With a new production, The Damask Room, shortly coming out, we caught up with Matthew Wignall, and talked about what this new play entails, his involvement in Off the Rock Productions and unexpectedly, his life being invaded by Nineteenth Century French lesbians. Sound interesting? Then you’re definitely going to love February when The Damask Room finally rolls around.
By Jane Howkins
You’re putting on a performance of The Damask Room in February, are you looking forward to it?
Two years ago I was chatting to a Dutch writer over a bottle of claret in a Parisian tavern and I asked him for some advice. He replied “Just do it yourself sunbeam”. Two hours later he was arrested for dancing naked on the Champs-Élysées. I’ve never looked back.
You’re based in York, which is often seen as quite an arty and cultured city. Do you agree, and do you think there is a lot for a theatre company to work with here?
Completely. I feel very fortunate to live in a city withsuch a vibrant arts scene, and its community of artists and creatives continues to grow. The last couple of General Election results have not been particlarly auspicious and we all knew the arts would suffer, so the fact that the arts scene in York seems to be still thriving is fantastic. In many ways it’s the perfect environent to do theatre. Its relatively small size means that you can meet great people quite easily while the arts community seems to cater for all modes of expression. If you wanted to meet a sculptor who specialised in sculpting Doctor Who characters out of the use parts from a Nissan Micra, you could probably find one in York.
You previously put on An Interview in the Afterlife, can you tell us a bit more about that?
An Interview in the Afterlife was a dark comedy I had written about suicide and was the first full-length play we had ever put on. It took place at the already much-missed Fleeting Arms last summer and was brilliantly supported. The cast were terrific and the sound design by Dan Sparrow was superb. The feedback was extremely positive and encouraging but I fet that the play itself was a little too long. I’m currently working on a new version and planning to stage it again sometimes in the future.
The Five Seasons, was simply a desire to put on some short plays in front of an audience and see what happened. There was no actual plan and in all honesty Off the Rock could have begun and ended there. After The Five Seasonswe thought the next natural step was to do a full-length play and our second production, An Interview in the Afterlife, was born. With The Damask Room we wanted to try something different again so I sent out a writer’s brief and opened a submissions window. I had actually written enough plays to comprise the whole production just in case we didn’t receive any submissions. However, to my delight several writers sent us some plays, and as many of them were far better than anything I had written – several of mine didn’t make the cut. I suppose we now have enough material for The Damask Room 2 but I have always felt that sequels are ultimately a mistake – unless your name is Fritz lang or Douglass Adams of course.
What can people expect when coming to see one of yor productions, in particular The Damask Room?
I am desperate not to repeat myself so I could say expect the unexpected. However, people have identified running themes in my work and since Off the Rock began I have been accused of Absurdism, Idealism (in both the philosophical and quixotic sense), Marxism, Feminism, Romanticism and Anarchism. It is with a glad heart to confess that I am probably guilty on all counts.
Any last words for the fans?
The Damask Room is being performed at Krumbs Kitchen on Monday 1 February 2016, 7.30pm