Katherine Soper is a Bruntwood Prize winning playwright and the author of Wish List, which was performed at the Royal Exchange and Royal Court theatre in 2016 – 17. Rosemary Waugh talks to her about taking part in Alchymy 2017 and her experiences as a young playwright.
Hi Katherine, you’re taking part in Alchymy’s panel discussion Writing For Our Time alongside Stella Duffy, April de Angelis, Zoe Cooper, Ella Hickson and Ellen McDougall. Could you start by telling us a bit more about the panel and what you’re going to be discussing?
I’m actually not sure – I know we’ll be discussing new writing and the challenges faced by playwrights entering the industry but I haven’t been told much more than that!
Alchymy is a festival of new writing. Based on your own experience, how hard do you think it is for new writers to break into the industry?
If you’re a young writer starting out, there are a lot of introductory-level courses available – it’s harder to find that initial support if you’re a new writer over 25, because a surprising number of initiatives have that as their cut-off age. When you’ve written a play (or a few plays) already, the difficult thing is progressing further if you don’t have the resources to stage your own work on the fringe. I learned so much from seeing Matthew Xia [director of Wish List] work with our actors and seeing my work on its feet.
What do you think would make it easier for new writers (and indeed non-new writers!) to produce work for the stage?
I would say that theatres need to be given the financial resources to risk programming new names, and to offer the right sort of development opportunities to writers whose work isn’t ready to be staged yet. Even the resources to give feedback to newer writers is invaluable for the writers themselves.
Wish List, your Bruntwood Prize winning play, was a critical success when it played in London and Manchester. Do you feel an increased pressure placed on your next work?
If I let myself I could definitely feel that pressure, but I deliberately avoided reading the reviews to try and keep my view of my own work separate from the critical response. I feel like maintaining that separation is even more important when a work is in its infancy. There’s no way of writing a work that absolutely everyone likes, so even though you do need to consider your responsibilities to the audience and to your subject matter, you can’t second-guess yourself too much. All you can do is be true to your own taste and your own voice as a writer.
What are you currently working on?
I’ve got a few plays that are in really early stages right now, but I can’t say much about them! I definitely don’t want to rush the process of my writing, especially since I’m still learning a lot.
Are you seeing any of the other events at Alchymy? And what would your pick of the programme be?
I believe I’m seeing the TheatreCraft event on the evening of the 7th. My pick for the whole festival would definitely be ROOST on the 8th. I did a writing programme at the Almeida with Rosie Kellett, and her writing is beautiful.