When I was about 6, I used to walk to school. It was only around the corner, there were no roads to cross, loads of kids from our street went, so I used to walk, with my friends or on my own. It was the first day back after the holidays. I arrived at the school gate, and found it locked. Locked! 60 years later I still remember the feeling of devastation of being locked out. All the other children were inside and I was shut out. Dreadful. Of course, it turned out that my mum had sent me back a day early! A neighbour found me, a teary smeary wreck, and took me home.
So, no damage done, but all these years later the memory was triggered when Dave Johnston, the artistic director of Tangere theatre (with whom Phil Clark and I developed the play), suggested the idea of telling the familiar story of the Pied Piper from the point of view of the lame boy, who was locked out of the mountain.
Over the last 20 years or so, I’ve done lots of work with disability theatre companies like Graeae or Mind the Gap. I always say, I’m doing nobody any favours here. The work produced by those companies is top-notch and expands our understanding of what it is to be truly human. I get at least as much as I give. But lately, and not before time, this work is starting to break out of the ghetto.
In spite of the fact that I loved the initial idea, it took me a long, long time to get going with it. Sometimes it’s like that. You can’t see for looking. I don’t know how other writers work, but I don’t have an idea in my head, then write it down. Always, I work it out on the page. It’s like a journey of discovery. Sometimes I have to dig for a long time before I find anything.
We talked about communities that had lost their children, – the girls that Boku Haram had stolen in Nigeria, the children of Aberfan – but I didn’t feel qualified to write about those things. And in any case, it didn’t feel like the subject of our play. So we actually put it to bed. Gave up.
Then one night I was watching the news and saw the grainy images of the 3 girls from Bethnal Green that had run away to join Isis. And I thought, that’s it! These children weren’t stolen, they chose go. They were seduced. They heard a tune that we couldn’t, and they went. And suddenly I found myself with a play that needed writing.
We were coming up to the Brexit vote, and the subject matter of a place in which the ruled had lost faith in the rulers seemed very relevant. A place where the young were disillusioned with the old had real resonance, and the play just tumbled out of me.
So we have ended up with a story from a very long time ago, polished up by Browning in Victorian Britain, retold for our times. I hope people like it.
Follow me | Dewch Gyda Fi tours across Wales this March 2017, directed by Phil Clark.
It stars Jay Lusted as Jimmy (recently seen on BBC’s; Born Small : The Wedding), with music created and performed by Chris Preece.
Performances are in English and in Welsh, with Welsh translation by Menna Elfyn.
9.03.17 11am & 2pm*
Theatr Brycheiniog, Brecon 01874 611 622
15.03.17 1pm & 4.30pm*
Taliesin Arts Centre, Swansea
Canolfan y Celfyddydau Taliesin, Abertawe
01792 60 20 60
16.03.17 10.30am* & 1.15pm
The Welfare, Ystradgynlais
Y Neuadd Les, Ystradgynlais
Torch Theatre Milford Haven
Theatr y Torch, Aberdaugleddau
Canolfan y Celfyddydau Aberystwyth Arts Centre
01970 62 32 32
Neuadd Dwyfor, Pwllheli
Pavilion Theatre Rhyl
Theatr Pafiliwn Rhyl
01745 33 00 00
*Perfformiad yn Gymraeg | Performance in Welsh