"His first play on the professional stage was Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, performed at the London Old Vic in 1967. Still perhaps his most famous play, it revisits Hamlet from the point of view of two characters on the sidelines of Shakespeare's tragedy, through the filter of Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot.
Even at that time, he admits, he had not yet found a distinctive voice. "It was so clearly taking from Waiting for Godot. Rosencrantz & Guildenstern was a combination of my own voice and what was in the air around me. I don't even know what my voice is to this day."
But it did teach him a valuable lesson, which he now passes on to the many aspiring young playwrights who send him their work in the hope that he will "somehow get it through security".
"Until that happened, it seemed to me that people who had plays on at the Old Vic represented a possibility only open to truly exceptional and gifted people. I never saw it from the other perspective, from the perspective of the theatre, a director or producer who depended on finding decent stuff to put on and grabbed it gratefully if they came across anything at all.""
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