Tell me about your writing
The first play I ever wrote I was in Year 6 at Brightwell school. The then headmaster, Mr Grant, challenged me to write a Leaversí play, so I did, and a friend of mine in the village wrote the music. The whole year was in it, everyone had characters written for them, and it went down a treat. Ever since then, Iíve written sketches. Iíd invite friends to put them on with me. I was that really embarrassing child who loved to perform to family and friends. Then I had my first proper play staged at St Helenís, in Abingdon, where I went to secondary school. And since leaving, Iíve had a rehearsed reading of another play ďBlue on BlueĒ performed last September.
What was ďBlue on BlueĒ about?
Itís about the impact of the armsí trade in England on a host of quite unexpected characters: a comedian who makes a badly timed joke; the head of a defence section; a female soldier; an avid video games player; a busker outside the defence buildings Ė random characters. I was lucky because Paul Mayhew Archer, who co-wrote the Vicar of Dibley came to watch it, liked it and sent it to his literary agency and theyíve been really supportive. Iíve also had a meeting with the BBC about writing a radio play. Iíve been working on that over the last few months. Itís called Many Hundred Miles and itís about attitudes to homosexuality, American politics and social media.
Those are big subjects Ė arms trade, homosexuality and politics. Where are you getting your subjects from?
I never wanted Many Hundred Miles to be political, but itís turning out that way. There are so many things that have happened recently in American politics, with the Republican debates and soundbites taken out of context, the issues just interest me. I am interested in the way big issues affect ordinary people.
Do you want to write for radio, theatre, or TV?
Iím not really sure. Theatre is my great love so I write everything with theatre in mind, but Iím interested in writing in different ways. Iím involved in a new project, making a documentary in America with my best friend. Iím going there for four months to travel from coast to coast and track down and film as many people as possible called ďJohn HancockĒ. He was one of the signatories to the US Declaration of Independence, and his name is a synonym for ďsignatureĒ. We just thought it would be fun to find as many disparate people alive now with the same name.
Will you be writing on the way?
Weíre going to be in New York for a few weeks, and I have an idea for a play set there so Iím going to get started. But Iím going back in September. Iíve just been accepted to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts to do a two year acting course. Itís straight acting, but when I auditioned I made it clear that I write and they said they try and nurture any kind of theatre ambition.
Tell me how you feel about Brightwell, including the best and worst things.
Itís where all my memories of being a kid are. Pretty much everything substantial that has happened in my life has happened here. When I was a kid, it was the best place ever because there are two parks and all my friends live here. I think as you get older itís different. Being a teenager in Brightwell can feel a bit strange. Thereís not a lot to do as a teenager. Thereís only one pub and you canít misbehave there because the chances are one of your parentsí best friends will be there, or your parents. But Iíve never known anything other than living here, so New York is going to be a bit of a scenery change. Probably fewer fetes.
Tell me something surprising about Brightwell.
When I was at Brightwell school, we had to learn about the village and we were told, so I will always believe, there is a ghost in the moat house, the ghost of a woman. Pupils had to go and draw the house and one person saw the ghost. Only children can see her.
Where would you like to be in 10 years time?
Iíd like to be an established writer who dabbles in acting. Iíd like to have had a play produced at the National and off Broadway, and Iíd like to have a theatre company and have had some kind of experience in film or documentary. Oh, and obviously to be happy.
What will you miss about the village when youíre abroad?
Iím missing the Jubilee, which I am gutted about, because last Jubilee I won a golf-putting competition and I want to retain my title. I like all the street parties. America wonít be the same. But I will be there for the American election, and can vote there, because my mumís American: I wonít be voting Republican. But an American election is a bit more serious than a Jubilee street party, and maybe not as much fun.
Do you write to get yourself out of your environment?
I donít consciously write to get away from Brightwell, though many of the issues I write about donít directly affect us here. Having said that, thereís a lot of comedy in small villages. A lot of the funny sketches I used to write and perform with my friends were set in small villages, at WI meetings, or at fetes. Itís so easy to get wrapped up in whatís happening in a small village and thatís really nice. That wonít be the same in New York. Here everyone knows everyone, and knows secrets about each other.
Any secrets you want to share?
I couldnít possibly say. Thatís one thing about writing, you have to be careful about what you write. Everybody I write about is based on someone I know. As my writing becomes better known, Iíll have to watch out for that.
Be warned: thinly disguised Brightwell characters could be appearing on the stage of the National Theatre before too long if Charly has anything to do with it.