Alfred Fagon Award nominee Martin Edwards, shortlisted for his play The Glory Road talks to Afridiziak Theatre News
What inspired you to write The Glory Road?
I came back to London after being away for a couple of years having been to drama school in Woodstock, which is five miles north of Oxford. Coming back I fell in love with London again. I remember sitting in a cafe in Brixton and looking out of the window and seeing the different types of people walking past. There were rudeboys, Windrush old timers, goths, yummy mummies, and students going to school. I just realised ‘Brixton is so much more diverse than I remember it being’ and that got me thinking about other parts of London I knew; the constant changes going on. You read the Evening Standard and every week there’s a new up and coming area and the social demographic is always changing. So that got me thinking about change - in the form of London landscapes and change in the form of family; the internal changes that occur.
The Glory Road is about a matriarchal figure who is losing her grip on the family because she has a long term disease, dementia. So examining that kind of change and the effect it has on family within the broader context of this socio-economic change which most people refer to as ‘gentrification.’ So it’s a mix of real events and reflections of my thoughts about London at this moment in time.
You trained as an actor after ten years as a journalist. What made you decide to pursue an acting career?
Well, I’d always wanted to be a journalist; you can blame Kate Adie for that. I remember her report on Tiananmen Square when I was 14 and I thought ‘Gosh, being a journalist is really important. They’ve got stories to tell’ so being a journalist was always something I wanted to do. As I got older I realised that acting wasn’t something I’d really articulated but it was something I’d always felt I wanted. I have no regrets about not going to drama school at eighteen as I’ve got a skill set which is writing. So I’ve got a wealth of experience; academically and personally which I can bring to my acting and to my writing as well. Not the traditional route and I’m still very much at the beginning of this second life. The Glory Road is my first play so this is very much the beginning of this new chapter so I guess we’ll see where it takes me.
You mentioned a specific moment when you realised journalism was important. Why do you think playwriting is important?
As an artist you need to write what’s inside you but it’s difficult not to acknowledge the fact that validation is nice and important. This validation will inspire me to go on to write more stories, so I’m very touched and it’s a very exciting time.
Plays can tackle big themes in a very direct way. I think certainly once I’d made the decision to go to drama school it then became incumbent upon me to watch plays and see actors act. I had never really gone to the theatre that much so that became a new thing for me; developing a critical awareness of acting and writing as well. I’m still developing a particular taste of the kind of plays that I like in terms of themes, style, setting and characters. Combined with that is recognising the stories in my own life and thinking ‘Actually, there’s a story there’ and I think part of that is the journalist in me. My journalistic instincts have allowed me to recognise my own personal stories and think how that could be portrayed to an audience. I think plays can allow people to make connections with things in their own lives and touch upon wider social issues.
Your play is set around a character with dementia which is a rather taboo subject. What would you like to see more of on stage?
Something I’d like to see more of in drama is disability. I don’t mean disability as a subject but just seeing more disabled actors on the stage. Seeing someone in a play who may be deaf for example, but their deafness not being a significant issue. That’s one of the last taboos I think. In the fifties and sixties we had Osborne’s kitchen sink dramas exploring being working class. In the seventies and eighties you had the alternative scene with ethnic minorities, black drama and female drama. Then it moved on to opening up on sexuality so plays depicting the LGBT community and the transgender community, which has still got some way to go. So, plays that integrate disability within a broader fabric in terms of writing and in terms of actors. Despite our success in the Paralympic games I think we’re still a long way from breaking that barrier.
What does being shortlisted for the 2013 Alfred Fagon Award mean to you?
I’m really touched by it. It’s typical isn’t it? As an artist you need to write what’s inside you but it’s difficult not to acknowledge the fact that validation is nice and important. Not vital but it’s something that most artists do feel good about. This validation will inspire me to go on to write more stories, so I’m very touched and it’s a very exciting time.
Info: The Alfred Fagon Award 2013 takes place on Friday, November 29 at the Tricycle Theatre. There are limited tickets available to the general public. Book tickets
See nominees for 2013 Alfred Fagon Award
Alfred Fagon Award 2013 shortlist
Alfred Fagon Award - official website
Alfred Fagon Award - Twitter
Alfred Fagon Award 2013 competition
Levi David Addai wins 2011 Alfred Fagon Award
Oladipo Ogboluaje wins 2009 Alfred Fagon Award
Paula B Stanic wins 2008 Alfred Fagon Award