A heart to heart with… playwright Tom Morton-Smith 22/10/2013


1. If you could have anyone’s heart, whose would it be and why?

There’s a quote I like very much from Nikola Tesla. I’ve just had to look it up to get the wording right, but it goes: ‘I do not think there is any thrill that can go through the human heart like that felt by the inventor as he sees some creation of the brain unfolding to success … such emotions make a man forget food, sleep, friends, love, everything.’ Not wishing to draw too much of a comparison between writing my play and his pioneering work in the fields of electricity and radiowaves, but I can see where he’s coming from. That thrill in the heart when actors start speaking my characters’ lines … when their world, previously only existing within my mind, starts to manifest … it’s a feeling like no other. So I’ll have Tesla’s heart, thank you very much. Though my own seems to be functioning just fine right now, and I don’t much fancy the surgery, so I’ll put his on display somewhere. It’ll serve as inspiration. On my desk. In a jar. As a gruesome paperweight. Perhaps.

2. What was the inspiration for your play In Doggerland?

There were several things: an article on medical tourism sparked an interest in transplantation; a documentary on British coastal erosion that introduced me to the fates of the villages of Skipsea and Happisburgh; a Mark Ravenhill play about twins which I saw at the Royal Court; and a special episode of Time Team that revealed the long drowned Mesolithic landscape of Doggerland beneath the North Sea. All of these things shared my headspace at the same time, and eventually gave birth to this play.

3. What does home mean to you?

It’s a place of safety; familiar and familial. It’s the place I put on my pajamas. It’s where I live and where I work and where I hope to get back to at the end of every day.

4. What is your favourite word and why?

I do love German words that have no direct translation into English, like the word ‘waldeinsamkeit’, which is the feeling of being alone in the woods. Or ‘kummerspeck’, which is the weight you put on through comfort eating, literally ‘grief bacon’. The word ‘earworm’ (which means a song that gets stuck in your head) makes an appearance in the play, and found itself way into English via the German. Though I guess my favourite English word is ‘counterintuitive’ – I don’t know why, it’s just a very pleasing word to say. I tend to shoehorn it into as many conversations as I can. ‘Shoehorn’ is also a very good word.

5. What was the last photo you took? 

I was rather proud of this quiche.