Talking about her generation: Laura Poliakoff's debut play shows she has a voice all of her own

The writer is the daughter of one of Britain's most famous dramatists, Stephen Poliakoff.

Let's start with the similarities. They share the same surname, obviously. And quite a lot of genetic material. And they're both writers. Apart from that, Stephen Poliakoff and Laura Poliakoff don't appear to have an awful lot in common. As Stephen, 59, puts the finishing touches to his first BBC television series, Dancing on the Edge, a typically sumptuous, polished period affair following the fortunes of a black jazz band in 1930s London, his daughter, Laura, 27, is preparing to bring her first play – a sweary, dystopian black comedy set in a grimy old people's home in 2065 – to the stage.

Poliakoff Jr, a history graduate, started out as a researcher on her father's period dramas. "I just trawled through loads of history books and biographies of people who were around at the time. I know what my Dad's looking for – the juicy, real-life stories that he can incorporate into his script, which aren't just facts," she says. Most recently, she worked on Dancing on the Edge, spending several days on set. "I love the period and the music. It's set in 1933 or 1937. Probably 1933. Oh God, this is embarrassing... It's set in the 1930s."

It's all in the past now anyway, as Poliakoff launches a career in her own right. Having left the National Film and Theatre School (NFTS) just over a year ago, tomorrow she will premiere her first play, Clockwork, at HighTide, the Suffolk theatre festival for new writing, whose patrons include David Hare.

The play is set some 50 years in the future in a care home staffed by hoodlum teenagers and clock-watching nurses called Troll Face. Its antiheroes are Carl and Mikey, best friends since childhood, now in their seventies and still wearing Adidas shell-toes and listening to grime. Grumpy, filthy and foul-mouthed, these days their only kicks come from popping pills to the Archers theme tune and hiding porn and cigarettes under their wheelchairs.

"I just liked the idea of imagining my generation as older people. It's quite hard when you talk to your grandparents or go to visit a care home to imagine that everyone in there was a teenager once and that they could have led the most exciting or debauched lives," says Poliakoff, stabbing at the foam on her cappuccino. "I thought it would be an interesting way of looking at old age."

The play also makes a serious point about ageing populations and how society cares for its elderly. Poliakoff's dark vision of the future includes 500,000 centenarians on the loose, a crime wave caused by poverty-stricken pensioners and people with Alzheimer's being implanted with memory chips.

Putting the concerns and vernacular of her peers into the mouths of ageing actors is the kind of witty, eye-catching trick that is bound to see Poliakoff hailed as the next big Young Female Playwright. Reminiscent of an early-era Amy Winehouse in her gold hoop earrings with lashings of eyeliner and dyed hair, she certainly looks the part. Laconic and witty, with a feisty way with words, she sounds it too. At HighTide, Clockwork will run in rep with new plays by similar hot properties Ella Hickson, Vicky Donoghue and Stephanie Street and she is currently enrolled on the Royal Court's starmaking Young Writers' Programme whose alumni include Polly Stenham and Lucy Prebble.

"I am definitely writing for my generation," she says. Is there also an element of rebelling against the emotionally restrained, elegant period dramas that made her parents' names? "I've never consciously thought that I want to be completely different from my parents but I do naturally have a very different style and interests. Obviously – it's a different generation."

Writing is in Poliakoff's blood. Her father, Stephen is a prolific purveyor of countless plays and classy television dramas such as Shooting the Past and Friends and Crocodiles. Her mother, Sandy Welch, is a scriptwriter whose adaptations for the BBC include a Bafta-winning Our Mutual Friend (1999) and an Emmy-nominated Jane Eyre (2007). She grew up in Angel, north London with her younger brother, Alex, and attended the all-girls Francis Holland School. Occasional set visits aside, her childhood wasn't the whirl of beautiful people and glamorous parties seen in her father's dramas. "Our house wasn't like that at all. My parents are quite private people. There weren't actors, directors and other arty people coming through the door every five minutes," she says. "They'd both go off into separate rooms and work for hours. My Dad's room was always covered in scripts because he wrote everything by hand. Still does. He thinks that it forces you to think more about exactly the sentence you are writing if you can't just, you know, write a load of old shit, delete it and edit it. And he's right".

She began writing, inevitably, as a child. "Terrible, terrible things. My Dad would be working towards an important deadline and I'd shove my awful pages in front of his face and he'd say things like, 'Hmm maybe if you reach the end, we'll have a clearer idea of where that was going.' But he was always encouraging." Her departure for university in Bristol inspired its own television drama, Gideon's Daughter, about a widowed father (played by Bill Nighy) coming to terms with his distant daughter (Emily Blunt) flying the nest.

After graduating, she moved back into her childhood home – where she now lives with friends while her parents (now in Hammersmith) try to sell it – and enrolled at film school. There she started writing in earnest and discovered a talent for witty, twisted tales. Bertie Crisp, a short animation about a put-upon bear and his psychopathic rabbit wife, voiced by Tamsin Greig and Kathy Burke, recently won a British Animation Award. Other coursework included Prude, a short film about sexual awakening set in Loch Ness, and a play in which a couple bicker about chlamydia. "I never wrote about female sexuality in order to make a political statement but people have been strangely surprised. 'Oh, you're a woman and you're writing about the fact that women want to have sex'. It shouldn't be a weird thing, but it is."

She's now writing an episode of Doctors – "first proper credit for the Beeb" and has been commissioned to adapt Elizabeth Ridley's novel The Remarkable Journey of Miss Tranby Quirke, about a lesbian affair between a repressed teacher and her student.

Growing up in a writers' household, she says, has taught her the importance of originality and being prepared for criticism. So does she think her surname will be a curse or blessing in future? "Good question," she says. "If people don't think I'm a good writer, it won't help me. I don't think it's going to be a curse but I guess people will be intrigued to see whether I'm terrible or not."

'Clockwork', High Tide Festival, Halesworth, Suffolk (hightide.org.uk) 4 to 13 May

Arts and Entertainment
On The Apprentice, “serious” left the room many moons ago and yet still we watch

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from David Ayer's 'Fury'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift performs at the 2014 iHeart Radio Music Festival
music review
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Anderson plays Arthur Shelby in Peaky Blinders series two
tvReview: Arthur Shelby Jr seems to be losing his mind as his younger brother lets him run riot in London
Arts and Entertainment
Miranda Hart has called time on her award-winning BBC sitcom, Miranda
tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Boy George performing with Culture Club at Heaven

musicReview: Culture Club performs live for first time in 12 years

Arts and Entertainment
Laura Wood, winner of the Montegrappa Scholastic Prize for New Children’s Writing
books

Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search

Arts and Entertainment
Pulling the strings: Spira Mirabilis

music
Arts and Entertainment
Neville's Island at Duke of York's theatre
musicReview: The production has been cleverly cast with a quartet of comic performers best known for the work on television
Arts and Entertainment
Banksy's 'The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' in Bristol

art
Arts and Entertainment
Lynda Bellingham stars in her last Oxo advert with on-screen husband Michael Redfern

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman

film
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Minchin portrait
For a no-holds-barred performer who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, Tim Minchin is surprisingly gentle
Arts and Entertainment
Clara takes the lead in 'Flatline' while the Doctor remains in the Tardis
tvReview: The 'Impossible Girl' earns some companion stripes... but she’s still annoying in 'Dr Who, Flatline'
Arts and Entertainment
Joy Division photographed around Waterloo Road, Stockport, near Strawberry Studios. The band are Bernard Sumner (guitar and keyboards), Stephen Morris (drums and percussion), Ian Curtis (vocals and occasional guitar), Peter Hook (bass guitar and backing vocals).
books
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Harris in 'The Goob' film photocall, at the Venice International Film Festival 2014
filmThe Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Streisand is his true inspiration
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor contestant Fleur East
tvReview: Some lacklustre performances - but the usual frontrunners continue to excel
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Tuttle's installation in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern
artAs two major London galleries put textiles in the spotlight, the poor relation of the creative world is getting recognition it deserves
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman
film
Arts and Entertainment
On top of the world: Actress Cate Blanchett and author Richard Flanagan
artsRichard Flanagan's Man Booker win has put paid to the myth that antipodean artists lack culture
Arts and Entertainment
The Everyman, revamped by Haworth Tompkins
architectureIt beats strong shortlist that included the Shard, the Library of Birmingham, and the London Aquatics Centre
Arts and Entertainment
Justice is served: Robert Downey Jr, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong and Robert Duvall in ‘The Judge’

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Clive Owen (centre) in 'The Knick'

TV

Arts and Entertainment
J.K. Simmons , left, and Miles Teller in a scene from

Film

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

    Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

    The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
    Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

    Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

    The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
    DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

    Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

    Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
    The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

    Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

    The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

    The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
    Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

    Paul Scholes column

    I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
    Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
    Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

    Lost in translation: Western monikers

    Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
    Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

    Handy hacks that make life easier

    New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
    KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

    KidZania: It's a small world

    The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker