My Edinburgh: Simon Stephens, Playwright


Click to follow
The Independent Culture

I moved to Edinburgh in 1992 and lived there for two years. Looking back, it seems that I served a sort of apprenticeship there. The city defined me.

The necessary subject of drama is humanity. Edinburgh is a city that lends itself to people. The city is small enough to walk around so that people can "call for one another" in a way that never happens in London. The tenements and shops felt as charged by conversation as the pubs.

I worked in a whole series of jobs there. I worked as a DJ for a mobile-disco company. I worked as a door-to-door salesman. I worked mostly in a cafe above a bookshop across the road from the Assembly Rooms.

I grew up in a town in which "clever" was an insult. My desire to become a playwright was alternately met with suspicion and downright derision. Edinburgh, in contrast, felt like a city in which intellectual effort was something to be celebrated and my desire to write was encouraged, as much by the working mums that I shared my shifts with as by anybody I met in any theatre.

When I lived there, the Festival felt as though it bloomed out of this faith in thought and creativity. To my surprise, the people of Edinburgh seemed to savour the Festival more than they resented it. It is the relationship between the city and the energy of those weeks that makes them such a joy to return to.

Morning, Traverse Theatre (0131 228 1404) to 19 August, not 13

Simon Stephens' Must-See Events

I'm excited about seeing the directorial debut of Joel Horwood (I Heart Peterborough, Pleasance Courtyard). He's a brilliant writer, who writes with humanity and wise, wise humour. This year, I'm going to try to find a first play by a new writer to see. Staging my first plays in Edinburgh was an invaluable experience for me. I want to find somebody doing the same thing now and buy them a pint afterwards. Tweet me if that includes you @StephensSimon.