and prompt debate, as well as to entertain. He shared his belief that actors and directors tackling Days of Significance should think about the context in which certain words and terms were chosen by him as the writer, and to take responsibility for using them once they have fully delved into their history and context.

Roy also shared an insight into his creative process and how Days of Significance has evolved over time, including revising the ending following a “lightbulb moment” ahead of its second performance run at the Tricycle Theatre in London and after seeing the play in action himself.

Of the insights Roy shared into why he likes to see his plays so he can truly understand how certain scenes and characters land with an audience, BA (Hons) Acting student Joe Pike, who plays Jamie in our production, said:

 

It was really interesting hearing about Roy’s journey through the re-write of the play. Being able to work out from audience reactions and from the actors which parts weren’t quite working… Changing how your play ends was a very brave thing to do as a writer.”

 

An insightful and interesting afternoon, Roy was incredibly generous and engaging, ensuring that our students had plenty of opportunities to ask their questions and explore his work and we are delighted to have been able to welcome him to The Monkey House!

Days of Significance is one of our four upcoming Contemporary Season productions alongside Everyman(adapted by Carol Ann Duffy, dir. Scott Brooksbank), Heavy Weather (Lizzie Nunnery, dir. Poppy Rowley) andThis Changes Everything (Joel Horwood, dir. Ellie Jones).

Days of Significance will be performed live by our final year students on 19, 21 and 22 March and tickets are on sale now.

You can learn more about our BA (Hons) Acting – Class of 2022 here.

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