New Tricks: Close to home 04/05/2017

To say I’m my father’s first born son would be a lie. He has no sons born. None of his own at all. But what makes something your own? Still, I carry the tradition by having his name, David. David Judge. Two David Judges. One white. One brown. One adult. One child. One likes Rod Stewart. The other, Michael Jackson. No blood but the same name. No blood but father and son. No blood but together forever. The makings of a really awkward, but a beautifully honest, love story and Box of Tricks said write it!

So many ideas! So many wonderful things to play with! Dave and his car! Let’s have a car on stage! We can make soundscapes from window wipers! Build tension with the ticking of an indicator! Set times and dates by make and model of the car! Who’s story is it? Dave’s? David’s? David’s memory of Dave? We could have a disclaimer! Music! Mix tapes! Cassettes!  Jacko, Rod UB40 and Pump up the fucking Jam!!!

So many rules to be broke and fun to be had but suddenly, the Sunday before the week of R&D, there is a big empty on the ideas page of my brain. Nerves kick in, suicide looms and a pen seems as much help to a piece of paper as chopsticks offer a Sunday roast. Who do I think I am? Who am I blagging? Who’s letting me get away with this? Writing plays. I still feel intimidated and uneducated just at the thought of playwriting, plays, theatre, this world. So the thought of going into a room with an experienced director and professional actor and asking them to buy into a story from my life, about my Dad and why I love him felt a bit narcissistic, private and not important to the world today. Maybe? I wasn’t sure but I was definitely scared.

Luckily I mask my fear with cheap confidence so hopefully neither Hannah or Jason noticed how petrified I was on the first day over at the Unity Theatre. So many ideas but such a big mouth. I don’t think I stopped talking straight through to lunch. My mouth didn’t relent and by the end of the day everyone was well informed of my life, from conception to puberty. Still no play. Just a couple of scenes and a few poems but a wonderful director and patient actor, who had helped me make this the story of DAVE, our protagonist to be and not just the celebrations of a very grateful son

After some loose uniting and hole spotting, we were knee deep in Dave. I asked Jason to re-write one of my poems in Dave’s words. The next day, Wednesday, when Jason shared Dave’s poem that was when I knew we had a body of work that was tangible and exciting. A day of dramturgy with Hannah was a much needed chance to clear up some of our discoveries and turn the moments I had wrote into a story with beginning, middle and end.

Brilliant! I’m David! I’m writing scenes! Pen and paper are talking the same language again and I think I have a story, characters, ups, downs, a beginning, a middle and an end. Throughout the week I saw it meaning more to the people in the room. I felt how it could mean more outside the room. It was beginning to feel universal and that felt great. No more indulgence. No family therapy disguised as a play for all to see. This was a love story that treads the blurry lines of parenthood and that made me a happy, little, blagger, writer, person.

At the end of the week, we had invited audience made up of Box of Tricks’ associates and core team and the Unity Theatre Liverpool team. The highlight for me was the audience’s reaction to the sharing. Their responses were so specific and complete, where as my play was full of gaps and lacked momentum. So I thought. This left me super excited to complete a first draft, discover the language of the car and share again. So hopefully that will happen over the next year. Watch this space!


New Tricks is our flagship programme of new plays in development. Continuing our commitment to the next generation of playwrights, Box of Tricks commissions the most exciting voices to write a new play for future production in collaboration with a partner theatre. Supported by Unity Theatre Liverpool, via their ‘Out of Space: Play Space’ programme, our New Tricks development week ran from 27th-31st March 2017.