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An interview with Wendy Dickinson: Masterclass’ Pitch Your Play winner

9 September 2018 Georgie Anderson

In a landscape of declining arts funding and increasing rent, the pursuit of playwriting is as plucky as ever, especially for the ambitious young writers keen to make theatre their playground and their livelihood. This is where the Theatre Royal Haymarket Masterclass Trust comes in.

For over twenty years, Masterclass has entrenched itself as a hub for all things theatre and young people. From free talks and workshops led by successful theatre professionals (which has included Julie Walters, if we’re name dropping), to the production of youth-led West End shows, the spirited arts charity has plenty to offer the UK’s young creatives. This autumn, however, it’s their young playwriting scheme Pitch Your Play that is taking centre stage.
 
Geared to cultivating the talents of young playwrights, the scheme offers professional support and creative guidance to three successful play pitches, including the opportunity to stage a reading of the play on the Theatre Royal Haymarket stage.
 
After a hefty selection process, Pitch Your Play’s panel of judges have elected three shining new scripts: Penny’s From Huddersfield by Wendy Dickinson, Zombiegate by Matthew Gabrielli and Passing by Indigo Griffiths. We caught up with Penny’s From Huddersfield playwright Wendy Dickinson about the play and the challenges of being a young playwright.

Penny's From Huddersfield playwright, Wendy Dickinson
 
Can you give us a lowdown of what to expect from Penny’s From Huddersfield?
 
Penny’s From Huddersfield follows a family coming to terms with a Grandma (Penny) who has dementia, through the eyes of her under-employed thirty-odd year old Granddaughter Sally. Sally’s decision to move in with her Nanna challenges her, her relationships and the whole family. The story takes you through the all too familiar frustrations, humour and heart break of family life and how that can help you understand who and what you are and learn to embrace and value your own reality.
 
What inspired you to write the play? And how does it resonate with the UK’s social climate?
 
My own Grandmother had dementia and it got me to thinking about how living and loving someone with dementia changes and challenges traditional family structures which force you to address who ‘should’ take the responsibility of care. Looking after those who need support in older life is such an important and accelerating issue for society as a whole and it impacts every generation of family life. I hope this play might continue to encourage all ages within a family to compassionately discuss what the future may or may not bring.
 
It’s a tough time in the industry to be a playwright! What has propelled you to pursue writing for theatre? And what keeps you going?
 
I love writing! To have a company bring your words to life never stops being a privilege and the immediacy and interactive nature of theatre is such a compelling and exciting format to write for. 
 
Do you have any advice for young writers like yourself?
 
Don’t let rejection get you down. Write what you feel passionate about, work hard and keep going!
 
Finally, how does it feel to have your play staged on the Theatre Royal Haymarket stage?
 
It’s an incredibly exciting opportunity and just a huge boost for me as a playwright. I’m so grateful for the incredible (and fun!) team at Masterclass for their supporting my work in this way and I can’t wait to see what happens next.
 
You can catch the staged readings of all three of the Pitch Your Play scripts for free at the Theatre Royal Haymarket from 28 September to 23 November.
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