Timberlake Wertenbaker: The playwright on making trouble, cheering for a Greek revolution and premature reports of her demise

Wertenbaker has been a resident writer for the Royal Court, and is Professor of Playwriting at UEA

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The Independent Online

History is always a way of looking at the present It's more detached than if you write a play about a revolution happening now [Wertenbaker's new play, Jefferson's Garden, is about the American War of Independence]. I became interested in the idea of freedom and revolution and the extent to which one will go to get that freedom.

I'm not a total pacifist In some instances I would fight, because there are some causes I believe in enough. But the price people pay is what really interests me. When you've done something for an ideal, how does that ideal then manifest itself? Having grown up in the Basque country, I'm obviously terribly aware of this question. All you can really do when you write a play is take a question that troubles you and make more trouble!

Completely entwined in the question of freedom is the question of privilege If you're free yourself but you are living with a certain kind of privilege – and obviously everyone in the West does – you have to ask yourself, who is paying for it with their own freedom? I can't say when I buy an item of clothing I'm totally aware of how it's been made and who's lost their freedom.

How free can you be with facts? I don't think you can just write a travesty of history – I've seen very good plays that do that, but it's not what I do. You have a responsibility to be as truthful as possible – but I'm not writing a history, I'm writing a play.

Plays should reflect the world they're in You would have been excused in the past, having seen some plays, for thinking that the world is populated by white men. It's changing – though not fast enough – and the more it changes, the better.

To say that I teach playwriting is putting it very grandly I sort of muck around a bit – and I enjoy it.

I was outraged when Labour allowed tuition fees to go through And the Liberal Democrats abandoning their pledge to scrap fees was heartbreaking. My daughter was just beginning university, she was so excited about the Lib Dems, and it's put her off politics for years – you had an entire generation that was enthused by Nick Clegg, and to have betrayed that so casually… It could have been non-negotiable but they negotiated it. It's betrayed a generation, and I find that very hard to forgive.

I watched the Greek election with great interest I feel hopeful. It's so nice to have a politician stand up and say: this is not the way things have to go. We're all thinking within very narrow economic confines – we've been told something and it's been repeated and repeated and we believe it. And I'm just not sure. The night before the election, a reporter was saying, "Well, the markets are going to go crazy" – they hardly budged. You control people through fear, this threat of the markets.

I asked to adapt 'War and Peace' for the radio I didn't think anybody would say yes… It was a challenge but it was wonderful to be intimate with such a great writer and wonderful man.

I love my plays being taught in schools But it's a little bit embarrassing when I meet someone and they say, "I thought you were dead…"

Timberlake Wertenbaker is a playwright living in London. She has been a resident writer for the Royal Court, and is Professor of Playwriting at UEA. A revival of her celebrated play 'Our Country's Good' is at the National Theatre, London SE1, from August; her latest play, 'Jefferson's Garden', is at Watford Palace Theatre to 21 February

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