Writing Plays
with Vicki Berwick

by Natalie Baines

I was lucky enough to work with Vicki Berwick, let’s just say ‘a few years ago’ when we were at Egmont together. Vicki talked then about how she dreamed of writing plays and she has now made this dream a reality.

I’m thrilled to welcome Vicki to WritingNV to tell us all about her career to date and hopefully her journey will inspire you too.

Writing Plays: Can you tell us how old you were when you first started writing?

I started writing plays during my theatre studies A-level. I knew I liked theatre, but I also knew acting wasn’t for me, and then it dawned on me that it was writing drama I was interested in.  

Writing Plays: Where do you get your inspiration from?

I listen to Radio 4 all day long- I’m obsessed! I hear a lot of news stories and these often find their way into my writing which helps as it makes my plays more topical. Other times though I might overhear a conversation and something in it will spark an idea. I’m very good at listening in to other people’s conversations!  

Writing Plays: What does your typical writing day look like?

Well nothing happens until I’ve dropped my two children at school. Then I get home, make coffee and start writing. I don’t tend to read what I wrote the day before as I want to come to the piece completely fresh. Then I will read it all back. But often I write in short bursts. And write in the small gaps I have. So often this can be in Notes on my phone for example while I’m waiting to pick my children up. I travel by train a lot and this is also a good time to write.

Writing Plays: You're a busy mum of two. How do you fit everything in?

I think actually having less time is far more motivating for me. I’m very good at staring out a window, and sometimes this can be really useful as ideas form in that space. But it’s also a good delaying tactic. So if I know I’ve got a limited time to write it helps me focus.

Writing Plays: Your background is in PR and book publishing. How has that experience helped or hindered your own writing?

I think being around writers a lot has helped me see how it’s a real job. But also that it’s not always easy, and it’s ok to get things wrong. But most of all it makes me very ambitious. I tend to work with very successful writers which I think teaches you to aim high.

Writing Plays: Was there anything in particular that made you decide to really go for it with your own writing?

I think the big thing was finally having a bit more time. My second child started school and suddenly I had some spare time outside of the publishing work and thought, well, now I really have no excuse not to write. And I’ve not looked back since.

Writing Plays: When did you first have the idea for Lucky? Can you tell us what the play is about and where we can see it?

Lucky is set on a train and is about a conversation between an elderly old man and a teenage girl. At first they seem worlds apart, not just in age but their backgrounds too. As they open up to each other they realise they have more in common than they first thought and form a bond that changes their lives forever.

I first had the idea when I was on a train myself and I thought the old man opposite me was crying. It made me think about what I would do and I started writing the play there and then on the train on my phone.
Lucky has now been on in two theatres in London but I don’t have plans for it to be on again right now as I’m focused on a new play I’m working on for the Spring.

Writing Plays: Have you ever felt like giving up?

Yes A LOT. I’m not good with self belief and that is a huge part of writing. But I have friends who are playwrights and I really trust their opinions and I ask them to read my scripts and give me feedback and that really helps me. 

Writing Plays: What's the best thing about becoming a playwright? What are you most looking forward to?

I love seeing actors bring my writing to life and seeing directors bring new ideas to a piece. I love that it’s all about creating a moment. And I love to move people- either to tears or laughter. It’s a very special feeling.

Writing Plays: What are your career highlights so far?

Well it’s still early days but having Lucky on in two different theatres in London was a great learning experience. It’s brought about industry meetings that wouldn’t have happened otherwise and has given me the confidence to keep writing.

Writing Plays: What are you currently working on?

I’m working on a couple of pieces at the moment. One is a retelling of an Ancient Greek tragedy which is a one woman play. I’m also working on a radio drama idea and there’s another piece which I’m not sure what it is yet. I just have these two characters in my head and I keep writing bits and pieces down. So we will see where that goes.

Writing Plays: Our website is called WritingNV.com In that spirit can you tell us if there are any writers who make you green with envy?

I’m not sure it’s envy but complete admiration. I love the writer Marina Carr. I read her plays and I really feel they are in a completely different league.

Writing Plays: Do you have any advice for anyone whose ambition is to become a playwright or any kind of writer?

I heard Tom Stoppard say in an interview once ‘it’s only going to happen when you are at your desk, writing’ and I think of that a lot. It’s all very well talking about something but you have to take risks and make it happen too. Don’t wait for someone else to make it happen for you.

Thank you so much to Vicki for joining us. You can keep up to date with Vicki's work via her twitter @vickiberwick and Instagram @vicki.berwick pages.

Read more inspiring interviews...

·        Vashti Hardy, author of Brightstorm
·         Katherine Wiseman, author of Gangster School
·         Tony Bradman, lead author of Project X
·        Jini Reddy, author of Wild Times
·        Lorraine Cannell, author of Hollow

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