Terry Bailey runs the MA in Scriptwriting (Screen and Radio) in the Department of Theatre, Film and Television at Aberystwyth University. He also teaches screenwriting at undergraduate level. Although Terry has a background in writing for television and radio, both in Britain and in his native Canada, he had not written for the stage before joining the Writing for Performance Group almost four years ago and Grave Men Near Death is his first full length play.
In Grave Men Near Death, two mismatched old men confront mortality – and each other – in this darkly comic play. Old school gangster Eddie is up to no good with hypersensitive aesthete Walter. They’re beset by friends, enemies and victims, without being quite sure which is which or who is using who. In the world of shady dealings, it can be hard to tell.
Terry Bailey spoke to us about the play and his experience of developing it from a short play to a full-length play.
Q: The publicity for this play has a quote from the director, David Blumfield, which reads, ‘If Harold Pinter had written a sitcom, it might have looked like Grave Men, Near Death‘. How did the idea come about?
A: I confess that I had seen a Pinter play just before I got the idea … but the inspiration actually came from a session with students. I run the MA in Scriptwriting in Aberystwyth University’s Department of Theatre, Film and Television Studies. One of my students was giving a presentation, and something he said triggered a whole cascade of ideas.
Q: So you started writing a play in your mind, rather than listening to your student?
A: Oh, no, I listened to my student, too! I can multi-task.
Q: I believe Grave Men, Near Death started out as a short play, didn’t it?
A: Sandra Bendelow runs a ‘Writing for Performance’ group at the Arts Centre, which did two evenings of short plays in the Autumn of 2012. I wrote a fifteen minute version of Grave Men, Near Death for that. It went over very well, but even then I knew I wanted to expand it.
Q: Your background is in television. Was that your first play?
A: Other than a short monologue, which I also wrote for the Writing for Performance Group, it was my first play. Plays impose some different rules than television, but that makes for a refreshing change. It’s fun to be able to include long comic monologues in a piece like Grave Men, Near Death. By and large, though, there are a lot of similarities in dramatic structure between different media, so I didn’t find the process too stressful. In fact, I want to write for the theatre more often.
Q: Have you been attending rehearsals?
A: Yes, and it’s looking great. We have some very talented actors and a wonderful director. I’ve really enjoyed watching the play take shape.
Q: Do you have a favourite character?
A: No, they’re all equally grotesque. I mean that in a good way!
The play is directed by David Blumfield, performed by Tom O’Malley, Roger Boyle, Stephanie Tillotson, Jim Finnis, Lindsay Blumfield and Joe Blunt. It is produced by Scriptography Productions . It was originally developed for Aberyswtyth Arts Centre’s Writing for Performance Group PlayPen project through the Open Platform.
It is on at Aberystwyth Arts Centre on Wednesday 12th March and Thursday 13th March, 7.45PM
For tickets call 01970 623232 or book on-line www.aber.ac.uk/artscentre