The Play’s The Thing

.I had my blog for this week all planned out and almost written – but as often happens, something changed my mind.

This time it was a play – Sign of The Times, by Tim Firth starring Stephen Tompkinson and Tom Shaw. It’s currently touring the UK, and I saw it last night.

It’s a very funny play, very well acted, with a few sad moments, but it isn’t because I thoroughly enjoyed it I’m telling you about it (and if you are planning to see it, I’m about to spoil it, so beware)

The main character is a writer. At least, he wants to be a writer, but he is a signmaker. His childhood best friend is the best selling author of The Vatican Inheritance, whereas he is a failure. He writes very bad spy stories. And as he puts up this sign, he comes to a realisation.

He was given the ambition to write, but not the talent. (As the main character gave that little speech, he looked right at me, and I got the shivers, because that’s exactly how I feel). He desperately wants to write, wants to be a success, but he cannot match the talent of his famous friend.

In the second half, we see him five years later. (And seriously, I’m about to spoil the ending, so be warned!).At first, he still seems to be a failure. But as the scene carries on, we realise he has changed his writing style. He no longer writes bad spy stories, but rather good stories about his childhood. And we also come to realise that the writer of ‘The Vatican Inheritance’ also drew inspiration from their shared childhood. And the main character’s childhood stories are going to be published – not as big fat novels, but as a small column in a local newspaper – but they are going to be published.

It’s a play about talent growing, and changing and escaping the bonds of everyday life. It takes time, but it happens, and as a writer, it resonated with me. (I especially liked the line about seeing your words in print giving you a feeling like ‘fountains going off inside). And as a writer, I took a lot from it.

I learnt to write what you know – not exactly what you know, but feelings and experiences you’ve had. Both writers write the same scene – one as a thriller, one as a childhood tale, but they describe the same feeling.

I learnt you can change. You shouldn’t just copy your favourite authors, you need to discover your own style. That’s where true talent lies.

I learnt that you may not have the success you dream of – but the small successes can be just as good and fulfilling as the big ones.

And I learnt it’s no good envying those who seem to get fame and money and success so easily – they come from the same place you do, and you have a different journey to take.

All in all, that was a very good play!


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