After that I was invited to join the RSC’s writers workshop. I developed a good relationship with the Royal Court, which was interested in a play I was writing. I was on the cusp as they say but, sadly, it transpired I was on the cusp of nothing! Besides, I was getting dangerously low on funds and the need to find a real job was really pressing. After I moved to the States, I developed a great relationship with a fringe-type theatre in Washington DC, which produced a number of my plays in its summer festivals. Never made any money, but I got to see my stuff done and even won an award or two.
Always loved the process of seeing a play come to life and then re-writing the thing! I also liked working with actors, we have some great ones in Washington.
Are you still writing plays?
Funny you should ask that! I’m actually dramatizing certain scenes from A Yank Back To England for a theatrical presentation, with actors playing various parts. Don’t know how it will work out but we’ll be performing the piece at the Arts Club of Washington and at Barnes & Noble in New York, on Broadway, no less! So we’ll see how that goes... (if anyone is interested, dates and times can be found on our website, http://ayankbacktoengland.com/prodigaltourist).
How did you decide you wanted to be a writer?
Never imagined myself as a writer. It all happened by chance. I actually wanted to work in movies! Not as an actor or anything like that, but behind the scenes. I met Cy Endfield, a film director and a keen amateur magician, an American living very nicely in England, having made a number of British films, then a break-out movie called Zulu. He would come around on occasion to the magic shop where I worked. On one such visit I plucked up courage and asked him for a job, I said I’d be a tea boy, errand boy, anything!
Cynically, he told me that was impossible because the unions had every job sewn up and I would not be able to break in. He suggested, rather flippantly, that I write a screenplay and build a picture around that. I was around 18, 19 at the time, and quite naïve, so I wrote a screenplay and sent it to him. A month later, he called me up, said there was a lot wrong with the script, but it had promise and I had an “ear” for dialog. I was amazed! So I wrote more, quit the magic game, and went to work for Cy full time,
At first I was just a general dogs-body but eventually we ended up collaborating on scripts together. He was a harsh critic but I learnt a lot from him. And he had a mine of Hollywood stories from the Forties which I loved to hear. And of course, by this time, I never wanted to do anything other than write.