I first started working on …Nightjars around 2011 which was the ten year anniversary of the Foot and Mouth crisis of 2001. For me and friends of mine who grew up rurally this prompted a flood of memories and discussion; we swapped stories of that strange singular time when the countryside was ‘closed’, the roads were littered with disinfectant sodden straw and smoking pyres haunted our horizons and TV screens. Somehow though, this anniversary seemed to go unnoticed by the mainstream media. All that pain and destruction was a footnote for most of the press and, to the best of my knowledge, almost entirely ignored by the arts community. A friend told me of how the crises had affected his dad who’d worked as a vet, often having to kill the animals of farmers he’d worked with – and that relationship was the seed of an idea I bought to Sharon Clark at Bristol Old Vic.
Back in 2011, I was only just out of drama school, a very new playwright trying to work out how to be a ‘proper writer’ and I soon learnt that setting deadlines with Sharon was a fantastic spur and framework to writing. My working with Sharon came about after asking to meet her for a coffee and then repeatedly asking to return for coffee and notes on the fledgling script. She was (and remains to be) a great mentor; insightful, patient and sufficiently scary that I never wanted to disappoint her with sloppy work or missed deadlines. Two years later, the script was ready for a rehearsed reading at Bristol Old Vic Ferment Fortnight which helped knock it into shape further and spurred the next draft. After winning the Theatre503 Playwriting award in November 2014, more work lay ahead with the Theatre503 team who’ve bought a diligence and care for both the subject matter and the script that I could only have dreamed of.
The play you’ll see on stage is the culmination of four years work, hours of discussion, the talents of many, many people and so many redrafts I’ve lost count. I feel very excited and privileged to bring …Nightjars to Bristol Old Vic; I hope you enjoy the show.
Photos by Jack Sain