The playwright: Lucy Kirkwood
Saturday 27 December 2008
Meet Lucy Kirkwood, a young playwright with a singular – and just a little bit dark – dramatic vision. Her first play, Tinderbox, was described as "Joe Orton's Entertaining Mr Sloane as rewritten by the League of Gentleman" while her bold, rip-roaring take on Hedda Gabler, at the Gate Theatre, transposed Ibsen's classic drama to 21st-century Notting Hill where, instead of flinging Lovborg's manuscript on the fire, in a thrilling coup de théâtre, Hedda gulped down the memory chip containing his life's work.
Kirkwood was midway through a degree in English at Edinburgh when she took a surprise call from Caryl Churchill's agent, Mel Kenyon, requesting a meeting. It turned out that her short play Grady Hot Potato, having been rejected by the National Student Drama Festival, had been passed to the jury of the prestigious PMA award – and Kenyon and her fellow judges had deemed it a worthy winner. From there she received her first two professional commissions, from the National Theatre studio (a work still in progress) and the Bush, where Tinderbox opened in April.
It was while holed away "like a hermit" in Northumberland, writing the dystopian fairytale Tinderbox, that she took another surprising call, this time from the producers of Skins, asking her to join their writing team. Kirkwood didn't have a TV at the time and had never heard of the hit teen soap. "My sister, who is much younger and trendier than me, couldn't believe it ..."
For now she's hard at work on a couple of new theatre commissions, a new episode of Skins and a TV script for Kudos. Who's her inspiration? "I like playwrights who deal with big ideas," she says. "Caryl Churchill does it with humour and delicacy but she's also kind of cut-throat. If I were to aspire to one thing, it's that quality."
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