Author Interview: Matt Beames
Tell us a bit about yourself? Where were you born? Grow up? What job do you do now? Before?
I was born in Southampton, Hampshire, and have lived here most of my life, except for my university years spent in Scarborough (a town that still holds a place in my heart). I am currently a freelance writer, working across a range of media including theatre, film, fiction and comic books. Prior to taking the plunge and going freelance, I worked in a few different industries, including shipbuilding.
How did you get into theatre?
I’ve been interested in the theatre from a young age, and joined a youth theatre when I was 12. From that point theatre has been a hugely important part of my life, and has encouraged my writing as well; I wrote my first play when I was 16, which was performed at local drama festivals and gathered a few awards.
What is the name of your latest play and what inspired it?
My latest play is a new adaptation of Cinderella, and is inspired by the numerous variants of the well-known tale as well as a desire to tell a story about love and magic that felt grounded in reality.
What’s the first hook that gets a new play started for you? Is it an image, a theme, a character?
It can vary from script to script, but quite often it’s a moment; some or perhaps all of the characters in a situation, perhaps extreme or mundane. From that seed, which may not end up being be part of the final script, the story grows.
Tell us about your lead characters?
Cinderella is a strong, intelligent young woman who is happy enough in her work and life, but for the cruelty of her stepmother and stepsisters. Prince Arren is a thoughtful, kind and slightly awkward young man who doesn’t feel comfortable in his role as prince of the realm.
What else have you written? Is this play a departure from your other work?
I have written a range of work in recent years, but Cinderella is by no means a departure in style; my adaptation of Sleeping Beauty was published by Aurora Metro in 2017. As well as adaptations of classic tales and texts including Alice in Wonderland, my work includes near-future stories, but folklore and mythology is a common theme in and influence on all my work.
Why a play? Rather than fiction.
What is constantly exciting and inspiring about writing for theatre, is that each production of a script can be so different, because the creative team and the performers find their own ways of telling the story. Theatre is a fascinating and exciting medium for storytelling, and there are so many exciting ways to bring classic tales like Cinderella to vibrant life on stage.
How do you write? Do you have a special place or routine?
I have an office at home where I often write, but I find that coffee shops tend to be a good place, especially when I’m starting out or trying to push through a block. Though it seems illogical, I find that being in a public space like a coffee shop makes it easier for me to focus inward on a story and get to work. As far as process is concerned, I usually write outlines and story structure flows by hand initially. The script is written on my laptop, and printed out to be scribbled all over as I review and edit each draft.
What were you like at school? Were you good at English?
I was relatively quiet at school, I think. I was never interested in sport, much preferring English and drama. I was good at English though my handwriting was always a weak point… It’s better than it was, but I’m still no calligrapher!
What are you working on now?
I’m currently working on an adaptation of Jules Verne’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth, which I am co-writing with Kayleigh Benham, the lyricist for Cinderella. I’ve also just started work on a show inspired by stories of Arthur and Merlin, as well as a number of other theatre projects, I’m working on two novels (though one of them will end up being two novels I think), and am developing a board game I have created.
What are you reading now?
Lots! Current books underway include The Wave in the Mind – Talks and Essays by Ursula K LeGuin, Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman, Monkey by Wu Ch’eng-en and Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro.
What is your favourite play of all time?
It’s hard to choose a favourite! One that has always stayed with me since my first reading is Imagine Drowning by Terry Johnson. There is something fascinating about the way the story is told in two time periods which occupy the same space throughout.
Who are some current playwrights you follow and think should get more attention?
Recently I’ve been reading Duncan Macmillan’s work, as well as Dawn King, Alistair Macdowell and Jennifer Haley. Dawn King’s play Foxfinder is one I have read a few times in the last six months, and I’d suggest any of her work is worth seeking out.
What advice would you give to aspiring playwrights?
I think the main thing I would say is tell the stories you want to tell, the one’s you believe in. I believe that when you love what you do, when you’re passionate about the story you are telling, that leaps off the page when someone else reads it. Also, theatre is a collaborative medium, and I would encourage every playwright to embrace that whenever they can. I have always found joy in working together with a director and cast to bring your story to life.