The Planning Stage by Matt Christmas. Illustration by Boz Groden
INTERVIEWER: First of all, congratulations on your new play.
A: Thank you, Thom.
INTERVIEWER: A lot of people are calling it your best work to date.
A: Well that’s immensely gratifying of course.
I and the rest of the creative team have been pretty thrilled with the reaction so far. We always felt we had a really strong concept
right from day one. The tough part was
finding that special something to hold it all together, that hook that gave such massive themes a relatable context. Because, after all, I’ve always been clear that I’m writing to reach as wide an audience as possible, so it’s really important to me that the characters speak to and for the metaphorical man in the street.
INTERVIEWER: And that “something” has its roots in the depiction of a father’s relationship with his son, right?
A: Primarily, yes.
INTERVIEWER: The exploration of the father/son dynamic is something that crops up in a lot of your work, is that part of the way you seek to speak to that “man in the street”?
A: Absolutely, and I think all those previous pieces you’re alluding to have been laying the groundwork for this story, this particular father/son narrative. I hesitate to call it the greatest father/son story ever told, but I think it’s up there!
INTERVIEWER: Sure, sure. However, one criticism that has been laid at your door is that your plays lack strong female characters. How would you respond to that?
A: What do you mean?
INTERVIEWER: Just that your plays have been accused, in some quarters, of being overly male-centric, often side-lining female characters to the point that they become cyphers rather than fully formed characters.
A: I don’t think that’s at all fair. And anyway, name one writer currently working who doesn’t prioritise their male characters. Trust me, the time will come when that’ll change, but in the current social climate it’s all about exploring the male condition…
INTERVIEWER: But surely that doesn’t make it right? And can you understand how some people may believe that your attitude simply serves to perpetuate the current social climate? Someone in your position, with the wide-ranging influence you have as an opinion former, could begin to redress the gender imbalance so that…
A: Let me just stop you there for a moment because I see what you’re suggesting and I just have to say that in my younger days I, like you apparently, was possessed of a more activist, even interventionist, streak. That’s not a criticism, by the way, far from it. And I completely agree that women currently get a pretty raw deal and that should certainly change. The thing is, though, the longer I’ve stuck around in this old world the more I’ve realised that forced, rapid change is seldom for the best. People need to come to realise their misjudgements naturally, only then can they really commit to being better and making the world better in the way that you’re talking about. Look, we’re just telling a story here, and it has a lot of really positive messages and ideas for those that wish to hear them. If it encourages just one person to be more compassionate, loving and forgiving, it will have made a positive difference. And maybe – just maybe – my alleged “side-lining” of female characters is actually part of a more complex plan to encourage people to notice the gender imbalance and engage with the issue on a more fundamental level. Have you ever considered that?
INTERVIEWER: I’m sorry, but that just feels like an evasion of the worst kind.
A: I believe your five minutes are up. Thank you again, Thom. It’s been a pleasure as always.
The Planning Stage by Matt Christmas is part of the Earcandy audio drama project by Scriptography Productions. 12 plays by 13 writers, 15 performers playing over 50 characters. Listen to The Planning Stage at the EarCandy website. Follow the project www.facebook.com/earcandyaudiodrama or @earcandy_plays