centrepiece: A holiday in Hell

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The Independent Culture
This Island's Mine, Philip Osment's first full-length play, had a cast of seven playing 46 roles including a mixed-race lesbian couple, a barbershop trio and an ageing cat. Written before Section 28 was even a nasty glint in a bigot's eye, the play defied the new homophobic legislation with two sell-out runs at the Drill Hall in 1988, followed by a national tour. The play opened with a schoolboy on the brink of escaping from his home town, a subject Osment returns to in What I Did in the Holidays (left).

"I started to write about the true story of two brothers and a sister who were found shot dead on a farm." A month later, severely depressed by the suicidal story, he stopped. "Instead, I began writing about what I really wanted to write about, being a little boy growing up in Devon, knowing that you don't fit in and that you are never going to escape." Unlike the true story, this one has a sense of hope. "We lived on a main road which gave us unexpected windows, little pockets of time when hitchhikers or campers would turn up and bring something very different into our tiny world."

Devon doesn't immediately spring to mind as an ideal dramatic setting, and Osment recognises that certain artistic directors in search of serial killers and sensationalism don't find his work fashionable. "There's a gentleness about it, even though there's the potential for violence all the way through." He pauses and laughs. "Perhaps if I'd written the original play where those people shot themselves it would be more trendy."

David Benedict

`What I Did in the Holidays' opens at the Drill Hall, WC1 on 11 Apr (0171-637 8270)